Nicola Sturgeon adviser accused of ‘losing time’ on Union Jack meals labels amid pandemic – #NewsEverything #Scotland


ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s high aides has been accused of “jaw-dropping” muddled priorities after fretting about Scotch beef being bought below a Union Jack amid the pandemic.

Kate Higgins raised the problem with officers on the identical day in September that the First Minister introduced three deaths from coronavirus, then the most important rise in additional than two months.

Inner emails present Ms Higgins, a particular adviser on rural financial system and connectivity, known as the labelling of Scotch meat as British by Marks & Spencer “disconcerting” and “not on”.

She additionally instructed a high official that if the High quality Meat Scotland (QMS) quango was conscious that Scotch beef was been branded and bought in Scotland as British beef “now we have an issue”.

The intervention led to QMS making an inspection of M&S meats, calling the corporate, and enterprise to “monitor the Scotch manufacturers”, regardless that one of many Authorities’s personal officers had described the problem as not “significantly new”.

The Scottish Tories, who obtained the emails below freedom of data, stated the way in which Ms Higgins pursued the problem of flags on meat was “petty, small and trivial” within the context.

Additionally they urged Ms Sturgeon to say whether or not she backed “this complete waste of time”.

The emails present Ms Higgins wrote to QMS complaining about M&S labels on September 8.

Underneath the topic “M and S and Scotbeef”, she wrote: “Promoting Aberdeen Angus and different beef merchandise in Scottish shops marked as British beef – is that this non Scotch beef? Or have they stopped labelling it as Scotch beef regardless that it’s. As a result of it’s not on actually.”

The M&S British beef label makes use of a Union flag reasonably than a Saltire.

The identical day she wrote to the Authorities’s head of foods and drinks, George Burgess, saying she didn’t suppose SNP ministers would assist Scotch beef being labelled British.

“Wouldn’t it dissipate the Scotch beef model? If QMS are conscious that Scotch beef is being branded and bought in Scotland as British beef now we have an issue.”

Mr Burgess stated the M&S British beef label allowed the agency to make use of meat from across the UK, reasonably than be restricted to Scotch beef and threat provide issues. 

He stated: “Undecided that is significantly new. M&S don’t need to label beef as Scotch beef, and there may be nothing that may require them to take action. 

“After all, they couldn’t do it the opposite means spherical and label non-Scotch as Scotch – and that’s most likely why they need the pliability reasonably than having all their labels printed with Scotch Beef after which working into provide issues.  

“After all we’d need M&S to label Scotch Beef as Scotch Beef, and we and QMS could make the case about the way it will increase the worth/status of the product each in Scottish shops and the remainder of the UK, and level to what nimbler retailers like Lidl are capable of do. 

“But when we had been to insist that Scotch Beef can solely be labelled as such, we run the chance that M&S go elsewhere for his or her provides.”

Ms Higgins replied: “Okay thanks for explaining.”

Per week later, a QMS official emailed Ms Higgins again after visiting M&S to “verify the Scotch beef and lamb vary” after which discussing it with the the shop.

They wrote: “The M&S workforce have dedicated to assessment the contemporary meat labelling as there have been some merchandise they recognized that needs to be packaged as Scotch however had been labelled as British.

“He [a person at M&S] thought this can be resulting from a hangover from the preliminary Covid panic shopping for interval when a lot of the vary was labelled as British to make sure most volumes had been processed. 

“I’ve agreed to assessment the in-store vary within the coming weeks to observe the Scotch manufacturers and report again to M&S.

“M&S reiterated their assist for Scottish farmers and processors, stating [an undisclosed proportion] of the UK sourcing on beef and lamb comes from Scotland.”

Ms Higgins known as it a “nice consequence”, telling QMS: “The explanation I raised it was as a result of I understand how dedicated M and S are to Scottish farm produce and sourcing and to then see all of it labelled as British in a Scottish retailer was disconcerting. Thanks for following up.” 

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell stated: “In the course of a pandemic, it’s jaw-dropping {that a} key SNP Authorities adviser is furiously investigating how the Union flag ended up on a packet of meat.

“It’s an embarrassing reveal of the priorities of the SNP authorities. The large challenge dealing with Scotland at present is just not the labelling of beef in Marks & Spencer.

“We’re combating a pandemic and 100,000 jobs are in danger. What is going to the Scottish public make of one of many First Minister’s key advisers complaining about flags on meat?

“I’m extremely happy with Scottish produce however that is petty, small and trivial. The First Minister ought to clarify if her authorities endorses this complete waste of time.”

A spokesperson for Rural Economic system Secretary Fergus Ewing:“Scotch Beef is an iconic product which enjoys protected named standing, which ought to all the time be safeguarded and promoted – significantly in the course of the pandemic, which has hit our foods and drinks sector laborious.  

“The Scottish Authorities makes no apologies for selling our world class produce at a time when it’s below menace like by no means earlier than as a result of reckless Brexit insurance policies pursued by the Tories – who’ve disgracefully simply voted to water down meals requirements – and championed by the likes of Oliver Mundell.”

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