Scotland will see “huge opportunities” as a result of the UK’s trade deal with Australia, a leading member of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet said as she dismissed calls from Nicola Sturgeon for the agreement to be put to a vote at Westminster and Holyrood.
UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the deal – announced last month by the Prime Minister – will benefit a host of industries north of the border, as she stressed there will be “proper parliamentary scrutiny” of it.
Scottish First Minister Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of the new agreement, claiming it risks cheaper imports from Australia undermining Scottish farmers and food producers.
Speaking in June, she said: “It should be put to a vote not just in the House of Commons, but a vote in this Parliament as well, so that we can represent the interests of the farming community across Scotland.”
Ms Truss, who visited Edinburgh and Glasgow as part of a trip north of the border this week, insisted businesses will benefit from increased access to the Australian market, and also in the wider trans-Pacific area.
Speaking to PA Scotland, the Trade Secretary said: “On Australia there are huge opportunities for Scotland. We’re getting the whisky tariff removed, all tariffs will be removed for Scottish businesses exporting to Australia.
“For the fin-tech companies I was talking to yesterday there will be a free flow of data, that means they can sell their products direct into the Australian market without having to pay for servers and extra equipment in Australia.
“And also it gains access to the wider trans-Pacific market, that is 11 fast-growing nations in the Pacific area. By 2030 25% of global meat imports will be from those countries and I am sure they will be excited about getting more Scottish beef and lamb into those markets.
“This is a huge opportunity for Scotland.”
She stressed the deal will go through the “proper parliamentary process”, saying: “This trade deal will be fully scrutinised by the International Trade Select Committee, which is chaired by (SNP MP) Angus MacNeil.”
She used her visit to Scotland to launch the UK Government’s Made in Britain, Sold to the World campaign, which she said is “all about the fantastic products we produce in the UK and how we can get more of them into global markets”.
Ms Truss added: “There are currently half a million jobs in Scotland which are related to exports, and those jobs tend to pay more and they are more productive, so we want to expand that.
“We’re also beefing up our engagement and presence in Scotland to make sure Scottish businesses are fully involved in our trade deals and also we’re attracting investment into Scotland.”
But SNP international trade spokesman Drew Hendry said: “Liz Truss should use this visit to Scotland to apologise to the countless businesses who are paying a heavy price due to her Government’s extreme Brexit policy.
“Time and time again the interests of Scotland’s businesses – including Scottish farmers and crofters under the Australia trade deal – have been completely side-lined by the Tory Government.”
Ms Truss countered: “The businesses I have been speaking to are very excited about the new opportunities brought about by the UK’s independent trade policy. With fin-tech companies we were talking about getting more investment from Silicon Valley, we were talking about the opportunities of selling into India and Australia.
“With the whisky industry we have just got the 25% tariffs lifted into the United States market, so again there are huge opportunities to expand that.
“All of the companies I have been speaking to are looking to the future, they are looking to the new opportunities, the growing markets.
“We know that by 2030, 66% of the world’s middle classes will be in Asia and the fantastic products that Scotland produces – whether it is whisky or salmon or financial technology or computer games like Minecraft – there’s huge demand for them across the world.
“So certainly the businesses I have been speaking to are positive and optimistic about the future.”