Scots tell Benn to think again on animal health

An uncompromising “hands off Scottish farmers” message has been sent to Hilary Benn by the Scottish government telling the DEFRA secretary to “think again” if he intends to impose a UK-wide livestock tax to recoup animal health costs.

Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead wrote to his English counterpart asking for clarification following the revelation that the Treasury is involved in taking forward DEFRA’s cost-sharing plans for animal health and welfare.

“I am against any such tax being imposed on Scottish farmers,” Mr Lochhead said. “Agriculture is devolved and if the UK government takes the view that a tax is the only way to raise cash from the sector and that tax has to be UK-wide they had better think again.”

Mr Lochhead’s words were echoed by NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Miller who added that DEFRA’s timetable for cost and responsibility sharing would put livestock producers in the UK at a significant disadvantage with the rest of Europe.

Both the Scottish government and NFU Scotland are committed to addressing the anomaly whereby the policy surrounding animal health is devolved to Holyrood while its funding remains reserved to Westminster.

Mr Miller said: “Scotland should have control of its own animal health budget and that needs to be resolved as a matter of priority.”