DAVID MUNDELL has revealed why he failed to vote on an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would have protected Scottish farmers.

The National Farming Union of Scotland is angry that Tory MPs rejected an attempt to block low quality imports.

Mr Mundell, MP for Tweeddale, did not vote on the amendment on Monday (October 12) - and now he has given his reason.

In a statement sent to the Peeblesshire News, the former Scottish secretary said he was absent from the House of Commons on Monday because he was holding surgeries in his constituency.

However, Mr Mundell says that if he had been present, he would have rebelled against his government and chosen to support farmers.

It marks a U-turn for Mr Mundell, who previously voted with the government to reject amendments to the draft law.

In full: MP David Mundell's statement

Mr Mundell said: "My tour is organised long in advance, advertised and numerous appointments had been arranged.

"I booked a leave of absence some time ago through the parliamentary system known as being 'slipped' and the timing of the agriculture debate was not clear until very recently.

"Had I been present I would have voted with my colleague Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, to put the requirements to maintain high food standards and animal welfare explicitly in the Agriculture Bill.

"I formed my view after carefully listening to the debates in recent weeks and the concerns of many within the farming and wider community, locally and nationally.

"It is a finely balanced argument and I understand government concerns that too many conditions in legislation can tie the hands of trade deal negotiators.

"However, I feel that the growing level of public concern and the fact maintaining standards is a clear red line for the government made a difference in this case."