It was great to get along to see the Orkney food and drink businesses who were flying the flag for the islands at the Royal Highland Show last weekend.
The nine firms who travelled down made an impressive impact as part of the Scotland’s Larder Live! feature at the show.
Supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orkney Islands Council, they included newcomers, J Gow Rum, as well as more established favourites such as Argo’s Orkney Bakery and the Orkney Creamery.
What impressed me – as well as the quality of the produce! – were the collaborations that were going on between many of the Orkney producers. You could have Orkney ice cream with the new J Gow spiced rum, and Orkney Fudge with Kirkjuvagr Gin! And if you wanted to stay teetotal then there was no shortage of bere meal biscuits to have with some of the delicious cheese.
All of these strongly branded local products are highly important to the Orkney economy, and protecting these brands is now a key issue as trade deals are negotiated for the post-Brexit era.
The threat of brands such as Scottish beef and lamb disappearing after Brexit is now a very real one. Orkney examples of the importance of local branding – as well as those that were showing at Ingliston – include Orkney Beef, Orkney Lamb and Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, which are among Scottish products that have EU protected food names.
Scotch whisky – and again Orkney has two prestigious brands worth protecting – is also under threat from trade deals with America.
And I know from conversations that I have had that this issue of protecting brands and the threat of Brexit has caused some food and drink producers, particularly those who trade internationally, to reconsider the way they may vote in another independence referendum.
Folk may also have noticed Scottish potatoes, carrots, strawberries and butter being branded as British on supermarket shelves. Apart from diminishing Scotland as a quality food producing country, it makes it harder to make green choices about the food miles involved in whatever you are buying.
I am delighted that protecting Scotland the Brand has become a cause that is being supported across the country. While it has grown from local campaigns by Yes Kirriemuir and Yes Forfar, it is not party political and will, I am sure, have strong support in Orkney.
We should all work to support Orkney’s and Scotland’s brands. If our food producers go out of business, rural communities will suffer, and food prices will go up. If jobs are lost the economy falters, and food security and food poverty become a real threat to even more families.
It’s a campaign we can all get behind. Tell supermarkets and retailers why you think they should support our food and drink producers, our farmers and our fishermen. If you see a Scottish product that isn’t clearly identified as such, take a photograph of it and share it on social media using the hashtag #keepScotlandtheBrand. Contact the supermarkets and your elected representatives about it.
The EU Protected Named Status which goes when we leave the EU
This is a fortnightly column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP, Scottish Greens, Labour and Conservative MSPs have been offered the same amount of space.