NFUS: Defra Debate on Cost Share is a Waste of Time

SCOTLAND - NFU Scotland has said that any talks with Defra on sharing the cost and responsibility for animal health issues are a complete waste of time for Scotland. The comments come following a final meeting of a UK consultative forum which NFUS believes has been anything but a consultation.
calendar icon 4 July 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The Union has stressed that Defra’s desire to dump cost onto industry, not only for disease outbreaks but for routine animal health work as well, is an abdication of its responsibility to animal welfare and the wider food industry and economy.

NFUS had set out four key priorities at the meetings with Defra, but there has been little obvious progress on any. They were:

  • Devolving the animal health budget to Scotland
  • Agreeing to a core provision of government-funded animal health work
  • Properly examining the affordability to industry of sharing animal health costs
  • Agreeing to take heed of EU proposals on cost-sharing when they emerge

NFUS will now be in further discussions with the Scottish Government on the implications of Defra’s plans for Scotland, in light of an animal health budget which remains reserved to Westminster. NFUS is also looking for a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, that he will maintain the budget for the animal health work the Scottish Government currently funds.

NFUS Vice President Nigel Miller said:

“It is clear from the meetings I’ve been at that Defra’s term ‘cost-sharing’ is a joke. I can see nothing but cost-dumping and Defra walking away from its responsibilities at a time when the financial pressure on the livestock industry is enormous. And all this comes on top of existing cost-dumping moves such as those affecting the Meat Hygiene Service, which will also impact on farmers’ profitability. The UK consultative forum has now ended we are told, but, from a Scottish perspective, it has been a complete waste of time from the start with a refusal from Defra to progress any of the key issues for us.

“We have heard encouraging noises about devolving the animal health budget to Scotland. Yet, that has still not happened and we haven’t even been shown the figures by Defra. We know the whole issue of cost-sharing is moving at an EU level, but Defra is running way ahead of that timetable. Because the animal health budget is not devolved, the danger is that the Scottish Government is bounced into something which it has already said is not acceptable.

“We will now be having further discussions with the Scottish Government on the future of animal health work in Scotland. The Cabinet Secretary announced a new national agenda for animal health at our AGM in February, but there has been little meat on the bones since then. As a starting point we are looking for his commitment to continue the current Scottish Government funding of animal health activities such as veterinary surveillance, the Highlands and Islands veterinary services and animal health research. That would distance the government here from the cost-cutting agenda being pursued south of the border and allow us to have a sensible discussion on the way forward for animal health in Scotland.”

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