Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, and Tavish Scott, MSP for Shetland, have today branded the UK Government’s U-turn on sheep aging measurements as “unacceptable” to the industry. The system favoured by the UK government involves the age of 12 months being measured at the point at which incisors erupt in the sheep’s mouth.
The NFU Scotland had received undertakings that the UK Government would move to have more reliance on traceability systems and dates of slaughter in relation to the lambing period.
It is reported that the Government reasoning behind the cancellation of the changes is a desire not to add further changes at a time of upheaval with Brexit.
Commenting Mr. Carmichael said:
“There will be massive disappointment among farmers and crofters in the Northern Isles that that these much needed changes, which would improve the accuracy of the aging of sheep, have been cancelled. They tell me that current system is arbitrary and costs them money. The requirement for change is long overdue.
“The Government were wrong to promise changes and then to withdraw them at the last moment. By doing this they have heaped uncertainty onto a system at the very time they were seeking to make things more clear.”
Tavish Scott added:
“This decision is utterly unreasonable and has let down crofters and farmers who thought, at last, that reforms were coming to this outdated and old-fashioned system.
“The UK Government have got to reconsider this decision, and bring in the reforms that the farming industry needs and is in favour of.”
NFU Scotland Livestock committee Chairman Jimmy Ireland said:
“This sudden change of tack from the UK Government is more than disappointing, it’s baffling!
“The UK Government had made a commitment last year to the sheep sector that it would move to a new system of sheep ageing, replacing years of arbitrary regulation with a sensible method for ageing sheep which would have delivered certainty to farmers and crofters over their possible market returns.
“Now, the UK Government is saying that implementing this change during Brexit could have implications for our future relationship with the European Union. We’ve known that the UK was due to leave the European Union this March for more than two years now, yet DEFRA hadn’t told us that this would be a problem.
“We are facing the bizarre situation where we could bring in sensible rules on this if we were remaining in the European Union, but because we are due to leave in a matter of weeks, we are stuck with an outdated and costly system.
“The UK Government has led us down the garden path on this, promising a sensible change to our sheep ageing rules early this year only to renege at the last possible moment. NFU Scotland will continue to advocate on this and all other issues but it’s clear that a lack of certainty over the United Kingdom’s future trading relationship with the European Union is making any forward progress a challenge.
“I understand the Scottish Government are as disappointed as we are by this sudden and unilateral reversal by the UK Government. We will continue our discussions with the Scottish Government about the flexibility available to Scotland, as well as ensuring that Scotland is ready to implement this change whenever it can reasonably take place.”