Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has announced the Scottish Government will consult on plans to apply for BSE Negligible Risk - status - a move which could unlock new export opportunities for Scottish red meat and add value throughout the red meat supply chain.

Scotland has been BSE-free since 2009, has had no cases of BSE in animals born since 2005, and is now eligible to make an application for BSE Negligible Risk status as a region of the UK.

Speaking at the Royal Highland Show yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary said: "Our premium produce is world-renowned but there are countries to which we are currently unable to export Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb. Achieving BSE Negligible Risk status could help open up markets across the world for these premium products, and potentially reduce waste and inefficiencies in the supply chain worth more than a million pounds."

Mr Ewing also highlighted how efforts to promote Scottish red meat at home and abroad could be transformed if a fairer share of the red meat levy system could be secured from Westminster. This would see Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) able to invest about £1.5m more per year in the sector.

The red meat levy is currently allocated to the promotional bodies on the basis of where an animal is slaughtered, not where it is raised. With so many Scottish lambs and pigs now going to English and Welsh abattoirs this results in around £1.5m in lost levy annually for QMS.

Mr Ewing said: "The USA is already on the cusp of resuming beef imports from the UK, while the Canadian market is now open for both beef and lamb. The opportunities for exports and producer incomes are potentially massive and it is imperative that Scotland is ahead of the game in promoting our iconic red meat brands.

"We could do so much to maximise such opportunities at home and abroad if we received our fair share of the UK's red meat levy."

The Cabinet Secretary also announced that farmers and crofters are to start receiving the balance of their support payments in the next few days and will see the last of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening measures finally delivered into bank accounts, more than six months later than normal.

With Scottish Government resources currently focussed on delivering these balance payments, NFU Scotland is disappointed to learn that further IT failures are at the heart of why Scotland's hill sheep farmers are being pushed to the back of the queue for their coupled payments.

A new Scottish Upland Sheep Scheme (SUSS), valued at £6m, was designed to reward those actively keeping sheep on some of Scotland's most disadvantaged land. In recent weeks, it has emerged that a system to reconcile claims with the ScotEID sheep database is only just being taken forward. That means SUSS claims are unlikely to be delivered until sometime in July and only after the balance payments for BPS and greening have been settled.

Show Results: Sheep

Suffolk: Champion (C) James Wallace, Newton Stewart; Reserve (R) WG Troup Ltd, Inverurie.

North Country Cheviot: (C) WD Allen (Humblebeugh), Alnwick; (R) W&J Thomson, Roxburghshire.

NCC Hill Sheep: (C) W&J Thomson, Roxburgh; (R) Mr WN Douglas.

Cheviot: (C) Messrs Bridgewater & Wood, Langholm; (R) J Hume & Sons, Selkirk.

Border Leicester: (C) Messrs S&A Watson; (R) Duncan Whyte, Glasgow.

Lleyn: (C) JA&R Geldard & Sons, Kendal; (R) Messrs T&I Walling, Selkirk.

Ryeland: (C) E&J Henderson, Milnathort; (R) Susan Bryden, Lockerbie.

Commercial Sheep: (C) Kirsty & Andrew Morton, Denny; (R) Alan Miller, Inverurie.

Beef Cattle

Shorthorn: (C) Glenrinnes Farms Ltd; (R) Harry Horrell, Peterborough.

Highland: (C) Glasgow City Council; (R) Mr KCR Howman, Blairgowrie.

Charolais: (C) Jennifer Rix, Colchester; (R) John Irvine & Son.

Simmental: (C) Michael Barbour, Leyland; (R) JH&VG Wood, Preston.

Blonde: (C) Melissa Donaldson, Northallerton; (R) Lyle Laird & Son, East Wemyss.

Saler: (C) & (R) EA Elliott, Newton Stewart.