Ross Finnie, chairman of FSS, wrote to the minister of UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell, highlighting his “concerns about the risks and potential detriment to consumers in Scotland” regarding the UK Government’s (UKG’s) proposals to take control of devolved responsibilities following Brexit, particularly relating to food standards.
In his letter to the minister, he expressed fears that Scotland could be overlooked when it came to forming post-Brexit food safety regulation.
Food safety and standards
“Clearly, negotiations are ongoing between the Scottish and UK governments, but from the perspective of food safety and standards, it seems likely that UKG will argue the need for cross-UK consistency as being essential for trade once the UK leaves the EU, as regulatory assurance is intrinsic to securing trade deals.
“However, if those matters are reserved to the UKG to determine, it will be difficult for Scottish stakeholders’ voices to be heard, or for the needs of businesses or consumers in Scotland to be given priority.
“If the UKG’s proposals do proceed, then Scotland’s food regulator would lose its status as the policy-maker and competent authority in Scotland in areas where the UKG proposes restrictions on Scottish ministers and that competence has been conferred on FSS.
Subservient to the wishes of the UKG
“In these areas, FSS would become subservient to the wishes of the UKG, and whichever Whitehall department it conferred competence on a UK basis. Such a reservation of competence would put Scotland in a significantly worse position than before FSS was established in 2015.”
In response to these concerns, Russell said: “While good progress has been made in agreeing where common frameworks across the UK may be appropriate in the future upon EU exit, it is essential that this is done on a basis of trust between the governments and where the Scottish Parliament agrees that is appropriate.
“It remains the Scottish government’s position that we are not opposed to common frameworks where these are in Scotland’s best interests. However, we will continue to defend the right of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to decide what those best interests are,” he added.