By a Newsnet reporter
One of Scotland’s top chefs has blasted the owner of Mackie’s Ice Cream after the latter criticised the strength of Scottish food and drink brands.
Responding to Maitland Mackie’s astonishing attack on the Scottish food and drink industry, claiming most Scottish brands were not good enough to withstand independence, Scotland’s only two-star Michelin chef Andrew Fairlie said:
“This is a totally non-sensical and potentially damaging assault on a high-quality industry that is currently enjoying great success around the world. This is certainly not a time to be attacking the industry but a time to be talking it up.’
Mr Fairlie, who is a member of the Yes Scotland advisory board, was speaking from Japan where he and a number of other leading chefs are on an educational tour.
He aded: “Only today, while touring fish-markets here in Japan, we were staggered by the huge demand for Scottish marine-harvest salmon and shellfish. They simply cannot get enough of it and they are willing to pay small fortunes to make sure they get Scottish produce.
“Since the current Scottish Government came to power there have been tremendous efforts made to promote Scottish produce around the world and this is definitely paying dividends.
“Whatever constitutional arrangements are in place,now or in the future, to say that independence would have an adverse impact on the industry is absurd.
“Scottish produce, whether it be fish, beef, lamb or a whole range of other produce, is revered around the world and we should be doing everything we can to maintain that quality , not criticizing it.”
The row follows a survey organised by Mr Mackie in which the ice cream chief asked whether independence would harm the Scottish food and drink industry. Mr Mackie suggested that independence would mean customers in England would refuse to buy Scottish produce, and would view it as “foreign”.
However, despite sending his online poll to 500 Scottish businesses, over 80 per cent refused to take part.
Despite the poor response, Mr Mackie, a former Lib Dem candidate, described the response to his survey as “significant” and claimed that almost three quarters of Scottish businesses in the food and drink sector believed independence would harm trade.
Responding to the ice cream entrepreneur’s comments Mike MacKenzie MSP, member of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said:
“The Scottish food and drink industry is booming as never before – experiencing unprecedented growth even during a UK recession. And this success, of course, comes in the full knowledge of the independence referendum that is happening in autumn 2014.
“This discredited survey comes as another embarrassment to the Better Together No camp, who have broken their first campaign promise that they would promote a positive case. Instead, they are resorting to the same old Tory-style negative scaremongering – and no wonder, given that the anti-independence campaign is Tory-led.
“Better Together’s negative campaign is already leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
“Next only to the oil and gas industry, food and drink are Scotland’s key economic assets and are leading our exports. To try to turn people off Scotland’s massively-popular and quality food and drink products because of the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future really is reaching into the back of the larder.
“Mr Mackie’s ill-advised outburst comes at the silliest of times – at the end of the highly successful Scotland’s Food and Drink fortnight – and the recent news that Scotland’s total food and drink exports to the rest of UK increased by £1.6bn over the period 2007 to 2010, to reach £5.9bn, a fantastic 36% increase.
“Independence will give Scotland an even stronger platform to promote Scottish food and drink – and the reality of the industry’s current success during the constitutional debate totally washes away the myths dished up by Mr Mackie.”
Mr Mackie’s comments echo similar claims he made in 2007, prior to the SNP’s first election win.
Describing independence as a “total irrelevance” he claimed that Scots were subsidised By Westminster to the tune of £2000 per person.
Speaking in March, two months prior to the 2007 election of the SNP Government, Mackie insisted that the Scottish economy was thriving and said:
“Alex Salmond would have us believe that Scotland’s economy would rise phoenix-like from the ashes in the event of us becoming independent. But the reality would be very far from that. For a start there are not any ashes. Scotland’s thriving at the moment.”
Within months, the entire UK economy virtually collapsed as London de-regulation witnessed banks north and south of the border virtually collapse, with taxpayers having to bail out Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley, RBS and HBOS.
Since then, the UK has become mired in a double-dip recession that analysts insist will endure well into 2013.