Meeting ‘good first step’ to cut red tape

CUTTING red tape and duplication when dealing with authorities may have taken a step forward.

South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume called a meeting with top bureaucrats at the Scottish Parliament last week in a bid to reorganise accreditation.

“Sorting out red tape and reducing the amount of inspections farmers have to deal with would be welcomed by Borders’ farmers and free them to do the real job of producing food, ” the former Yarrow farmer told TheSouthern.

Mr Hume arranged the discussion after ameeting about the issue with Lord Jamie Lindsay, chairman of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), the national body which assesses organisations that provide certification, testing and inspection services.

Mr Hume explained the problem: “There is a duplication of effort in Scotland where accredited farms (the vast majority) are inspected by their accreditation organisations such as Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). Those farms and businesses, can then also be inspected by local and/or national government inspectors who often check exactly the same criteria as the accreditation organisations – a doubling and sometimes trebling of red tape and inspection visits. Visits are not co-ordinated between government officials and others, therefore visits can sometimes be just a few days apart.”

Examples where officials check the same things include animal movement records, tagging of animals, medicine inspections, ensuring farmers are working in an environmentally friendly manner and health and safety.

Decision makers from QMS, the Scottish Government, the Food Standards Agency Scotland, Scottish Food Quality Certification, Doing Better (the Scottish Government working group set up to reduce red tape for farmers), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and UKAS were at the meeting last Wednesday.

They agreed to look at accreditation organisations doing some of the work of the government inspectors and so carrying out the local or national authority and accreditation inspections at the same time.

Mr Hume said: “This would save double or treble visits and cut costs to the public purse as there would be less man hours needed to do multi inspections.”

He conceded changes would not happen overnight but said: “The meeting concluded with parties agreeing to pursue the opportunity and a strong willingness to address the situation. It is a good first step.”

And he said the same idea could be applied to engineering businesses and other inspections throughout the food chain.