I’ve no doubt that the UK Government Minister would have enjoyed his visit to Glenkinchie last week. The new visitor centre’s a remarkable venue and it’s a tragedy that it’s been unable to be fully utilised due to restrictions. That’ll change soon but what won’t alter are the risks East Lothian and Scotland face from trade deals such as the one with Australia, which he was promoting with his trip.
Of course, a reduction in the current modest tariff on Scotch Whisky will be a benefit. But just how much is hard to say as it was already doing well, with Australia being the 8th biggest global market. A slight reduction will have a limited impact on what’s already a premium product.
On the other hand the damage to other sectors and in particular farming could be considerable. It’s why the NFU and other trade bodies have spoken out. Cheap imports of lamb in particular will be a threat to the sector here and especially in more northern areas. The scale of farming’s far greater in Australia as well as methods being different, if not undesirable.
There are other factors that also cause concern. ISDS or Investor State Dispute Settlement must be opposed as much as the threat of cheap imports. It’s a rather benign term for what can have grave consequences for our society. It’s a method by which big corporations can sue Governments when they dislike legislation or actions. It’s not only used to bully developing countries but even developed ones. We have to oppose it here as it allows big business to undermine elected governments.
That’s not to say Governments should be beyond reproach, but that isn’t the way. Indeed I’ll be writing to the Scottish Finance Secretary as support announced for the Taxi Trade’s entirely inadequate. Many in the county ply for hire either here or in Edinburgh. It’s a hard shift and coronavirus has decimated the trade. As restrictions begin to lift having a trade in existance to supply the need that’ll be there’s essential. Much more must be done or we’ll all lose out.