Scotland’s First Minister, Alec Salmond, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to finally put a stop to Defra’s current arrangements for collecting the red meat levy, which he says is costing Scottish farmers £1.4 million each year.
The First Minister renewed calls for the UK Government to implement a policy to repatriate the levy income paid by Scots livestock producers which is spent in England and Wales due to a flaw in current arrangements.
Mr Salmond’s letter came after repeated representations made to Defra ministers in the current and previous Westminster administrations by Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead to have this policy changed went unanswered.
Speaking at the Turriff Show, Mr Salmond said changing the current red meat levy system was plain common sense.
“Giving our industry the money that is rightfully owed to them would help the sector continue to grow,” he added. “I have written to the Prime Minister to ask him to act now to do the right thing for Scots livestock producers.
NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said the issue of levy repatriation was a long running sore and, given the increased number of Scottish store cattle, prime lambs and pigs making their way to other parts of GB, frustration was growing.
“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.
“The value of the statutory levies raised on those animals, if returned to Scotland to support the work of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), would be worth £1.4 million. That would more than close the current hole in the QMS budget.”