By Farmers Weekly staff
SCOTLANDS new integrated red meat promotion body, probably to be called Quality Meat Scotland, is unlikely to be launched on the original 1 April target date, mainly because of difficulties in finding a chairman.
The initiative, which will bring together the existing work and budgets of the Meat and Livestock Commission in Scotland, the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association (SQBLA) and the Scottish Pig Industry Initiative (SPII), was announced last November and has been the subject of widespread industry back-biting ever since.
Originally, plans were discussed in behind-closed door meetings involving the MLC, Scottish NFU and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers.
The new body, which will be owned jointly by the three organisations, was then presented to the industry in Nov under the working title of The Scottish Quality Meat Council, sparking an outcry that there had not been more consultation.
Auctioneers in particular, along with many involved with SQBLA, were angry and resentful that they had not been involved in the discussions.
The in-fighting has infuriated Scottish NFU president Jim Walker. With the whole industry struggling at the moment to retain the usual premium for Scotch quality beef, he has pleaded for everyone to stop the bickering.
Despite the arguments, however, work towards launching the new organisation has continued, although finding a chairman has been a stumbling block.
The original aim was to secure a high-profile figure with business experience, but who was not directly involved in the meat industry. At least three potential candidates have already declined.
Bob Bansback, MLC corporate strategy director, admitted that the lack of a chairman meant that the 1 April launch date was now unlikely.
But the work of SQBLA, SPII and MLC in Scotland would continue in the meantime, he insisted. It will be business as usual until we are in a position to announce the launch date.
Auctioneers and the retail sector will now have representatives on the board, joining one each from MLC, Scottish NFU and the meat trade.
The remaining board members will be the chairman, managing director, and the two Scottish MLC commissioners.
The stated aims of Quality Meat Scotland are to provide co-ordination, leadership and more autonomy in deciding how Scottish meat should be promoted, resulting in an improved competitive position for of Scotlands meat and livestock industry.