28 June 2002

Rules will allow red meat levies to be retained

LEGISLATION to allow red meat promotion bodies in Scotland and Wales to retain their own levies, rather than hand the money to the Meat and Livestock Commission, should be in place by April 2003.

On the opening day of the Royal Highland Show, the chairmen of both Quality Meat Scotland and MLC said that was the timetable they were working towards. But both stressed that the change must be managed carefully.

"I am very anxious that the change in levy collection does not adversely affect the relationship we have with MLC," said QMS chairman, Neil Kilpatrick.

"We want to see Scotland with a strong regional voice, but we also want to be able to purchase services from MLC."

About £4.1m is collected in statutory levies from slaughtered stock in Scotland. There has been longstanding resentment in many quarters that this money has been handed to MLC with less than half coming back for use in Scotland.

Peter Barr, MLC chairman, said he was committed to devolution and the regional focus it can bring. "But devolution should not mean separation," he warned. "Our competition isnt between England, Scotland and Wales, but from imports from all over the world.

"It is already difficult enough for the countryside voice to be heard and listened to in an increasingly urban society. If farmers and processors in Britain dont work together, we are all in serious trouble," said Mr Barr.

"With everything that is going on in the meat and livestock industry in Scotland, Wales and England it is too easy to focus too much on the micro issues at the expense of the total market. We cannot afford to let this happen."

His aim was for MLC to remain the over-arching British body, "acting as an honest broker and providing common-ground for the industry to get together, as well as providing co-ordination, strategic thinking and a forum for change." &#42