Haggis out? Scots fear Brexit means going veggie

The haggis: sheep's stomach stuffed with offal, oats and pepper. Photo: Reuters
The haggis: sheep's stomach stuffed with offal, oats and pepper. Photo: Reuters

Scots with a taste for traditional meat pies or haggis face "enforced vegetarianism" after Brexit, a Scottish government minister warns, as it may starve abattoirs of a vital European workforce.

In Brussels to press Scotland's case for continued membership of the European single market, Constitutional Relations Minister Michael Russell said on Tuesday the British government's plan to end free movement for EU workers would sound a "death knell" for the Scottish economy.

Noting that over 60% of workers in Scottish slaughterhouses and 98% of their vets come from other EU countries, he concluded: "Enforced vegetarianism is the outcome there, because there just won't be legal means of slaughter."

Scots around the world are this week toasting their national poet Robert Burns with carnivorous feasts of steaming haggis: sheep's stomach stuffed with offal, oats and pepper.

Russell told reporters the independence-minded devolved government in Edinburgh was expanding permanent missions in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and other European centres to help keep close to trading partners.

From world-leading university research teams to fruit farms, a loss of EU nationals would be damaging and Scotland would struggle to cope with its ageing population, he said.

Representing a nation that voted heavily to remain in the EU in the 2016 British referendum, the Scottish government is backing efforts in the London parliament to stop Prime Minister Theresa May taking Britain out of the bloc on March 29 without a deal to smooth the process and keep close free trade ties.

Russell said the Scottish National Party, in power in Scotland and the third largest in the British legislature, said May should delay withdrawal and hold a new referendum giving voters a choice between staying in the EU or leaving on terms she negotiated last month but which parliament has rejected.

After seeing preparations at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for new controls on imports from Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Russell said Scottish firms were preparing but such an outcome would be very disruptive.

The possibility of Britain simply keeping its ports and borders open after a hard Brexit was "an open invitation to smuggling and to illegality", he said.

"I ... don't believe that can last a week." 

Bottles of single malt scotch whisky Glenmorangie, part of Glenmorangie plc co-owned by LVMH and...
Bottles of single malt scotch whisky Glenmorangie, part of Glenmorangie plc co-owned by LVMH and Diageo. Photo: Reuters


Meanwhile, the Scotch Whisky Association says leaving the EU in March without a deal would pose risks to current healthy rates of export growth.

The association told Reuters it was also concerned about significant increased labelling costs of a no-deal Brexit to Britain's biggest food and drink export.

It said no-deal would add cost and complexity to UK/EU trade and would mean the loss of trade benefits worth £50 million pounds ($NZ96 million) annually in tariffs.

"Moreover, we have real concerns about the ability of port operators to cope with significant, last-minute changes to export systems, and the risk of disruption at ports is high," the group said.

An SWA spokeswoman said one of the biggest concerns was to do with labelling requirements. If a no-deal scenario takes effect from end March, EU-bound product labels would need to display either an EU address of the producer or the address of the relevant importer into the EU market.

Currently many Scotch Whisky companies list a Scottish address to comply with this requirement. However, from late March this may no longer be possible, since an EU address is likely to be required because of EU labelling laws.

A no-deal Brexit could necessitate at least two different label templates from March: one for products sold in the UK; and at least one - in some cases many more than one - for products destined for the EU, the spokeswoman said.

"This would significantly increase costs with companies forced to use shorter bottling runs and manage additional stock keeping units (SKUs) in their inventories."

Scotch is dominated by multinationals like Diageo and Pernod Ricard and has been an export sector for centuries.

Whisky exports were worth £4.5 billion to Britain in 2017, its biggest food and drink export ahead of salmon, chocolate and cheese.


Given the diet of the average Scot, this could be seen as one of the few benefits of Brexit.