Scotland moves towards standalone food agency

Scotland has moved closer to establishing its own standalone food standards agency by transferring the operational control of meat inspection delivery to the FSA in Scotland. It is hoped that bringing the responsibility for Scottish meat inspection within the boundaries of Scotland, will result in a more cost-effective service and speedier system.

Ian McWatt, the FSA head of operational delivery in Scotland responsible for the delivery of Scottish meat inspection, has been brought under the auspices of the director of Scotland, Charles Milne, making him directly answerable to Scottish ministers. However, a spokeswoman for the FSA Scotland described this first transfer of responsibility, which took place in October, as one of “line management only”.

She told Meat Trades Journal: “Changes to line management for the head of operational delivery have not impacted meat inspection in Scotland. From a technical perspective, the legislation defining how official controls are delivered in approved fresh meat establishments in Scotland remains unaltered, and the way in which inspection is conducted remains the same.”

A new group, the Scottish Meat Delivery group, has also been set up to oversee meat operation delivery issues in Scotland. The group, which is chaired by Milne, will “provide insight and assurance to the director of Scotland relating to the delivery of official controls”, according to the FSA. It held its first meeting on 27 October.  

The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) has greeted the changes with enthusiasm. Executive manager Ian Anderson told MTJ that the news system is working well.

He said: “We work well together, so have been discussing with him areas that need attention – for example technical aspects – and have made some changes already. We’ve had some pretty rapid action now that we have direct links with FSA and it has been working well.

“Two or three issues have already been addressed and resolved quickly with a solution which is acceptable to us and to the regulator. It’s a real meeting of minds and we are open with each,” he added.

The programme to introduce a full-blown new food body for Scotland as advocated by the Scudamore report, which will require primary legislation, is being led by the Scottish Government.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “The Scudamore report highlighted the potential benefits of moving the day to day control of meat inspection delivery north of the border, and we therefore welcome the decision of the FSA Board to transfer direct management responsibility to officials in Aberdeen.  

“The structure of the Scottish meat sector is fundamentally different to that in England and Wales; and we believe a Scottish approach to operational delivery will maximise the scope to implement further efficiencies that maintain public health standards and benefit our hard pressed processing sector.

“The process of consulting on the new food body will shortly be under way, with the consultation paper launched in January.”

Related News:

>Scottish ministers agree to stand-alone FSA

>Report recommends stand-alone FSA in Scotland

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