SNP MEP and member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has reacted with horror to the news that Vion may close its Broxburn abattoir and processing site
Alyn has contacted Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead urging exploration of the potential for a network of state run abattoirs across Scotland to maintain our vital local kill capacity. Alyn has already lodged amendments to the Common Agricultural Policy and Rural Development packages to include greater flexibility for state funding of small scale abattoirs, run on a social enterprise model. A major issue remains, however, over state aid provisions, and he has today written to European Commissioner for Competition Joaquín Almunia to ask advice on the implications of such a scheme.
"This is just appalling news, and while it was no secret the meat processing sector is having a tough time, this is a bolt from the blue and a very unwelcome one. If Vion cannot make money at the site then I am of the view that the state needs to step in to ensure the continued operation, possibly on a different scale, of this nationally important facility.
"I have been concerned for some time at the distances animals are being transported to slaughter, and conscious that while we all want to see small local abattoirs, the burden of EU health rules does tend towards bigger facilities. This is working against the interests of animal welfare and farm incomes given the increasing distances animals are being transported.
"The strategic importance of this site to Scotland's meat industry, and the pig sector in particular, cannot be overestimated. In the absence of this site it has been estimated that 80% of Scottish pigs could be sent south for slaughter, at considerable suffering to the animals, cost to the farmer and burning carbon all the way. The economics of the meat processing sector are clearly out of kilter and I think there is a clear need for state intervention to create a network of smaller abattoirs across Scotland.
"We have been able to secure future EU funding streams to assist in this, but the state aid implications are considerable. However, if we want to produce meat in Scotland we must have sufficient local kill capacity, and the loss of this site is a hammer blow. It is imperative that we explore alternatives before we lose the site."