By Shelley Wright

ANGLO Beef Producers announcement that it intends to close its Edinburgh-based Bathgate abattoir is symptomatic of the chaos in Britains sheep industry, says Scottish NFU president Jim Walker.

The plant, Scotlands largest lamb slaughtering facility, will close on 10 April, removing a market for 500,000 finished lambs a year.

Mr Walker says the decision is a serious blow to the sheep sector, but it came as no surprise.

“When ABP closed its sheep plant at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, at the end of last year, it made it perfectly clear then that lamb slaughtering was no longer part of its long-term business plans.”

Mr Walker hoped the unwelcome news would at least get the sheep industry to take control and find solutions to its problems. “That means adding value [to lambs] here in Scotland.”

He believes excess capacity at other slaughterhouses in Scotland could take the bulk of the lambs formerly sent to Bathgate.

Margins for sheep abattoirs have always been tight. But the post-BSE legacy of high offal removal costs, coupled with Sterlings strength and the collapse of the international market for sheep skins, means the job is no longer viable for many specialist plants.

ABP said it had no option but to face up to the current problems.

David Mitchell, chairman of the Scottish NFU livestock committee, said it was ironic that the area should lose such an important slaughtering facility at a time when an investigation is under way into how Scotland can improve the marketing of its lambs.

About 60 staff will lose their jobs when the abattoir closes.