By Michael MacLeod
A NEW cross-border dispute has erupted over whether black pudding is Scottish or English.
Butchers in Stornoway are adamant the blood-sausage is theirs, insisting their dish has been made for generations by crofters in the Western Isles.
But they face a challenge from rival pudding makers from Bury in Greater Manchester, who claim their black pudding has the deepest roots.
Both producers will battle it out for geographical protection from EU bosses, who can ban others from copying traditional ideas.
Protected Geographical Indication rights currently protect regionally designated foods such as Arbroath smokies, Parma ham and Melton Mowbray pork pies, to protect shoppers from fakes.And with the English laying claim to the black pudding’s origins, Scottish MEP Alyn Smith says he is prepared to “fight them if it comes to it” over the sausage.
Lobbying the EU on behalf of Stornoway producers he said: “Any black pudding aficionado knows in his heart that the Stornoway black pudding is the king of black puddings and far superior to this effort from Bury.
“If it comes to it, we will fight them for this geographical indicator.”
The row comes just weeks after it was claimed haggis was invented in England.
Food historian Catherine Brown found references to haggis in an English recipe book dated 1615 – a full 171 years before Robert Burns penned his legendary poem “Address to a Haggis”.
Black pudding makers in Stornoway, whose bid is backed by the Scottish government, claim their “marag dubh”dish has been made by crofters for
centuries from pig’s blood, onion, suet, oatmeal and spices.
Robert Smith, of WJ Macdonald butchers, said: “In the old days the crofters used to make full use of the animal because times were hard.
“That has been happening here for hundreds and hundreds of years.
“Everybody claims they did it first but ours is certainly the most well known. I have never heard of the Bury black pudding before.”
Iain MacLeod, of Charles MacLeod butchers, added: “I don’t know how they do it in Bury but we are very particular about our ingredients, so hopefully we can show that ours is distinctive.”
However, producers in Bury argue their version was brought by monks from mainland Europe who settled there in the 16th century.
Debbie Pierce, of the Bury Black Pudding Company, believes her town had the stronger claim.
She said: “The monks brought it over from Europe and settled in Bury, that’s why Bury is famous for black pudding.
“It arrived here first.”
And Bury Council backed their bid, saying: “Bury black pudding is sold in outlets such as Harrods. It is acknowledged as a local delicacy.”
World black pudding throwing champion Adam Arthern, from Bury, said he favoured the dish from his home town.
He added: “My step-dad is from Falkirk so we have had this debate many times.
“The black pudding has been here all the time I have been growing up and I associate it with Bury.
“I have only had the Scottish one a couple of times but I prefer the Bury black pudding.”
Irene Bocchetta, the EU protected food names manager, said although both bids were aimed at stopping imitators, each area would have to meet strict criteria.
She said: “If they wanted to keep the regionality associated with the dish they would have to make a very strong case as to the connection between their land and the product.
“They have to prove a historical link, a tradition of making of the product and prove that the local community have always known it.
“It doesn’t mean to say that there can’t be two black puddings but they have to prove there is a distinct difference from another area that has a similar product.
“Each application has to be able to stand alone and show it is unique.”