SNP South of Scotland MSP Michael Russell has expressed hsi anger at the UK Government’s failure to reach an agreement on devolving animal health budgets by April 1 2010, in line with the Scudamore Review recommendations.
The current situation sees the Scottish Government hold responsibility for policies relating to animal health but not have control over the budgets associated with those policies. The Scottish Government had been working with Defra round the clock and had believed that significant progress had been made. However, Defra have now indicated that the deadline for this will not be met.
Commenting Mr. Russell said:
“The situation where the Scottish Government controls policy for animal health but not the level of finances devoted to such policies is as ludicrous as it is unacceptable. The Scottish livestock sector relies on its outstanding reputation for the quality of what it produces, and it is entirely right that control over such budgets should be devolved to the Scottish Government.
“With greater willingness on the part of Defra to engage with this issue, the entire thing could have been settled well in advance of the new financial year. As it is, the foot dragging of the UK Government has set progress back by a year and raises some serious questions about what they are playing at.
“If the UK Government cuts the budget for animal health before it is devolved, the amount that the Scottish Government eventually receives to protect the health of Scottish livestock could be a fraction of what is needed. The UK Government must come clean over their intentions and promise that they will not cut the animal health budget before it is devolved.
“The implications of a reduced budget for protecting the health of Scottish livestock could be catastrophic for the sector. Farmers will be understandably alarmed, but I know that the SNP Government will fight hard to gain the assurances they need and protect the Scottish livestock sector.”