Food sector support ‘lagging other countries’
A meat processing company boss has raised concerns over the Scottish government’s commitment to the food and drinks sector.
Dan Gilmour, co-managing director of Gilmour Butchers, told 350 delegates attending an industry conference in Edinburgh that the government was not backing its targets and public pledges with financial support.
He said a plan to double the sector’s turnover to £30 billion by 2030 could only be achievable if the government matched the support offered in other countries.
He said Ireland, Norway and Wales all invest more heavily in their trade bodies which provide invaluable advice to the sector.
Speaking after the Scotland Food and Drink conference at the Assembly Rooms, Mr Gilmour said: “We have had a tremendous amount of support from Scotland Food and Drink and Quality Meat Scotland on export advice, marketing and so on.
“They have been absolutely fantastic and punch well above their weight, but they need more funding.”
He said the government had also mothballed a food processing, marketing and cooperation (FPMC) grant which had left many companies unable to complete projects.
His company is planning a butchery and retail facility in East Lothian and has raised £2m to buy a site originally earmarked for a greyhound stadium.
The £10 million facility in Wallyford will provide 40 additional jobs at the firm which has grown from a small high street store into an online business-to-business institution, with a burgeoning trade in London.
However, it is behind schedule because of the government’s decision to withdraw the FMPC grant and the project may have to be reduced in scale.
“We are encouraging the government to reinstate the grant to give companies more certainty,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to supporting the food and drink Industry in Scotland and discussions are underway with Scotland Food and Drink on the new industry strategy which is due for launch in early Summer.
“This new strategy looks to move the sector on from their Recovery Plan which we have supported with £15 million, over the past three years, helping mitigate the impact of the pandemic and Brexit. In addition, support is provided to the industry through a range of sources including our Export Plan and via our agency partners like Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprises.
“Since 2021, our Food Processing Marketing and Cooperation Grant Scheme (FPMC) has made grant awards totalling over £18 million within the sector enabling businesses to invest in physical assets, explore new products and marketing support.
“Whilst not currently running due to budgetary pressures, brought about by global inflationary trends and exacerbated by UK Government’s fiscal decisions, the FPMC is being reviewed with a view to simplifying and streamlining the process, benefiting future applicants, should the scheme be relaunched.”