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Foot and Mouth Report Highlights Devolution Tensions
12/03/08

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.

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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.”

link Fort Dodge On Target to Produce Bluetongue 8 Vaccine by May
link NBA Encouraged by Scottish Bluetongue Plan
link Union Outlines Bluetongue Vaccination Views

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NFU Scotland