Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Meetings)

Scottish Executive Question Time — Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 1st July 2010.

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Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 1st July 2010

To ask the Scottish Government what issues were discussed at its most recent meeting with ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (S3O-11144)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I met a range of ministers from DEFRA on 23 June, when we discussed a wide range of issues including how the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments will work together in future on both domestic and European business. I used the opportunity to outline the distinct nature and policy needs of Scotland's farming, food and marine sectors.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I congratulate the cabinet secretary on securing further discussions on the devolution of animal health and welfare budgets following his recent talks with DEFRA. That is a major step forward for Scotland, which I hope that everyone recognises.

Will the cabinet secretary explain the details of how those discussions will progress and the timescales for the budgets that are being devolved?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The member raises a very important issue about the future of Scotland's livestock sector in particular. We have always had a concern that although we have policy responsibility for animal health matters in Scotland, we have not had the budget. We need that important part of the jigsaw to be put in place. While there is a delay in devolving the budget, which most people in Scotland want to see—particularly our farmers and all parties in this chamber—the longer we leave it, the more likelihood there is of the budget in London reducing, which means that our share over time will become less.

The sooner that our share is devolved to Scotland, the better, and I very much welcome the commitment from the new United Kingdom coalition Government in London to work with us to have the budget devolved—at long last—by 1 April next year.