The proposed changes to the CAP can offer the Scottish red meat industry opportunities for a fairer redistribution of the UK’s pot, Scottish MEP George Lyon told delegates at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) conference, but the industry must look at the major questions over independence.
Lyon, shadow rappateur on the CAP reform committee in Brussels, said that although the size of the EU budget posed a great threat to the Scottish red meat industry, the Commission had also opened up the possibility of a fairer redistribution of the budget between member states, which could benefit Scotland. He said: “If we do agree a new level on the fairer distribution of the money between member states, then the same principle should be applied through the UK.
“It won’t be an easy debate, but I think it has some real traction and something we will keep a very close eye on. And I believe the UK government supports fairer distribution and believe it is something we should do in principle.”
He outlined the threats to Scotland posed by the flattening of entitlements, particularly in the five-year timescale envisaged by the Commission, but said that there were opportunities from LFA top-ups in Pillar I, and the chance of coupling payments. He said that there was an urgent need for work on the proposals to take them forward, as the platforms of payments would lead to real uncertainty for producers and might even be delayed as late as 2014.
The Liberal Democrat MEP also said that serious questions posed by independence for the Scottish meat industry must be answered, and he called on Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) to carry out research into the various issues. He said Scotland was utterly reliant on exports and agriculture and, with more than 60% of beef and lamb exports and 80% of pork exports going into English markets, producers and processors needed to know how this would be affected if the ‘home’ market shrank from 60m to 5m consumers. Other questions to be considered, he said, included currency, how to maintain the Scottish beef premium and compete against the Irish, and what influence an independent Scotland would have in Europe.
“Businesses need answers before any final decisions are taken,” he said. “There are important parts to play in shaping these things — don’t leave it to people in ivory towers to decide the future of Scotland’s red meat business.”