Farming MEP Slams "Disastrous" Defra Animal Disease Control Proposals

01 April 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Wednesday) slated proposals for a "quangoisation" of the English disease control regime which he fears could have negative implications for Scotland's farmers, and called for full devolution of animal health, and animal health budgets, to the Scottish government.

Smith, Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, reacted to the detail of the DEFRA proposals, which at first glance only apply to England but he fears could in time come to burden Scotland's farmers with additional costs, and impact negatively upon the way Scotland is represented at EU level.

DEFRA yesterday published proposals for cost sharing of animal disease control measures, as well as the establishment of a quango to oversee disease control. Presently the Scottish government, while responsible for Agriculture as a whole, does not have full power over animal health or the attendant budgets, a position the SNP government has consistently sought to change.

Smith said:

"Yet again DEFRA gets it wrong, and the timing could not be worse. These proposals are a thinly disguised attempt to get the difficult decisions like badger culls out of Hillary Benn's office and into an unelected quango, and plunder the budgets of an industry already struggling to make a profit as it is.

"At first glance, they are proposals only for England and English farmers, but like many things the implications will be of grave importance for the industry in Scotland, especially the way that Scotland is represented in EU animal health meetings.

"I'm glad that Richard Lochhead has already protested about these knock on effects, but we can't afford to miss this one. England's farmers despair at the ability of DEFRA to manage disease as it is, with unworkable fudges on bovine TB already costing the industry millions and the last exotic disease outbreak even coming from a DEFRA lab!

"Scotland's farmers must not be dragged into this costly quango. The Scottish government has a better record on working with industry, and on disease control too. Yet because of the half way house devolution represents Richard Lochhead and the parliament as a whole do not have full powers, or the budget. This has to be changed. It is clear that Scotland's farmers know they get a better shake out Scotland's government, and the confirmation that DEFRA remains wedded to quangos paid for by the industry makes the call for Scotland's government to take full control all the more urgent."