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Moray MP and Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he "accurately represented" NFU Scotland after comments which left policy director "fuming"

By Jonathan Clark

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Douglas Ross...Moray MP Douglas Ross. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Douglas Ross...Moray MP Douglas Ross. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

MORAY MP Douglas Ross has said he "accurately represented" comments made by NFU Scotland regarding food standards, despite its policy director criticising claims he made yesterday.

Speaking to the BBC, Conservative Mr Ross, who was quizzed on his vote against clause 11 of the UK's Trade Bill which aimed to protect food standards, stated that National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) policy director Jonnie Hall had told him no MP has voted to reduce animal welfare or biosecurity standards.

However, Mr Hall said he was "fuming" with that statement and said Mr Ross had taken his comments out of context.

NFU Scotland Director of Policy Jonnie Hall (left).
NFU Scotland Director of Policy Jonnie Hall (left).

He added: "I remain very concerned that an honest and straightforward answer to a question has been basically turned through 180 degrees to misrepresent the situation.

"I think people are being misled.”

Mr Ross, though, said the transcript of a conversation the two had during the Scottish Affairs Committee on June 25 (below) makes it clear the he represented Mr Hall's views well.

Q259 Douglas Ross: Are you aware of any vote in this Parliament by MPs to reduce standards?
Jonnie Hall: No.
Q260 Douglas Ross: No. On the question that Ms Brock asked that you did not answer, are the current regulations on animal welfare standards, food safety and environmental standards part of the EU Withdrawal Act, which will come from the EU to the UK statute at the end of this year?
Jonnie Hall: Yes.
Q261 Douglas Ross: Yes. Finally, is there any other trade agreement by any country anywhere in the world that imposes standards on another country?
Jonnie Hall: A slightly longer answer to this: we both know that that is not the case.

Mr Ross told the Northern Scot: “This transcript of my conversation with the NFUS at the Scottish Affairs Committee makes it clear that I represented their comments accurately yesterday.

“However, I welcome the chance to engage constructively with the NFU to make it clear once again that the Scottish Conservatives are standing up for Scotland’s farmers, now and in the future.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

“As I have stated categorically, I will never vote for any bill that reduces Scotland’s world-class food standards.”

When contacted for comment by the Scot, NFU Scotland said that, while no bill explicitly allows domestic production standard to be lowered, neither the UK Agriculture or Trade Bill rules out lower-standard products being imported into the United Kingdom.

An NFUS spokesperson said: "As the UK Agriculture and Trade Bills continue their progress through Westminster, NFU Scotland remains adamant that food imported into the UK is produced to at least equivalent standards as those required of producers in the UK. We continue to brief MPs and Lords to include safeguards into the legislation which will ensure produce imported into the UK must be produced to the standards as those required of domestic producers.

"Whilst neither bill explicitly allows domestic standards of production to be lowered, neither do they explicitly rule out the importation of products produced to a lower standard entering the UK.

"The UK Government has repeatedly stated that it will safeguard the domestic agriculture sector in the negotiation of trade arrangements. It has, however, resisted the inclusion of amendments to both the UK Agriculture Bill and the UK Trade Bill which would uphold the principle of disallowing any agri-food produce to enter the UK that has not been produced to the standards required of UK producers. This is deeply disappointing to NFU Scotland.

"NFUS continues to lobby for such an amendment to be included in the legislation."

Banff and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson added: “Douglas Ross is only weeks into his role as leader of the Scottish Conservatives job and he has already been accused of twisting the words of the NFUS.

"This is not just embarrassing for the Scottish Tory leader, it is yet another sign of the Tories' sheer contempt for Scotland's vital agriculture sector.

"The fact that NFU Scotland's policy director has had to come out and call out Douglas Ross over his remarks and state that the Scottish Tory leader has misled the public is damning."

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