Party muddle

SNP hail salmon sales while attacking UK exports

Mairi Gougeon in Paris
Mairi Gougeon speaking at the meeting in Paris last year

An SNP minister has poured praise on the latest overseas sales success for Scottish salmon – as her party issues another damning assessment of the UK government’s export record.

Scottish salmon was the UK’s biggest food export in 2022, according to new HMRC figures, reaching £578 million in the calendar year, with France leading the global demand.

European destinations dominated as the sector continued to bounce back from Brexit, according to the trade body Salmon Scotland. Scottish salmon was exported to 54 countries, with North America and Asia reporting strong demand.

The European Union continues to be the largest market by value and volume with more than 52,000 tonnes worth about £368m being exported last year.

It prompted Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon to say: “It is fantastic to see strong sales of Scottish salmon in 2022 and I want to congratulate everyone in the sector on another successful year. 

“Food and drink is one of our priority export sectors and the continued growth in global markets means more jobs and investment across Scotland.”

But earlier the SNP issued a statement saying exports continue to slump and pointed to the Tories’ “damaging Brexit” as a cause of the UK’s “rapidly declining economy”.

The SNP’s International Trade spokesperson, Richard Thomson MP, said: “There are no signs of promise to be found anywhere with recent economic forecasts all highlighting the catastrophic damage of the Tories’ hard Brexit.”

His comments were based on figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the value of goods exports decreased by £0.8 billion (2.3%) in December 2022, linked to a fall in exports to non-EU countries.

It is not the first time the SNP has produced contradictory messages over UK exports. In January last year, Ms Gougeon claimed that Brexit has failed to deliver a single benefit for Scotland’s food and drink businesses, but in November she joined a salmon industry delegation in Paris to hail the success of salmon sales to France.

In May last year SNP MP Deirdre Brock, Shadow Environment Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, admitted that a 29% surge in salmon exports was “good news” for the sector. Her comments followed SNP Holyrood colleague Rona Mackay saying Westminster Tory minister George Eustice was also guilty of failing to identify a single benefit for the food and drink sector from Britain’s exit from the EU.

UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch today focused on the export figures for UK services which reached record highs, saying that they “cement the UK’s position as a global services superpower”.

The total £397 billion represents, at current prices, an increase of 20% compared to 2021, and 23% on exports in 2018.

Several sectors contributed to today’s figures, including travel and professional business services, which include professional and management consulting services such as legal, architectural and research and development services. 

India drives demand for whisky

India imported 219 million bottles of Scotch whisky last year, knocking France off the top spot for imports by volume, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

While France increased imports by 17%, to 205 million bottles, demand from India rose by 60%.

The record sales came despite India charging a tariff of 150% on imports, which could be cut under plans for a free-trade deal.

whisky bottles
Whisky sales are booming in India

The rise in demand was fuelled by a taste for Scotch among the burgeoning middle classes, for whom good whisky is a status symbol.

The country is also climbing the rankings for sales by value, spending £282 million on Scotch imports, placing it fifth behind America, France, Singapore and Taiwan. China was sixth.

Asia-Pacific countries spent a combined £1.8 billion on Scotch, putting the region ahead of the European Union. EU countries spent £1.6 billion.

The association predicted that India would increase its imports by another billion pounds over the next five years if both governments agreed to drop tariffs.

Mark Kent, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “India is the industry’s number one trade priority. By reducing the tariff through the UK-India trade deal, we can export even more Scotch.”

America, which has long spent the most on Scotch whisky, bounced back to sales of more than a billion pounds for the first time since 2019, when imports were damaged by a trade war.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked as *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.