Scottish farming leaders yesterday backed up the First Minister’s call to the UK government to pay the levies on livestock born and raised north of the Border but slaughtered in English and Welsh abattoirs.
Speaking at Turriff show at the weekend, Alex Salmond announced that he had written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to put a stop to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s arrangement of the red meat levy, which it is estimated sees £1.4 million of such levies ending up south of the Border each year.
The First Minister described the levy system as “outdated” saying it resulted in money being spent in England and Wales to promote world-class Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and specially selected pork .
Jim McLaren, chairman of the red meat promotional body Quality Meat Scotland, said it continued to support the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver a positive result on Scotland’s lost levy.
Nigel Miller, president of the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, described the issue of levy repatriation as “a long-running sore” and frustration was growing due to the increased numbers of Scottish store cattle, prime lambs and pigs making their way to other parts of Great Britain.
“It is now seven years since the Radcliffe review of agricultural levy bodies suggested that, for livestock levies, statutory monies should be returned to promotional bodies in the animal’s country of birth,” he said.
“That recommendation has not been adopted and with the closure of the pig slaughtering facilities at Broxburn, the number of Scottish lambs going through English and Welsh abattoirs and the volume of store cattle bought by finishers south of the Border, the position is becoming more acute.”
He added that the union had recently raised the issue with Defra ministers Owen Paterson and David Heath and he hoped that political momentum was being generated as, from a Scottish perspective, the situation was deteriorating.
“We are serious about developing our Scotch/Scottish brands and markets for our red meat and ensuring that our livestock farmers and red meat industry are as competitive as they can be. That ambition will undoubtedly benefit from this levy issue finally being addressed.”