• Iain

Wheelhouse slams Tory Lamont’s betrayal of local farmers

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Borders-based SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, has condemned Tory MP John Lamont for betraying Borders farmers and food and drink businesses by voting against measures to protect them from being undercut by cheap, imported products produced with lower standards for animal welfare, hygiene and food safety.

Conservative MP Neil Parish, from Devon, tabled an amendment last week to the UK Agriculture Bill that was intended to guarantee that imported food would have to meet the same quality and animal welfare standards as home-grown products, such as Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and poultry products once the UK fully leaves the EU standards framework, which UK Ministers aim to do by the end of this year. However, the amendment was voted down – with local MP John Lamont and all other Tories representing Scottish constituencies voting against protecting our local farmers.

The actions of John Lamont, and his five Scottish Tory MP colleagues, have been widely criticised by the farming sector including the NFUS and the National Sheep Association.

Commenting on the vote, Paul Wheelhouse said:

“John Lamont’s recent actions here are frankly a cynical betrayal of local farmers whom he had promised to support. Despite representing a rural constituency in the Scottish Borders, he’s chosen to stab them in the back by failing to stand up for quality Scottish produce and has instead toed the Tory party line, clearing the way for cheap, low-quality US imports.

“Certainly, I and the majority of Mr Lamont’s constituents, like the majority of people in Scotland, didn’t vote for Brexit, but even among the minority who did, I doubt those voters were consciously voting to flood the Scottish market with cheap, poor quality, produce, hormone-laced meat and chlorinated chicken, all of which will hurt local farmers operating to higher welfare and food standards. Indeed Tories said this was scaremongering when we raised this risk previously. Mr Lamont has often courted the Borders farming community for votes when it suits him, so he needs to explain exactly why he put his loyalty to his Party whips ahead of loyalty to the Borders, our farmers and food and drink producers.

“Mr Lamont claims that import standards won’t be lowered as a consequence of the Tories’ plan for a “free trade deal” with the US. So why on Earth did he reject a proposal that would have guaranteed it in law? This isn’t even a case of his usual knee-jerk opposition to sensible ideas from the SNP – this amendment was proposed by one of his own Tory colleagues! I’m baffled and I’m sure local farmers will be rightly angered and asking lots of questions. Their MP should be ashamed.

“I’ll be meeting with the NFUS in the coming weeks to discuss how the Scottish Government can further support the Scottish farming, and the wider agriculture sector, following this Tory sell-out.”

“The NFUS has described the UK Agriculture Bill as “deeply disappointing”. That is them being polite. The National Sheep Association said, ‘it is highly concerning that they will not cement this [the standards proposed in the amendment] in legislation’. Quite. Mr Lamont and the Scottish Tories have shown where their priorities lie – and it is clear it is not with our farmers.”