Mathers heads reformed Scottish Beef Council

Ian Mathers, chairman of the Mathers (Inverurie) Ltd abattoir company, is to become temporary chairman of a re-formed Scottish Beef Council with immediate effect, after the original Council was dissolved at the National Beef Association's AGM held in

Hexham on 24 May.

The meeting also voted by an overwhelming majority to remove Borders farmer, Keith Redpath, from the position of director of the NBA.

With Hamish MacPherson, Nairn, as vice-chairman of the Scottish Beef Council, it does appear as if there may be a Highlands/Borders split developing within Scottish producer representation.

Bill Harper, NBA Treasurer, forecast a 50:50 divide of the 600 NBA members in Scotland with half moving to the break-away Scottish Cattle Association, recently launched by the disaffected 'rebels' of the NBA's dissolved Scottish Beef Council.

On the face of it this would not seem too severe an outcome for the NBA as it commits itself to maintaining a UK-wide presence, but there will be a number of knock-on effects.

The loss of £15,000 membership subscriptions cannot be ignored by an organisation reporting a financial loss of £39,000 in 2005, depleting its reserves to a mere £5,733. More importantly, on the financial front, could be lower returns from future 'beef events' held north of the border. This annual conference and exhibition has proved essential to the NBA's well-being, with profits of £53,000 at Aberdeen in 2003 and £63,000 at Edinburgh in 2004. Attendance and profitability has consistently been higher in the north than other areas of England and Wales.

And then there is the battle for hearts and minds as two competing organisations seek to represent producers within the premier area of UK beef production.

While the NBA will hold sway in Whitehall, its fledgling rival may have an established inside track with QMS and Scottish Executive Minister, Ross Finnie.

At the NBA's AGM, Ian Mathers delivered several level-headed and timely interjections - sufficient to suggest that NBA will benefit from a wider and prolonged use of Mathers customer led marketing charm.

The same could be said for NBA chairman, Duff Burrell. Only two of the Scottish 'rebels' were present in the 50 plus attendance at the AGM and any attempts to set an aggressive tone were despatched with military precision by Burrell, a former SAS officer.

Joining the NBA board in June 2005, Burrell rose rapidly through the ranks succeeding the founding chairman, Oxford educated, Robert Robinson. While Robinson had the intellectual rigour to establish the organisation as a serious contributor to the UK beef debate, his professorial management style did not check the passion and bombastic approach of chief executive, Robert Forster.

With Mathers and Harper as the external face and Burrell directing, future lobbying success may come more from mauling by treacle rather than battering in to submission.