Two years on since the release of the Kinnaird Report on veterinary surveillance in Scotland there has been no announcement on the key issue of the provision of a centralised diagnostic centre for animal diseases.
But a strong case was made yesterday for making the most of facilities already available at the Moredun Research Institute (MRI) just outside Edinburgh.
Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, the intitute’s scientific director, said that it made sense to make use of existing infrastructure at Moredun rather than opting for a new build.
“It is important that any facility would be managed in a cost-effective manner and with minimal infrastructural investment,” said Fitzpatrick.
“A central diagnostic facility already exists at Moredun where MRI staff and Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA) staff already conduct their surveillance work.”
She went on to suggest that the Scottish Rural College (SRUC) should also use this facility so that staff could share resources “to the benefit of both the taxpayer and the livestock-owning communities”.
Speaking at a press briefing, she indicated that the sooner a decision was taken on the matter the sooner future strategies could be drawn up. She said that the proposal being put forward by the institute would also mean that specialised veterinary/animal science staff involved in diagnostics would be located on a single site, producing further savings in the longer term.
“Specialised laboratory facilities are available at Moredun in the same building – including those for pathology, detection of parasites, viruses, bacteria, prions, affecting livestock, avian, and equine species,” said Fitzpatrick.
“Reporting could be undertaken by a team approach by the three surveillance organisations ([SRUC, MRI and the AHVLA] to ensure rapid and cost-effective communications with animal keepers, veterinary practitioners, government and national and international bodies.”
Speaking later, a spokesman for the SRUC, which has its own plans for a centralised facility, said: “The issue of diseases surveillance is currently under review following the recommendations of the Kinnaird Report and any decisions about the future location of a central testing facility would need to be made in that context. It is also important that any future direction is established by the Scottish Government’s strategic management board, taking into account associated stakeholders.”
Fitzpatrick also said that Moredun was set to seek independent research organisation status with the Research Councils UK in order to broaden access to funding.
“While there is no doubt that we are an independent institute, gaining this status would allow us to access funding and make contributions to important scientific areas such as global food security and livestock infectious disease research,” she said.
“It would also increase the opportunities for income generation in Scotland and for greater partnership with the university sector.”
But while admitting that the Scottish Government was currently the biggest player in the institute’s income, accounting for just under 50 per cent, Fitzpatrick admitted that there was a possibility of a funding trough if Scotland voted for independence, before further EU and Scottish income could be generated.