Scottish farmers angry at UK retailers over horsemeat scandal

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Scottish farmers have expressed anger at the conduct of big UK retailers over the growing horsemeat scandal.
 
In a statement Nigel Miller, the president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, accused retailers of “ignoring basic principles” in what he said was a move towards cheaper products.

Mr Miller said that farmers in Scotland felt betrayed after huge efforts had been made north of the border maintaining quality and traceability.

Mr Miller said: “I think they are angry and I think they feel betrayed as well because in Scotland we’ve gone to such a huge effort to ensure that everything is done right and that traceability is total.

“To actually see retailers who are moving away to cheaper products and ignoring these very basic principles is just unbelieveable.”

The Scottish government has highlighted the continuing quality of the Scotch Beef brand and many local butchers who source from local suppliers are now reporting an upturn in sales.

News of anger in Scotland follows revelations that traces of the horse painkiller bute had been found in horsemeat from two slaughterhouses in England.  Six of the eight carcasses had already been shipped to France where they are believed to have entered the human food-chain, the other two were destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse.

Forty seven schools in England have been affected after it emerged children had been fed meat dishes containing horsemeat.  The schools in Lancashire had served up cottage pie which was later discovered to contain traces of equine DNA.

Two schools in Ireland, on both sides of the border, are also known to have served infected meals to children.

It has also emerged that three arrests have been made in Wales and England following raids on two meat processing plants.

The factories in Aberystwyth and West Yorkshire were suspected of slipping undeclared horsemeat into burgers and kebabs.  The owner of the plant in West Yorkshire, 63 year old Peter Boddy, has the contract to deal with horses fatally injured in the Grand National.

Initial tests in Scotland have confirmed that no traces of horsemeat have been found so far in food supplied to Scottish schools, prisons and hospitals.  The Scottish Government ordered local authorities to carry out additional inspections, co-ordinated by the UK Food Standards Agency.

Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said tests were continuing in Scotland and the vast majority were expected to be completed within the next week.

Speaking yesterday, he said: “Today’s initial test results offer some reassurance that this issue is not widespread.

“The programme of specific inspections undertaken by local authorities in Scotland that I requested, being coordinated by FSA Scotland, also offers similar reassurance, with these additional rigorous inspections of meat processing companies well underway and no evidence of horse meat found.

“We contacted public sector procurement partners and an investigation was ordered into the horse meat issue.  Companies supplying meals to the public sector in Scotland, including schools, hospitals and prisons, have been carrying out extensive checks.  They have confirmed to date they are clear of any mislabelled meat.”

Scottish farmers better off under independence

MEANWHILE, Scottish farmers have been denied £750 million on EU funding by being part of the UK, and will continue to lose out financially until the country becomes an independent state, says the Scottish government.

Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead revealed the extent of the funding black hole when he addressed the AGM of the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS).  In his address, Mr Lochhead argued that Scotland should be allowed to negotiate on her own behalf, particularly concerning key matters such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Mr Lochhead said he was ‘deeply worried’ about the upcoming Council of Ministers’ discussions, as Scotland would be represented by Defra Secretary Owen Paterson, ‘rather than a Scottish Minister’.

He said: “Owen has made a strong impression in council, but his views on too many issues are a million hectares from ours. “

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP argued that Scottish farmers had “the best of both worlds by being part of the UK”, with more bargaining power in the CAP negotiations.

“Together we are greater than the sum of our parts,” he said, adding rural businesses would suffer if the country “goes it alone”.

But Mr Lochhead refuted Moore’s comments, saying: “According to our initial calculations, if Scotland were a member state, under this deal we would stand to gain an additional £250m per year by 2020.

“It is why I believe the people of Scotland are best placed to be in charge of their own future, because they care the most about what happens.”

Mr Lochhead conceded the Scottish Government did agree with Westminster on some things, such as the need to ‘get greening to work properly’, the need for a penalty system which is proportionate and fair and the need to simplify the CAP.

“But these are essentially points of detail compared with the big picture,” he added. “The big picture is the UK Government’s negotiating stance fails to understand Scotland – and often undermines Scotland.”

NFUS president Nigel Miller confirmed the NFUS had a good relationship with the SNP Government and would want to see that continue.  He added the UK Government was not always ‘in tune’ with Scotland’s farmers.