Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, has criticised the UK Government for continually refusing to act to stop levy income paid by Scots livestock producers being spent in England.
Scotland’s flagship red meat industry is losing out to the tune of £1.4 million a year because of lost levy income and following a ‘frustrating’ conversation with DEFRA ministers this week, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said it was unacceptable that they were refusing to tackle this longstanding problem.
The red meat levy is currently allocated to the promotional bodies on the basis of where an animal is slaughtered, not where it is raised. With so many Scottish lambs and pigs now going to English abattoirs this results in £1.4 million in lost levy annually for QMS (Quality Meat Scotland).
Mr Lochhead said:
“I’ve been calling for this vital levy income to be repatriated for some time now as has the Scottish industry. Yet successive DEFRA ministers have refused to find a solution to this problem simply because they gain and Scotland loses from the status quo.
“The UK Government professes to act for the interest of all parts of the UK but here we have another example of this simply not being the case. Any reasonable person would accept that the current arrangements disadvantage Scotland.
“It was made perfectly clear to me this week that Scotland should not expect any action from the UK to sort out this issue in the foreseeable future.
“The Secretary of State for Scotland has been fully aware of this matter since it was first raised in 2011. I will be writing to him this week to ask why he has failed to address the issue - which is of huge importance to Scotland's farmers - with his colleagues in London.
“With Scottish money heading over the border each year, it’s no surprise that UK Ministers are stalling and demoting the levy repatriation issue well down their list of priorities.
“It is preposterous that the levy paid on animals born and reared north of the border goes towards promoting produce from other countries simply because it is collected at the point of slaughter.
"Scotland deserves the right to spend all the levy income it contributes to the benefit of the Scottish industry. With extra levy revenue at its disposal, Quality Meat Scotland would be able to do even more to maximise the value of the Scotch brand especially in untapped markets.
“It’s hugely frustrating that our clear case for a change in levy distribution is being so blatantly ignored. I’m clear that Scotland deserves better and I now want to discuss with Scottish stakeholders next steps as I will not rest until that happens.”