Red meat levy money from Scottish born animals slaughtered south of the border is unlikely to be returned to Scotland, Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed.
In a letter to Scots First Minister Alex Salmond, Mr Cameron said a change to the way levy money is collected and distributed would be too costly and require legislative change in each part of Great Britain.
All UK farmers benefited from the activities of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in England, the Prime Minister said. These activities included meat marketing, export certification and research and development, he said.
In August, Mr Salmond wrote to Mr Cameron renewing calls for the UK government to repatriate levy money to Scotland – an estimated £1.4m is lost as a result of animals being slaughtered in England.
However, around one week later Mr Heath said Scottish and Welsh red meat levy bodies were unlikely to recoup levy money lost when animals are slaughtered in England.
He called for the formation of a levy body forum rather than levy repatriation as called for by the devolved meat bodies.
Scots farm minister Richard Lochhead slammed Cameron’s refusal to return levy money as a “ridiculous situation where Scottish farmers’ contributions go to help promote the produce of their counterparts elsewhere in the UK”.
“I am also particularly concerned that for the first time the Prime Minister is making the spurious argument that the missing Scottish levy payments are somehow benefitting the Scottish industry by going to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) – whose own website highlights that their responsibilities are beef, lamb and pork in England,” said Mr Lochhead.
“The Scottish Government will continue to argue for these funds to be repatriated to Scotland, for the promotion of Scottish produce through Quality Meat Scotland.”
For more on this topic
Heath rejects calls for red meat levy repatriation
Salmond calls on Cameron to settle meat levy dispute