SNP government have been asleep on the job over horse meat

PEOPLE in Glasgow, as elsewhere, have naturally been shocked to hear that what they thought they were eating may not have been the case.

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The escalating horse meat scandal has shaken all our faith in the food we buy.

But if you listened to Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead speaking about the issue in the Parliament a week ago, you would be forgiven for thinking that everything was in Scotland was absolutely fine and there was nothing to see here.

He insisted that "quality is vital" when awarding food contracts in the public sector.

Yet, just a few days later we discovered that traces of horse DNA had been found in a frozen beef burger from a school in Cumbernuauld, North Lanarkshire.

We can only hope that this turns out to be an isolated incident and that other schools in the area remain unaffected, but we need further testing to ensure parents' confidence is restored in their children's food.

The Kent-based company which supplied the frozen burgers affected has also found horsemeat in one of its lasagnes.

It has a £60 million pound contract to supply frozen food to councils, and it has now emerged this was weighted in favour of saving money ahead of providing quality food to our school children.

Against this backdrop, it is astonishing to discover that £1million has been removed from the budget of the Food Standards Agency Scotland and returned to the SNP government.

It means the people in charge of keeping our food safe now have 10% less money to tackle one of the biggest food scandals for years.

The Scottish Conservatives have also uncovered that the number of meat inspectors in Scotland has been cut by half since the SNP came to power in 2007.

It is now becoming more apparent that the Rural Secretary has no idea just how widespread the problem of tainted meat is in Scotland.

The very fact he can't even guarantee that the food being served in the Scottish Government's own canteen is free of horsemeat is an indication of how he has lost control.

His complacent attitude has led to a situation where people cannot be sure of the integrity of the food chain in Scotland.

The minister now needs to up his game in getting to grips with this food scandal to restore public confidence.

We now need cast iron reassurances that future contracts to provide food for our schools are only awarded on the basis that quality comes first.

It is simply unacceptable that food provided to the public sector throughout Scotland should be called 'beef' when it actually contains horse.

Thankfully, the burgers which may be tainted with horse meat have now been removed from the menu.

But if the SNP government had not been asleep on the job, this scandal should never have reached our schools in the first place.

The SNP Government needs to explain to the people of Scotland why cutting costs is more important than ensuring our children are eating good, honest school meals.

We hear lots of warm words of how the Rural Secretary is committed to ensuring locally sourced produce is served in our schools and hospitals.

But, what we need is swift action to ensure this never happens again.

Food and drink

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