The difficulties that have beset the hierarchy of Quality Meat Scotland in recent months have been tempered by positive comments made by rural affairs minister Ross Finnie about the organisation’s future.

Marking the beginning of the consultation period after the review of UK levy bodies, which include QMS, Mr Finnie said he believed the organisation had a “clear and continuing role”.

The future of Scotland’s red meat promotion body will be determined during the consultation period, which runs until 3 February, 2006.

Economist Rosemary Radcliffe, who has undertaken the review, has concluded that there is a continuing need for a compulsory, statutory levy, but that arrangements for its collection should be altered.

Mr Finnie said: “My aim is to ensure a structure for the future that fully protects the interests of Scottish levy payers.

One important aspect of this will be to ensure this opportunity is taken to chart the way forward for Quality Meat Scotland, for which I see a clear and continuing role.”

QMS, which this week continued its upbeat meat promotion campaign with the launch of a new DVD on the eating quality of meat for farmers and the trade, is winning strong support from producers, even those who were less than convinced of its role 18 months ago.

“I had my doubts early on, but the past 18 months has seen QMS define its role within the Scottish meat sector.

It has made a big impression on the image of meat produced in Scotland,” said Perthshire beef and sheep producer Maimie Paterson.

But Mrs Paterson added: “QMS must develop a bigger market for Scottish meat in Scotland and we need changes to the way levies are collected.

With so many lambs leaving Scotland to be slaughtered in England, there is a substantial loss of slaughter levy and it is money that the Scottish meat promotion pot should not be deprived of.”

Brian Pack, chief executive of Aberdeen and Northern Marts based at Thainstone, agreed.

“With about 70% of lambs born in Scotland travelling to England to be slaughtered, there is a massive loss of levy revenue.

That money needs to stay in Scotland and somehow changes need to be implemented to make that happen.”

jh@jeremyhuntassociates.com