Scottish meat levies row rumbles on

THE row over the repatriation of Scottish meat levies continued yesterday when rural affairs secretary Richard Lochead updated the Scottish Parliament.

Quoting a letter received by First Minister Alex Salmond, he said that Prime Minister David Cameron had refused to return the levy income paid by Scots livestock producers whose cattle, sheep and pigs were slaughtered in the rest of the UK.

“Last month the First Minister wrote to Mr Cameron making the case for levy repatriation and ending the practice, which costs Quality Meat Scotland [QMS] £1.4 million a year,” said Lochead.

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“Mr Cameron’s refusal to return Scotland’s levy funds means the continuation of the ridiculous situation where Scottish farmers’ contributions go to help promote the produce of their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.”

He dismissed Cameron’s argument that the missing Scottish levy payments were benefitting the Scottish industry by going to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

However NFUS president Nigel Miller revealed yesterday that discussions on the levy cash were ongoing:

“NFUS has been working hard in recent months with industry representatives and the Scottish and UK governments to identify a solution to what is an intensely political issue as we approach the referendum,” he said.

“As an interim solution, UK levy boards can work together using the significant dislocated funds – generated by Welsh as well as Scottish producers – on UK priorities and NFUS would welcome prompt clarification from AHDB on how they see this working in practice.”

Uel Morton, chief executive of QMS, said: “Our door is open to constructive discussions – however, any solution will need to be fair and workable, and offer a real benefit for the Scottish industry.”