Scottish Elections 2021

Seven Questions to ask your MSP candidates about trade justice

On first thought, international trade deals might not obviously be an issue for Holyrood elections. But given that modern trade deals are no longer just about the import and export of goods, or tariffs at the border, and that they have impacts across our economy and society – including on food safety, animal welfare, workers’ rights and public services – we think it’s vital that politicians in Scotland understand the impact that they have here and are willing to speak up in defence of NHS Scotland, our workers, our food safety standards, animal welfare and the environment which could all be impacted as the UK government negotiates more and more post-Brexit trade deals. 

One of our key concerns is the inclusion of the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism – set up specifically to allow multinational business to sue governments for policies and laws that they believe threaten their profits. The way that ISDS has been used in recent years to sue governments for public policy decisions undermines the ability of governments to protect workers’ rights, human rights, food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards.  In short, modern trade deals are reshaping the rules of global governance in favour of multinational companies and away from democratically elected governments. 

With the UK government rolling over trade deals that we were part of in the EU, and striking new ones around the world, we believe that more than ever ethical principles are needed to underpin them, as well as a democratic framework for negotiating and passing trade deals that gives parliamentarians and the public a say, and properly includes all the devolved nations. 

Of course there are other things going on with might interact and have an impact, such as the Internal Market Bill passed at the end of 2020 which assigns some powers to Westminster which we feel should come under the remit of the Scottish Parliament and, when combined with a trade deal, could reduce the ability of devolved parliaments to regulate in areas such as food safety and animal welfare standards.  

We also have concerns about the UK government’s move towards setting up a new network of freeports, and the Scottish government’s recent proposal for greenports. Our concerns include the risks of money laundering, tax evasion, trafficking, deregulation (including of workers’ rights and environmental regulations) – and overall a ‘race to the bottom’. 

So we’ve written to all the leaders of the main political parties to find out what they know and think about these key issues.  We’re also asking people (such as you, reading this blog) to contact their local MSP candidates to ask them the same thing (you should be able to find contact details for your constituency and list MSPs here   

Here are seven important questions for party leaders and MSP candidates alike: 

  1. What trade strategy policies or documents has your party formulated at a Scottish level? 
  1. What is your party’s view of the new generation of trade deals, such as the EU-Canada trade deal CETA and the proposed US-UK trade deal? 
  1. As the UK makes new post Brexit trade deals, what process does your party believe there should be for parliamentary scrutiny (at a UK and Scottish level) of those deals before they are passed?  
  1. What is your party’s view of whether Britain’s post Brexit trade deals should include an investor state dispute settlement mechanism?  
  1. What is your party’s view on the Internal Market Bill, and in particular and how it might interact with post Brexit trade deals struck by the UK government and what impact that could have on Scotland? 
  1. Will your party commit to maintaining hard won standards on food safety, animal welfare, workers’ rights and the environment as being a red line in trade deals? 
  1. What is your party’s view of freeports and the Scottish government’s proposal for greenports?