Campaigners opposed to a controversial trade deal between the European Union and the USA have received the backing of Fife Council.
Councillors supported calls to declare Fife a ‘TTIP Free Zone’ by approving a motion declaring the council’s outright opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
TTIP is a free trade deal between the US and Europe, currently being negotiated behind closed doors, which, its supporters claim, would cut tariffs and lower regulatory barriers to make trade easier between the two markets.
The UK Government says TTIP would benefit shoppers by making goods cheaper and creating more choice, and that it could boost the UK economy by as much as £10 billion a year.
It also believes the deal would help small businesses by opening up markets and making customs processes smoother.
But opponents fear TTIP is a threat to public services, environmental regulations and workers’ rights – and this week Fife Council demonstrated its dissent by becoming the fifth local authority in Scotland to oppose the proposed deal.
Councillor Karen Marjoram, depute leader of the SNP group, was delighted to receive overwhelming support for her motion against TTIP.
She said: “The potential impact to everyday Fifers from TTIP would be huge. Once I started reading about TTIP, I knew I had to try and do something.”
There are concerns TTIP could lead to the privatisation of the NHS because the deal includes ‘market access’ which bans state monopolies, including public services run by the state. It could also allow big companies to take legal action against governments for blocking their business interests – with one example put forward by opponents being major multinational corporations suing councils for denying fracking permits.
Environmental campaigners are also worried TTIP would weaken European and UK regulations on genetically modified food and chemicals in cosmetics in order to align with the USA’s less strict legislation.
Cllr Marjoram said: “TTIP negotiations are secretive and undemocratic, with all available information on this deal coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests. The covert nature of these talks causes me concern.
“We have fracking looming large, only being held off by the Scottish Government moratorium – that would be at risk.
“We have a huge farming industry and we are home to the renowned Fife Diet project, buying local, rather than global – that would be at risk.
“Even our ability here in Fife to decide on who provides goods and services, such as, for example, the awarding of school bus contracts – that would be at risk.”
The St Andrews-based Stop TTIP Group welcomed Fife Council’s stance, and highlighted the growing opposition across Europe, with an EU-wide petition against TTIP having attracted more than three million signatories.
Jean Kemp, from the St Andrews group, said: “I’m delighted Fife councillors have recognised and responded to public concern about TTIP by opposing this controversial trade deal, and showing they are willing to stand up for local democracy.
“Fife is the fifth council in Scotland to pass such a motion, and one of more than 1000 across Europe and the US who are against TTIP. I hope many more across Scotland will follow this lead.”
Only four councillors voted against Cllr Marjoram’s motion – Conservative councillors Dave Dempsey, Andy Heer and Dorothea Morrison, and Lib Dem Tim Brett.
While acknowledging there was a need for considerable ongoing scrutiny, the Tories argued TTIP had the potential to bring substantial benefits to Fife, and all other areas of the EU and the USA.
They insisted TTIP would not remove the right of the UK and Scottish governments to determine how public services, such as the NHS, were run, but would remove “unnecessary over-complication” currently acting against the interests of Fife forms trying to break into the US market.