Scotland’s meat wholesalers are pressing ahead with a blueprint for a devolved meat inspection service after it emerged the current system cost £6.5m to deliver.
The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) announced at its annual conference in Glasgow on 20 April that plans had progressed rapidly since a Freedom of Information enquiry revealed the UK system cost taxpayers £100,000 for each full-time employee.
Association president, Alan Craig, said a blueprint for a system was close to completion and would be ready soon after the Holyrood elections next month.
Mr Craig added that NFU Scotland and other industry bodies were already fully behind the move.
An all-industry meeting to agree the way forward for setting up a separate inspection system in Scottish abattoirs and meat processing plants will take place shortly.
Mr Craig said: “There is already sufficient evidence of agreement and support to indicate that a plan can be placed on the new rural affairs minister’s desk at the Scottish government within weeks, if not days, of the new administration taking office. That, certainly, is our objective.”
The association has been outspoken about its dissatisfaction with the current regime, which is administered by the UK Food Standards Agency. News of the £6.5m costs prompted an angry response.
“This came as both a shock and disappointment to our members,” said Mr Craig. “Bear in mind this is a not-for-profit organisation with no sales team, no factories, no packaging, no cold storage and no fleet of delivery vehicles. It provides, in essence, a crucial food safety service for the industry and the public. We’re not convinced, however, it merits a United States Air Force-style budget to deliver that service.
“We believe [the new proposal] is a progressive and proactive move on behalf of the whole Scottish meat and livestock chain. We also believe the time has come to break the mould, as it applies to UK meat inspection. This is an area of our industry which has been lacking in success in recent years in matters of efficiency, partnership working and cost,” he said.