First Minister calls for red meat levy return to Scotland

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Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to finally put a stop to DEFRA’s current arrangement of the red meat levy, which sees Scottish farmers lose £1.4 million each year.

The First Minister renewed calls for the UK Government to implement a policy to repatriate the levy income paid by Scots livestock producers which is spent in England and Wales due to a flaw in current arrangements.

Mr Salmond’s letter comes after repeated representations made to DEFRA ministers in the current and previous Westminster administrations by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead to have this policy changed went unanswered.

Scottish Government figures show that real term farm income has only now recovered after the devastating BSE outbreak in the early 1990s. Despite Scottish farmers producing record gross output value, input costs have also hit record highs, particularly in feed, fuel and fertiliser.

The First Minister said the figures demonstrates the urgency of action needed over this ‘outdated’ levy system, which result in monies currently spent in England and Wales used to promote our world class Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork .

Speaking from the Turriff Show, the First Minister said:

“Rural Scotland is much more than a way of life. It is a Scottish industry etched in our history but as current, relevant and important today as ever. Apart from producing world leading raw natural ingredients it is the life blood of many of our remote communities.

“Changing the current red meat levy system is plain common sense. Figures show that Scotland’s farming industry has now made a full real term recovery following the devastating BSE outbreak over two decades ago. Giving our industry the money that is rightfully owed to them would help the sector continue to grow, and I have today written to the Prime Minister to ask him to act now to do the right thing for Scots livestock producers.

“Of course, an independent Scotland would give us the power to set the rural priorities that matter; priorities that make a real difference to our rural communities ensuring they not only survive, but thrive.

“For instance, if Scotland had a seat at the table during the most recent CAP budget negotiations we would have gained from a ruling that would see member states receiving no less than an average of 196 euros per hectare in direct payments by 2020.

“In real terms that means between 2014 and 2020 Scotland’s farmers would have received additional support to the tune of 1 billion euros – and with every £1 of output from the agricultural sector generating as additional 80p for the economy, the benefits would have been shared extensively.”