SBCC seeking change to slaughter rules

Jack Clark retires from Swan's Auction Mart.
Jack Clark retires from Swan's Auction Mart.

Controversial rules over animal slaughter mean that money which could be helping Scottish farmers is going to competitors south of the border instead.

Now the leading business organisation in the Borders is demanding a change to the “bizarre” system which rewards UK farmers as opposed to promoting the Scottish product.

Lambs and pigs from the Borders can’t be slaughtered locally because there are no longer any abattoirs in the region. But this means that - despite them spending all but the last few hours of their lives in Scotland - they are promoted in England as British product and lose their Scottish brand.

The money is used to promote consumer sales of meat but the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign on the issue, saying the cash should come back north and be used to support Quality Meat Scotland instead.

Jack Clark, a director at the chamber and the recently retired managing director of St Boswells-based auctioneers John Swan, said: “Frankly, the current situation is bizarre. It’s discriminating against Scottish - and in particular, Borders - producers. This is Scottish quality meat - born in Scotland, raised in Scotland and taken from Scotland only for slaughter. It’s only fair that the money should be used to promote our fantastic meat products throughout the UK.”

Mr Clark said that the closure of Vion’s meat plant at Broxburn just outside Edinburgh last year exacerbated the problem of lack of slaughter and processing facilities in Scotland.

“This has been a problem for years, but it’s becoming more serious”, he added. “The First Minister has recently written to the Prime Minister about the iniquities of the present levy system and that’s clearly helpful - it’s good to see he’s on our side.”

Mr Clark added: “Scottish farmers are losing about £1.4 million a year. That money should be going to help promote our excellent Scottish meat, including, of course, that produced in the Borders, where agriculture is a vital industry.

“Changing the scheme wouldn’t be difficult with the traceability systems the livestock industry has in place, it would just involve tagging the levy onto the animals’ country of birth, rather than where they are slaughtered.”

In his letter to David Cameron, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Scotland deserves the right to spend all the levy income it contributes to the benefit of the Scottish industry.”

SBCC are also pressing for a fresh examination of the feasibility of opening and financing a small scale abattoir in the Borders - a move which would help boost the local rural economy.