Scotland’s farming union has said that the review of the
foot and mouth outbreak published today has highlighted the urgent
need to address the tensions between devolved administrations and
the UK Government on animal health matters.
NFU Scotland has also welcomed the call by the report’s
author, Dr Iain Anderson, for steps to be taken to ensure the failures
in the structure and management of the disease facility at Pirbright
are never allowed to happen again.
Whilst the report is broadly supportive of Defra’s handling
of the outbreak, it emphasises that it should never have happened
in the first place. It heavily criticises the regulatory system
at Pirbright. The report also sheds light on the tensions between
different administrations in the UK. In particular, it echoes the
views of NFUS in calling for urgent action to address the failure
in the current devolution settlement whereby the Scottish Government
has control of animal health policy but not the funding of it,
which remains reserved to Westminster.
Reacting to the report, NFUS President Jim McLaren said:
“The current position where Scotland decides on animal health
policy but has no control over its funding is an anomaly of the
Scotland Act. It inevitably causes tensions north and south of
the border and, frankly, that is the last thing we need when we’re
facing a disease crisis.
“This is not just about handling disease outbreaks, it is
about the day to day protection of animal health in Scotland. With
Defra now facing a major budgetary squeeze from the Treasury, there
is a very real likelihood that the priorities that industry and
Government in Scotland have developed together will fall by the
wayside because London won’t pay for them. We need the animal
health budget devolved to Scotland as a matter of urgency, something
the Prime Minister has said he is open to looking at.
“The report pinpoints once again the negligence which caused
the foot and mouth outbreak in the first place. Scotland’s
livestock industry was financially crippled by failures to regulate
and properly fund Pirbright and this is the fourth report now to
identify this. As Dr Anderson says, this must never be allowed
to happen again.
“Surely, it is now time for the UK Government to recognise
its responsibilities and compensate farmers for the disaster that
struck them last year? This was a disaster which arose through
no fault of their own but because of a failure of government to
invest in and manage this most important of sites.”
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