Meat marketing – Scots eager to cut links with the MLC

5 November 1999

Meat marketing – Scots eager to cut links with the MLC

By Shelley Wright

MAJOR changes to the way Scot-tish meat is promoted will be revealed on Monday (Nov 8).

Scottish NFU president Jim Walker and Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Don Curry will join other industry leaders in Edinburgh to hear farm minister, Ross Finnie announce the outcome of prolonged and often acrimonious debate on the future of red meat marketing north of the border.

It is expected that a new organisation will be created, responsible for beef, lamb and pork promotion as well as the development of Scotlands meat industry.

The move follows mounting pressure since the beginning of the year for a devolved Scotland to take control of spending the levies collected from its farmers.

George Lyon, former Scottish NFU president and now a Lib-Dem member of the Scottish parliament, was among the most vocal. He insisted: "Where levies are raised in Scotland they should be spent promoting Scottish produce. For many Scots it is unacceptable that £5m goes south in MLC levies and only £1m comes back to help fund Scottish meat promotion."

Scottish farmers contribute 13.5% of MLCs £37m annual levy income.

Since the turn of the year, Mr Walker has been involved in discussion with MLC and other organisations in Scotland.

He was aware that, unless an acceptable deal could be brokered, the Scottish parliament was likely to legislate to establish a new organisation charged with marketing and promoting all Scottish foods. Most of the funding would come from nationalising farmer levies.

Although Mr Walker acknowledged the widespread feeling that current arrangements did not provide best value for Scotlands levy payers, he also cautioned: "If we freeze out the MLC altogether, there is a danger of a backlash and we could end up losing sales in England, which is still our most important market."

The new organisation that Mr Finnie will unveil on Monday will have an independent chairman, and will provide Scotland with more control of a greater proportion of the levy money and more influence on how its remaining contribution to MLC, for areas like research and development and market information, is spent.

It is understood that Alistair Donaldson, MLC manager for Scotland, and Brian Simpson, chief executive of the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association (SQBLA), will initially share the role of chief executive.

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