THE UK Government’s trade deal with Australia has been compared to the Highland Clearances by a Scottish MP.

Kenny MacAskill challenged Greg Hands, UK trade minister, over the plans in the Commons this afternoon, saying the Tories “don’t even care about Scottish sheep let alone crofters and farmers”.

The trade deal has raised concerns with farmers across the UK, who are worried that cheap imports of beef and lamb could see the demand for their home-grown produce dwindle. 

Others say they are worried about inferior products, such as hormone-injected beef coming to the UK's supermarkets - a claim the Government denies and says hormone-injected beef would never be allowed to be imported to the country. 

Mr MacAskill, Alba MP for East Lothian said: “Over 200 years ago the Highland Clearances saw people shamefully replaced by sheep for landlord profits.

“Now this trade deal threatens to supplant those sheep with cheap imports for Tory dogma.”

Mr Hands replied that the production costs in the Asian markets were “twice what they are in the UK” adding: “[This] makes it very competitive for Australia to sell into for example, markets like Japan, markets like Korea, where the domestic production price of beef is twice that in the UK.”

He added that the Australian lamb quota into the UK was “not even fully used at the moment”.

Drew Hendry, the SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, cited warnings from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland and England, saying they would struggle to compete if tariff-free access was granted to Australian beef and lamb exporters.

Mr Hendry said the government was “simply not listening to those at the sharp end” and quoted NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy, who said: “Our seafood industry has already been hit hard by Brexit and now Scottish farming is next to be sacrificed. Once again it's Scotland's key industries which will bear the brunt of a Tory Brexit people here didn't vote for.”

Mr Hendry continued: “NFU England warned ministers that they would struggle to compete of zero-tariffs trade on lamb or beef went ahead and the RSPCA have warned that tariff free access for Australia would betray the public, farmers, and the animals. These are just some of the warnings to government from those affected, not from politicians.

“Will the minister rule out tariff-free access for Australian agricultural produce?”

However Mr Hands hit back, accusing the SNP of being “isolationist” and said Mr Hendry had “serious questions to answer”.

He said: “Never in 20 years has the SNP supported any trade deal done by either the UK, or even by the EU, even though key sectors of the Scottish economy like whiskey, like apparel, like fisheries, are dependent on trade.”

“They voted for no-deal Brexit, they voted against deals with our friends like Canada, Korea and South Africa. They didn't support deals with Japan or Singapore.

“I don't think that whatever assurances I have given you today or whatever turns out to actually be in the deal would make him and the SNP support this deal.

“When it comes to trade Mr Speaker, the SNP are isolationist and against the best interests of Scotland. “

Patricia Gibson, SNP MP also challenged Mr Hands, asking him why farmers could not understand “how fabulous” the UK’s deal was and adding: “Could it be the case that this government is being disingenuous about the impact this deal will have on your farmers?”

The minister said that Scotland would “benefit from this deal very strongly overall”.