Abbatoir merger plans cause concern

HALTING the slaughter of cattle and sheep at Galashiels will have major implications for local farmers and butchers, despite recent assurances to the contrary from abattoir bosses.

That was the view of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC), after it met to discuss the decision by Scottish Borders Abattoir (SBA) chiefs to merge its slaughtering operations at Winston Road in Galashiels with those of its nearest rivals, located at Shotts.

The reason given by SBA vice-chairman George Deans was that just not enough cattle and sheep were going through the gates of the Winston Road plant to keep it viable.

The deal will see cattle and sheep transported live from Galashiels to Shotts – paid for by SBA – killed and then returned for collection the next day to the Borders. Pigs, meanwhile, will continue to be slaughtered at the Galashiels plant.

But as well as concerns from NFU Scotland over the decision – it is setting up a group to look at slaughtering options in the region – fears for the future have now been voiced by the SBCC.

Jack Clark, a chamber director as well as managing director of local livestock auctioneers, John Swan and Sons at Newtown St Boswells, says the lack of a slaughtering facility in the Borders is of real concern.

He added: “The problems that could arise if this happened were first highlighted about 10 years ago.

“Now we will have the situation of cattle and sheep being transported to slaughterhouses at Shotts or Wishaw and then returned to Galashiels for collection – what happens if that operation runs into transportation problems?

“The only alternative option would be for farmers or butchers to send animals over the border for slaughter, but the problem would then arise of them not being allowed to label their produce as being from Scotland.

“This decision also means a loss of geographical status for the Borders, not having a full slaughtering facility in the region, and the chamber has real concerns about what this means for local farmers and butchers.”