20 November 2014

S4M-11598 Food and Drink

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): Good afternoon. The first item of business this afternoon is a debate on motion S4M-11598, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on food and drink.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I apologise to colleagues, as I have an engagement in Glasgow that means I shall be leaving before the end of the debate.

I congratulate Mike MacKenzie in particular for setting what may turn out to be a new record in that book that is compiled by a well-known Irish stout manufacturer—the contribution to Parliament that achieves the greatest number of press releases. He is not alone in that particular endeavour, but I think that he trumps everyone else.

I advise Parliament that I am ready to fly colleagues all over Scotland in pursuit of good food and drink—it is never a hardship to do that. I will tell colleagues—as Napoleon asked for lucky generals—that they would be flying with a lucky pilot. I have come off a plane in an emergency on three occasions so far, and on 4 November 1975, I experienced parachute failure. I can experience all those things, but my colleagues will be perfectly safe with me.

However, to the matter of food and drink—the important matter that is before us. There are a couple of interesting points to make. Scotland is innovating in food and drink; it is not simply that we are picking up things that we find lying around and finding a way to export them. Do members know that we are now exporting garlic from Moray to France? We are also exporting snails from Scotland to France, and we are beginning to make serious inroads into the olive oil industry with our extra virgin cold-pressed oilseed rape oil, which was first produced for commercial purposes very close to Peterhead and is now produced in a couple of different places. It is a much better oil for cooking than olive oil; it can be heated to a higher temperature before it starts to break down and it is at least equal in flavour to that long-standing Mediterranean material. We are doing things that people are not necessarily aware of.

A Bank of Scotland survey tells us that 58 per cent of Scottish producers are planning to expand overseas in the next five years, which is pretty good news. Almost two thirds said that they would welcome assistance in marketing and developing brand awareness. The business of the brand is important: around the world there is very good recognition of the “Scotch” brand for our wonderful whisky. As I have said in the chamber before, in India there is a huge trade in second-hand Johnnie Walker bottles, which are not always refilled with Johnnie Walker whisky before being resold. That pattern is repeated around the world.

Brands are precious things that need to be managed carefully. An industry expert said that a brand is

“the evidence of a claim or distinction you make to your customers ... Brands are promises. When they are kept, customers keep them”—

they stay loyal—but “when they are broken”, one loses those customers for a very long period indeed. International recognition for many of our products is important, but it is also important that we live up to those international brands. Our food exports depend on them.

There are good examples in my constituency, as there are in others’. One is Gourmet’s Choice, which is a family-run business in Portsoy that exports smoked salmon and which won the exporter of the year award in 2009. The company smokes the salmon in barrels from the whisky industry—one can actually taste which whisky was in the barrel when one tastes the smoked salmon. I think that that is an ideal combination of the best of Scotland and I love having it on my plate. Commenting on the company’s success, the sales manager, Henry Angus, said:

“We have the right skills and resource in place to succeed in a global marketplace and we have worked hard to develop relationships”.

That is what we all have to do. Of course, salmon and other fish generally are among the healthiest things that we could possibly eat.

The Budding Rose has been mentioned. I was at a Seafish event last night in Edinburgh at which the Budding Rose was mentioned three times. Well done, Peter Bruce. The Peter Bruce brand is doing well. I look forward to the day when our fish products have the skipper’s photograph and signature on the packaging—increasingly, fish products are sold in packaging—which would create an even stronger link from the person who is responsible for the first part of the quality right through the supply chain to the consumer. We want people to say that there is extra value in buying the Peter Bruce brand or in buying from many of the other skippers, from Liam McArthur’s constituency as well as mine: I am generous in these matters.

There are a couple of things that we need to be aware of in relation to health, one being trans fats, which recent research has shown can damage the memory. Clearly I have avoided any of that thus far—or I just cannot remember having had them. It is one or the other; I am not quite sure which.

There are expectations that the industry will create lots of new jobs over the next few years. I, like a couple of other members here, come from the age of rationing, immediately post-war. Thank goodness we are now in a position in which the quality of our food enhances the stature and health of our people and creates a powerful economic driver.


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