Chairman from QMS is sacked

The future direction of red meat promotion north of the border remains uncertain following the sacking of Quality Meat Scotland chairman Jim Walker.

Weeks of tension were sparked by the three owners of QMS – NFU Scotland, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, and MLC – telling Mr Walker that he need not reapply for the chairman post when his three-year contract runs out next spring.

Their decision followed a highly critical appraisal of Mr Walker’s performance. It said he had shown disrespect to the QMS board, was intolerant of those who did not share his views and interfered too much in staff management. His actions, the appraisal said, had resulted in damage to QMS’s relationship with other meat promotion bodies in the UK.

Mr Walker, who is accused of leaking details of the appraisal to the press, was informed of his dismissal last weekend, as he was preparing to go to Germany to promote Scotch beef at the Anuga food fair in Cologne.

A statement issued by QMS said: “An assessment process having being undertaken, the members concluded that they would not wish Mr Walker to be reappointed as chairman.

“Mr Walker’s actions since being informally advised of this view have resulted, in the opinion of the members, in a complete breakdown in their trust and confidence in his ability to undertake the role of chairman.”

It was now in the interests of every stakeholder in the red meat sector that QMS focused on the challenges ahead and moved forward, the statement added.

Mr Walker is thought to be consulting lawyers about his dismissal.

Scotland’s rural development minister Ross Finnie said he accepted, with regret, QMS’s decision to sack Mr Walker as chairman.

“I very much regret that it has come to this,” Mr Finnie said. “Jim is a man of considerable talents, and it is no secret that we have enjoyed a good working relationship during my six years as minister.”

It was, however, vital that the owners and the wider stakeholders worked together to restore confidence in QMS and to promote the case for the Scottish meat industry in a positive way, Mr Finnie said.

It seems likely that former QMS vice-chairman Donald Biggar, who farms at Castle Douglas, Dumfriesshire, will be appointed interim chairman, giving the organisation time to consider how to move forward.

Mr Walker was unavailable for comment.