By Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP

FARMERS and constituents have been in touch, concerned about a reduction in food standards and protections. As USA trade deal negotiations continue, I share those fears, as it threatens those working hard on the land or innovatively in our acclaimed food and drink sector.

The American food production model isn’t one we should be following. Chlorinated chicken has caught the headlines but that’s not the worst of much that’s unpalatable over there.

Across the Atlantic, it’s a race to the bottom in almost every aspect, other than corporate profits. Farmers have been impoverished more than ever happened in ‘dustbowl’ times. No more is the USA a land of small farmers; they’ve been wiped out by agribusiness.

Likewise, those working in factories are treated more harshly than ever, described by Upton Sinclair in his American Labor history classic, The Jungle.

Many years ago, I visited Finland and, discussing the food and drink sector, they explained they couldn’t compete with fertile lands like Ukraine. It just wasn’t possible.

But they had a hard-earned reputation for quality and purity. Look at any advert for a Finnish product and you’ll see what I mean. Pristine and high end. Lose that image and they lose everything.

Scotland’s much the same. It’s a quality product, not mass market. Allowing imports that undermine our own, never mind threaten our reputation built over centuries, would be disastrous for the industry. It wouldn’t be any better for the consumer as overall quality drops and local produce disappears. Protections gone or obfuscated.

The reason I’m worried is that the UK Government failed to enshrine minimum standards in the Agriculture Bill. Then, when Ministers were asked for assurances, they equivocated. I even asked Boris Johnson directly at Prime Minister’s Questions and he prevaricated. The threat is real, and that’s why I’ll continue to oppose this.