If You Read One Thing…

With the brand­ing of Scotland’s won­der­ful food and drink un­der threat, there’s quite a lot to beef about

The Scots Magazine - - Contents - By JANEY CON­WAY

Make sure it’s our ex­clu­sive ar­ti­cle on Scot­tish pro­duc­ers fight­ing to pro­tect Brand Scotland page44

SCOTLAND’S food and drink sec­tor is one of the suc­cess sto­ries of the last 30 years. Thanks to a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lence – and a strong em­pha­sis on Scot­tish brand­ing – it is now worth over £14.4 bil­lion a year.

Food and drink proudly pro­claim­ing it was grown, reared, har­vested, caught, dis­tilled or sim­ply “made” in Scotland is en­joyed all over the world, boost­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy, en­hanc­ing our rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing high qual­ity food and drink and at­tract­ing a grow­ing num­ber of “foodie” tourists, keen to ex­pe­ri­ence the true flavours of Scotland.

How­ever, over the last few years, some re­tail­ers have branded Scot­tish pro­duce as British – or re­placed Saltires with the Union Flag. Last sum­mer, Ruth Watson from Kir­riemuir in An­gus was so con­cerned by the sight of car­rots grown in the fields near her home be­ing branded British rather than Scot­tish in her lo­cal su­per­mar­ket, she set up the “Keep Scotland The Brand” cam­paign.

“It be­gan as a sin­gle post on Face­book about car­rots,” says Ruth, who was a jour­nal­ist be­fore be­com­ing a full-time mum. “When this post at­tracted over 30,000 hits, I re­alised I wasn’t the only one who was an­noyed by straw­ber­ries from Kin­car­di­neshire with Union Flags on the pack­ag­ing, Scotch be­ing de­scribed as ‘British’ whisky on a su­per­mar­ket web­site and, in an air­port in Aus­tralia, the ‘Great British Hag­gis’!

“Scotland’s name is syn­ony­mous with qual­ity. Our farm­ers and food and drink pro­duc­ers ad­here to ex­tremely high stan­dards and work re­ally hard to main­tain those stan­dards but that’s not the only rea­son Scot­tish brand­ing means so much.

“In the ex­port in­dus­try, brand­ing pro­duce as ‘Scot­tish’ con­jures up images of stun­ning hills, green fields, sparkling rivers, tar­tan, even Out­lander! An Out­lander fan on the other side of the world may be eat­ing roast Scot­tish pota­toes with the im­age of a Jamie Fraser looka­like pick­ing tat­ties in their mind – it’s all good for busi­ness!

“Yet, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, Scot­tish pro­duce is dis­ap­pear­ing un­der a blan­ket of British flags. The brand

iden­tity our farm­ers and food pro­duc­ers has achieved is be­ing eroded and will mean loss of mar­ket share, tourists and rev­enue. Our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties will be hit hard.”

Since Ruth set up her cam­paign, she’s been swamped with sup­port and now has a grass­roots fol­low­ing help­ing her spread the word. “Our Face­book page has al­most 2000 fol­low­ers and we have de­liv­ered leaflets to homes all over Scotland, as well as hand­ing them out at marts and agri­cul­tural shows, and talk­ing at meet­ings.

“This isn’t a party po­lit­i­cal cam­paign – it’s about the econ­omy of our coun­try,” con­tin­ues Ruth, who also stresses that Keep Scotland The Brand isn’t about boy­cotting. “If you see a su­per­mar­ket who could be do­ing more to sup­port Scotland’s brand­ing, take a photo of the la­belling in ques­tion and con­tact the su­per­mar­ket, telling them why it’s is im­por­tant to keep Scotland The Brand.

“And the sweep­ing tide of ‘British’ brand­ing isn’t just a Scot­tish is­sue,” con­tin­ues Ruth. “There are peo­ple in Corn­wall fight­ing for the right for their lo­cal pro­duce to be clearly la­belled as such, the im­por­tance of hav­ing the Welsh dragon on pro­duce was re­cently raised in the Na­tional As­sem­bly of Wales, Som­er­set farm­ers have been in touch with me be­cause they’re wor­ried about the loss of their iden­tity. Lo­cal prove­nance – and lo­cal brand­ing – is good for sales, at home and abroad.”

An­drew Mc­cor­nick, NFU Scotland Pres­i­dent, is equally pas­sion­ate about the im­por­tance of the is­sue. “Scot­tish farm­ers, crofters and grow­ers are proud of the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion they put into pro­duc­ing the high qual­ity food and drink we see on our shelves day in day out,” says An­drew. “It’s a great boost to see Scot­tish pro­duce prop­erly la­belled and branded and this is some­thing we need to work hard to pro­tect.”

Yet, although some su­per­mar­kets ap­pear to be go­ing for a blan­ket “Uk-brand”, oth­ers have a pol­icy of work­ing with lo­cal sup­pli­ers. “Sourc­ing Scot­tish prod­ucts for our stores in Scotland is a pri­or­ity,” says Paul Mcquade, Lidl’s head of re­gional buy­ing for Scotland.

“Scotland ben­e­fits from a fan­tas­tic, qual­ity larder and we al­ready work with over 60 Scot­tish sup­pli­ers. This en­sures we’re not only sup­port­ing the lo­cal econ­omy and lo­cal pro­duc­ers but that we keep our trans­port costs low and of­fer the fresh­est pos­si­ble prod­ucts.”

Graeme Dey MSP chairs the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment’s En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee and he ex­plains that strict en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions also help to en­sure Scot­tish-branded pro­duce is highly sought af­ter. “Scotland has a rep­u­ta­tion for high qual­ity food and drink pro­duc­tion de­liv­ered to high lev­els of en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards,” Graeme says.

“For ex­am­ple, when I buy straw­ber­ries from soft fruit pro­duc­ers in An­gus, I know these are lo­cal busi­nesses 

“We need to en­sure that Scotland’s world­wide rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lence con­tin­ues to be pro­moted”

that re­ally care about the en­vi­ron­ment and have in­vested a lot of money cre­at­ing bee habi­tats and de­vel­op­ing meth­ods of min­imis­ing pes­ti­cide use. We should be very proud of the food we pro­duce and have it branded clearly as Scot­tish.”

How­ever, “Union-jack­ery”, as one news­pa­per calls it, isn’t the only threat to Scotland’s food and drink in­dus­try.

With Brexit loom­ing, there are se­ri­ous con­cerns about what will hap­pen when the UK leaves the EU and how new trade agree­ments may af­fect the econ­omy in gen­eral. “We’re cur­rently see­ing a great deal of con­fu­sion about where Brexit will take the UK and Scotland,” says Pete Wishart, MP and chair of the Scot­tish Af­fairs Com­mit­tee’s Scotland and Brexit: Trade and For­eign In­vest­ment in­quiry, which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Scotland’s role in the UK’S post-brexit trade ar­range­ments.

“We need to en­sure that Scotland’s world­wide rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lence con­tin­ues to be pro­moted and de­vel­oped – and that op­por­tu­ni­ties for trade are max­imised and our rep­u­ta­tion for first class food and drink con­tin­ues to de­velop and be en­hanced. From Scotch whisky to Scot­tish wild salmon to Scotch beef – peo­ple value Scotland’s food and drink and we need to make sure Brexit presents no risk or detri­ment to this.”

With the British Gov­ern­ment fac­ing the prospect of ne­go­ti­at­ing at least 86 sep­a­rate trade agree­ments with in­di­vid­ual Eu­ro­pean coun­tries when the UK leaves the EU, as well as with the USA, Aus­tralia, China and oth­ers, Graeme Dey adds there are also con­cerns that some of these deals will lead to de­mands for a di­min­ish­ing of Scotland’s high stan­dards for food and drink pro­duc­tion.

“This po­ten­tially poses a se­ri­ous threat to our food and drink sec­tor,” he says. “Scotland’s pro­duce is mar­keted as be­ing of a high value and of hav­ing high stan­dards. Con­sumers of Scot­tish pro­duce are happy to pay a lit­tle more be­cause they’re buy­ing some­thing which has been pro­duced en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­bly and of­ten on a rel­a­tively small, lo­cal scale but there is a risk that new trade agree­ments may erode this.”

Brexit also poses a very real risk that prod­ucts in the UK will lose vi­tal Pro­tected Ge­o­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tion (PGI) sta­tus, mean­ing unique prod­ucts such as Ar­broath smok­ies, Stornoway black pud­ding and even Scotch whisky could be made any­where in the world.

“It’s im­por­tant that our food names are pro­tected fol­low­ing Brexit,” stresses An­drew Mc­cor­nick.

Scotch Beef and Lamb were among the first meats to achieve PGI sta­tus. Alan Clarke, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Qual­ity Meat Scotland, says, “Qual­ity Meat Scotland has worked hard, along­side the Scot­tish red meat in­dus­try, to de­velop the Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI brands.

“Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI la­bels of­fer con­sumers con­fi­dence that the meat they buy has come from an­i­mals that have spent their whole lives be­ing raised to some of the world’s strictest wel­fare stan­dards.”

Although PGI has still to be dis­cussed at the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, Pete Wishart agrees this glob­ally-recog­nised sta­tus is very im­por­tant. “In Scotland, we have a num­ber of brands that are pro­tected and recog­nised by PGI. We need to be re­as­sured that ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble is be­ing done to en­sure PGI con­tin­ues and that these won­der­ful, unique prod­ucts con­tinue to be recog­nised as Scot­tish.”

The bat­tle to pro­tect Scotland The Brand is only just be­gin­ning. For more in­for­ma­tion about Keep Scotland The Brand, visit www.face­book.com/keep­scot­brand

Perthshire straw­ber­ries branded with a Union Jack

The brand­ing of food is a meaty is­sue

Stornoway black pud­ding and hag­gis are favourites from the lo­cal butcher

Ruth Watson kicked off the cam­paign

Scot­tish wild salmon is loved across the world

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