Following a recent series of engagements with the Scottish Government, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) welcomes the clear recognition of the sector’s value and importance in recent communications. Multiple meetings with Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon MSP and officials throughout the year have paved the way for collaborative efforts to address key concerns within the industry.
Minister Gougeon, in a recent letter addressed to the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Steve Barclay MP, urged talks on a sensibly timed transition to peat-free practices. The HTA supports this call, emphasizing the need for a carefully planned shift to support growers and mitigate potential impacts on the Scottish horticulture industry. Additionally, Minister Gougeon highlighted the necessity for a plant health agreement with the EU to address challenges arising from post-Brexit trade dynamics.
Banning Sales of Horticultural Peat
“DEFRA has set a date of 2026 for banning the sale of peat for professional horticulture. Regrettably, this is in advance of the Scottish Government’s intention to ban the sale of horticultural peat and, because of the interlinked nature of supply chains, is likely to impact the Scottish horticulture industry. We are aware that this has caused significant alarm and concern among Scottish and UK growers of plants and trees and will be almost impossible for them to comply with. It would be helpful to remove this arbitrary date to enable discussion to arrive at an agreement with the horticulture industry and across all nations on a date that gives the industry sufficient time to transition.”
Along with HTA members, David Lydiat, HTA Public Affairs and Policy Manager, has been ensuring that the concerns of the horticultural industry are raised in Holyrood and that MSPs have had the chance to meet with members first-hand to understand the challenges.
David commented: “The HTA wants to transition to peat-free in a sensible timeframe, which allows professional tree and plant growers to produce the nation’s flora at the quality and quantity required. We need constructive discussions across nations between governments and industry, ensuring a feasible transition period. The industry is at a historic low for peat use, having made significant strides in recent years. We welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s sensible intervention, realizing the risk that a rushed date poses for horticulture businesses as well as tree and plant production in Scotland and the wider UK.”
Minister Gougeon writes: “While welcome progress is being made on border biosecurity and the implementation of import checks, leaving the EU has resulted in an unnecessary burden for businesses importing and exporting food and other animal products. The UK must abandon its opposition to alignment with EU standards and adopt a pragmatic approach to trade with our largest trade partner to enter into a Comprehensive Veterinary Agreement, negating the need for SPS controls between the UK and the Single Market. A similar agreement should be developed for plants and plant products.”
David Lydiat stressed the need for enhanced dialogue between the EU and the UK on plant imports to foster smoother trade relations:
“Since January 2021, the industry has followed import and export requirements outlined in the Trade & Co-operation Agreement (TCA) due to the absence of a Sanitary Phytosanitary (SPS) or plant health agreement with the EU. However, there needs to be better dialogue between the EU and the UK regarding plant imports. Given that the value of imported plant material surpassed £753 million in 2022, constituting half of the cumulative value of the UK’s trees, plants, seeds, and bulbs production sector. We are pleased that Minister Gougeon has prioritized this concern.”
In addition to peat and plant health, Minister Gougeon’s letter touched upon an independent review of labor shortages, post-Brexit trade deals, and the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)/Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).