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LUCY BEATTIE: Renowned Highland food scene pays price of Brexit – but is there hope?


By Lucy Beattie

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Lucy Beattie.
Lucy Beattie.

While the challenges of post-Brexit trade continue to impact businesses what will shape the culinary landscape of the North Highlands – and can the spirit of love endure?

As Valentine’s Day approaches shops and businesses in the North Highlands are getting ready to sell their wares to star crossed lovers all across the country. When sheep farmers think of romance it may be a case of haggis, neeps and tatties but for many die-hard romantics European fare is on the menu: Champagne from France, Belgian chocolates and fine cheese from across the continent.

They now witness eye-watering levels of increased paperwork and additional estimated costs of up to £600 per consignment because of trade barriers. Add to this the recent news that the UK economy is £140 billion smaller than if we had remained in the EU.

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However, since Brexit it has been harder to trade with mainland Europe and this has hit our food offering hard. Last October Jon and Emmy Palmer closed their award-winning business The Cheese House in Cromarty and issued a statement: "The last couple of years have not been without its difficulties, adjusting to a post-Brexit way of doing business with mainland Europe. This has contributed to Jon and Emmy’s decision to finish."

If this news doesn’t put a damper on the ardour of Highlanders there’s more bad news for fisherfolk who send shellfish consignments to the restaurants of Europe.

They now witness eye-watering levels of increased paperwork and additional estimated costs of up to £600 per consignment because of trade barriers. Add to this the recent news that the UK economy is £140 billion smaller than if we had remined in the EU.

The love affair between Scotland and France is longstanding – France is Scotland’s second biggest export market, primarily for whisky and salmon. However, in 2016, as the majority of Scotland chose not to support Brexit, economists at the London School of Economics predicted that "horeign investors love Britain, but Brexit will end the affair."

The love sausage produced by Dingwall's George Cockburn and Son back in 2021 just ahead of Valentine's Day.
The love sausage produced by Dingwall's George Cockburn and Son back in 2021 just ahead of Valentine's Day.

There may be a glimmer of hope for those looking to celebrate love closer to home without going all the way to Paris. Cockburn's Butchers, Dingwall's famous champion haggis maker, in years past has made a selection of Valentine's Day inspired sausages – a tasty option for those who want to fall in love again with good Highland food.

Lucy Beattie grew up on a farming estate in Ross-shire near Ullapool; she also worked as a farmer for 25 years. She is an academic researcher and a nominated candidate for the Scottish National Party for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross at the next general election.


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