12 March 1999

Sewel challenge on beef bone ban

THERE was only one flashpoint during the questioning of Scottish farm minister Lord Sewel at the Scottish NFU annual meeting.

It came when Aberdeenshire beef farmer Peter McKilligan, to sustained applause, called for an end to the beef-on-the-bone ban.

Clearly stung, Lord Sewel said no responsible government could head off in the opposite direction from the advice of the chief medical officer. "Rubbish," said Mr McKilligan.

"Its not rubbish," Lord Sewel retorted. "And do you really think it would help the lifting of the beef export ban if we said we were going to accept beef-on-the-bone but admitted to the rest of the world that we were ignoring the advice of our chief medical officer?".

The other sour note came during the unions own deliberations when outgoing milk convenor Tom Thomson accused the leadership of not giving him and his commodity the support it deserved. He singled out one vice-president (Peter Chapman) as being particularly unhelpful.

"The dairy sector has been suffering as much as anyone else. I have never got the assistance that was justified," Mr Thomson said.

In his final session as union president, George Lyon said he regretted that Mr Thomson had brought personalities to the debate and pointed out that two extensions to the calf processing scheme had been won for the dairy industry.

At a news conference later, Mr Lyon defended Mr Chapman who had given the milk convener 100% backing in everything Mr Thomson had tried to do. But the discontent among dairy farmers was clear. Incoming convenor Ian Kerr, Ayr, said the sector had been ignored by the government.

And Robin Christie, Wigtown, said it was often forgotten that dairy farmers had received nothing while beef farmers had been given substantial assistance.

He called on the union to raise the profile of the milk sector in the coming year.