McGrigor underlines importance of food and drink to Highlands and Islands economy

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament today, Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP, emphasised the ‘crucial economic importance’ of the food and drink sector to the economy of the Highlands & Islands.

He  referred to some of the region’s world class food producers such as Walkers of Aberlour and Baxters of Speyside, and the Scotch whisky industry; and to The NFUS’s What’s on your Plate? campaign, running for over three years and which the MSP commended.

Focusing on other local initiatives also ‘worthy of praise’, Jamie McGrigor singled out Food from Argyll, saying: ‘…it does a fantastic job of promoting some of Argyll’s best produce- including tasty Argyll lamb stovies – at major events like Rockness, Belladrum’s Tartan Heart and T in the Park.

The MSP was speaking in a debate this afternoon in the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Government’s national food and drink policy, where he also referred to the role of farmers and crofters, the recent horsemeat scandal and local food.

He said: ‘As Highlands & Islands Enterprise suggest, “Not only is the food and drink industry a significant economic driver with great potential for further development, but the quality of our food and drink products plays a key role in defining the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the rest of the world.”

‘The recent scandal over horsemeat in food products can potentially help our farmers and crofters since they adhere to traceability systems which are some of the very best in the world. We should pay tribute to our farmers and crofters for the efforts they have made in this regard over recent years and Scottish consumers should have full confidence in Scottish meat products.

‘We [Ed: we assume he is referring here to the Scottish Conservatives] support initiatives to increase the profile and availability of local food and again believe this could benefit our primary producers.

‘The Scottish Crofting Federation’s Crofting Charter highlights crofters’ belief in the need for a strong local food economy with public procurement opportunities for local producers and the promotion and encouragement of niche and high-end branding and marketing, for example produce from rare and native breeds.

‘The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards, now in their 9th year, are a positive way of showcasing examples of best practice within the sector.’

Everything Jamie McGrigor has said here, on the value to the Scottish and to the Highlands and Islands’ economies of first class quality food and drink is exactly wy we must remain watchful and determined to rpevent the UK introducing GM foods.

There is another move on by the UK government just now, highlighted over the weekend, to reverse EU rulings that prevent the UK from growing GM crops.

Scotland should never consider working up food production at the cheap end of the market but focus its brand exclusively on unmatchable quality and provenance.

In a small country, this is one of the product brandings where we cannot do both.

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