Scottish exiles in EU deprived of Burns Night haggis by Brexit red tape

Dan Sanderson
·2 min read
Rejected haggis shipments to the EU meant the traditional Burns Night dinner was off the table for many Scots overseas - VisitBritain/Britain on View
Rejected haggis shipments to the EU meant the traditional Burns Night dinner was off the table for many Scots overseas - VisitBritain/Britain on View

Dozens of Scots based in the EU were deprived of their Burns Night haggis on Monday after deliveries were rejected due to Brexit red tape.

Macsween, a leading producer of Scotland's national dish, said around half its shipments to the continent had been rejected, with Spain, France and Italy among the nations turning back deliveries.

However, the firm said it had enjoyed booming domestic sales after manufacturing a smaller 400g product, designed for two people to share, with larger Burns Night suppers banned because of coronavirus restrictions. It added that sales of its vegetarian haggis was growing by around 10 per cent a year and accounted for around one fifth of all haggis sold last year.

"Like many businesses in the sector, our exports have been affected," James Macsween, the company's managing director, said of the Brexit delays. "Our mail order partner has experienced quite significant difficulties, with around 50 per cent of shipments being rejected.

"On a typical Burns month, we would usually see around 500 parcels going to Europe, but this year only around 150 have been sent, with up to 70 not being delivered at all. The focus should now be for the Government to help find solutions as quickly as possible to help mitigate further damage."

Last year, a vegetarian version of haggis, rebranded "Scottish veggie crumble" was sold in the United States for the first time, with US regulations stating that the traditional recipe is not fit for human consumption. The UK and Scottish governments have long lobbied their American counterparts to lift the ban, which has been in place since 1971 when the US introduced a ban on sheep lungs – one of the ingredients of authentic haggis.

A recipe has been developed that allows haggis to be sold in Canada, albeit without sheep lungs, since 2017, although US authorities have resisted several bids to change the rules.

Mr Macsween said he accepted that the new US president, Joe Biden, "may be a bit busy this year" to revisit the haggis ban, but added: "Obviously, it would be great to have the name haggis on our products in North America."