14 October 1999
No cull ewe scheme for Scotland

By Shelley Wright

LAST-DITCH efforts by Scottish ministers have failed to persuade the EU Commission to sanction a cull ewe scheme.

Commission officials were adamant that the proposal, which would have ensured the humane slaughter of cast ewes, would constitute an illegal state aid.

On Tuesday, Ross Finnie, Scottish farm minister, and First Minister, Donald Dewar, travelled to Brussels to meet EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler.

But, despite their efforts, they have failed to persuade Mr Fischler and his officials to reverse their not to grant the go-ahead for a cull ewe scheme.

Mr Finnie said he was disappointed that the type of scheme, which was tailored to Scottish needs, did not fit the European Commissions state aid criteria.

“This is really frustrating after all the efforts the Scottish Executive have put into this pressing issue,” he said.

“However, I feel it is much better to face up to that now, and tell farmers that there will be no scheme, than hold out the forlorn hope of one emerging.”

Mr Finnie and Mr Dewar had made clear to Mr Fischler their irritation that there was no scope to respond to the difficulties faced by Scottish sheep farmers.

The Scottish ministers highlighted the potential problems, in the absence of a cull scheme, of dealing with unwanted and dead animals.

Scottish NFU president, Jim Walker, said the commissions decision was extremely disappointing.

“What we wanted was a scheme that would provide a co-ordinated and controlled means of humanely disposing of unwanted ewes,” he said.

“There was never any suggestion of farmers receiving money or benefiting financially from the scheme.”