Scotch whisky and salmon must have the same protections after Brexit even if the UK leaves without a deal, Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary has said.
In a letter to his UK Government counterpart Theresa Villiers, Fergus Ewing called for “iconic” Scottish food and drink products to keep their protected status under European rules.
Geographical indications (GIs) are used to promote and protect food and drink products including Scotch whisky, Scottish-farmed salmon and Ayrshire earlies potatoes.
The Scottish Government said it is worried about guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which it claims contradicts UK Government assurances about GIs.
Writing to newly appointed Ms Villiers, Mr Ewing said her department’s “deeply concerning” position is “causing real uncertainty”.
Mr Ewing wrote: “I wish again to put on record that the Scottish Government find the approach being adopted by the UK Government deeply concerning.
“It is not enough to simply hope and believe that the EU will not take steps to remove existing UK GIs from their registers, especially if we are not to protect their GI products from day one in the UK scheme.
“This stance is causing real uncertainty for producers and I implore you to do more to attempt to secure this mutual recognition in negotiations taking place.”
Asking whether the UK Government has discussed the issue with the EU, Mr Ewing added: “Now that it is clear that the concerns on this matter are shared across governments, parliaments and parties, I trust you will now agree to make sure we have the necessary protections in place and act decisively and quickly to achieve a reciprocal agreement on GIs – deal or no-deal – something that the producers of our world-renowned and iconic geographical indications deserve.”
In response to the letter, a Defra spokeswoman said: “Geographical indicators play a crucial role in protecting the provenance and heritage of some of our best-loved food and drink products, from Scotch whisky to Ayrshire earlies.
“That is why the UK is ready to launch its own GI schemes at the point at which EU rules cease to apply in the UK.
“Our amazing food sector will be ready and waiting to continue selling ever more, not just here but around the world once we leave the EU on 31 October.”