Farmers across the UK could be caught up in the fallout of the Animal Health Bill, it has emerged.
Although the draft Bill is geared towards animal health in England, arrangements could also change in Wales and Scotland. DEFRA is already discussing the devolution of budgets which include expenditure for Wales and Scotland.
The draft Bill’s provisions will allow the Westminster government to respond to a variety of alternative delivery arrangements. If new arrangements are decided in time, the draft Bill could be amended before it becomes law.
So concerned is Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead that he has asked DEFRA for written clarification on its plans. England must not be allowed to impose a UK livestock tax on Scotland, he warned.
Mr Lochhead said he supported the principle that the farming industry should share the costs associated with maintaining and improving health and welfare. But Scotland was drawing up separate plans for combating animal disease.
“Agriculture is devolved and, if the UK governments take the view that a tax is the only way to raise cash from the sector and that any tax has to be UK-wide, then they had better think again.”
A UK-wide tax would provide the devolved administrations with limited scope to determine whether or how any potential revenue-generating mechanism might be applied in their own territories, Mr Lochhead said.
He added: “In Scotland, we will work with industry on our own animal health policies and continue our efforts to secure the devolution of existing animal health budgets to do just that.”