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SAMW/NFUS propose separate meat inspection system for Scotland

Outline proposals for the setting up of a separate meat inspection system for Scotland have been prepared jointly by the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) and NFU Scotland.   
A paper detailing plans for a ‘Meat Inspection System fit for a modern Scotland’ has been sent to the four mainline political parties contesting the Scottish elections. The document carries the stark warning that the current UK-based service disadvantages Scotland and presents a serious threat to the future viability of the Scottish meat and livestock sector.   
“The cost of inspection per livestock unit in Scotland is believed to be less than half the current UK cost as charged by the Food Standards Agency (FSA),” said Alan Craig, president of SAMW. “Under the present structure, therefore, Scotland is being significantly disadvantaged by having to pay a UK average figure influenced by both plant demographics and potentially less efficient delivery of controls in England and Wales. We believe a Scottish solution, still managed locally by FSA, would be more efficient and cost-effective and would provide a valuable opportunity to secure and enhance public confidence in quality Scotch meat.   
“It is also illogical for an industry paying millions of pounds, for a monopoly service, to have no formal input in the strategy or delivery of that service. Any new system, therefore, should give industry a contribution in the direction of the inspection service. We believe this would encourage a healthy working partnership, better placed to deliver positive outcomes for the consumer and the industry.”   
NFU Scotland president, Nigel Miller, said: “In recent years Scottish stakeholders have put considerable time and effort into proposals that would have rationalised the delivery of the meat inspection service at a UK level. That work has been frustrating and arduous and has largely delivered little of the real change needed to what is a burdensome and outdated system.   
“The recent decision to devolve animal health budgets to Scotland creates the opportunity to also allow Scotland to take control of its own meat inspection arrangements. By utilising the FSA in Scotland, we can develop a tailor-made service that better recognises the specialised processing sector we have in Scotland and delivers efficiency through best practice that will benefit the whole meat chain and build on the Scottish brand.”   
While designed as the launching point of a discussion process with Scotland’s political leaders and all relevant industry bodies, the paper contains a firm commitment to the fundamental need for meat inspection to continue to ensure the delivery of safe food to consumers. It’s stated, in fact, that the new service must be ‘underpinned by science’ and be ‘risk-based, relevant and proportionate’. The paper also contains the statement that any new system should recognise standards of performance by Food Business Operators (FBOs) and that it should both reward and penalise FBOs accordingly.   
“In issuing this paper at this stage we accept that decisions cannot be taken before the Scottish elections are completed,” said Mr Craig. “While the industry’s meat inspection concerns need to be addressed urgently, the timing of this paper provides an ideal opportunity for all political parties to be involved in the discussion process. This can only be of benefit to the shaping of a final solution which meets the needs of Scottish producers, meat businesses and consumers in more effective and efficient manner than is currently the case.”   
Full text of joint letter follows below.