Scotland ‘is ready’ if foot-and-mouth disease strikes again

With a determination not to suffer from the potentially disastrous consequences of another foot-and mouth-outbreak, the Scottish Government has implemented more than half the recommendations to prevent the disease ever again bringing the country to a standstill.

The result, according to the government, is that Scotland is in a stronger position to deal effectively with any outbreak of the disease in the future.

Ten years have passed since the last major outbreak of foot-and-mouth swept through significant parts of the UK including the Borders and the south-west of Scotland. A smaller outbreak in 2007 was contained down in England but, on both occasions, there were many recriminations and calls of “lessons must be learned”.

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Yesterday, the Scottish Government published the findings of a progress report following Professor Jim Scudamore’s review of how Scotland responded to the last FMD outbreak of 2007.

The publication highlights that 31 of the 52 recommendations accepted by the Scottish Government have already been met or are under regular review.

On the remainder, the government noted that, due to the need to continually update contingency planning, the remaining recommendations required a programme of on-going work.

Many of those accepted relate to movement restrictions if an outbreak occurs in another part of the country and are based on having risk based assessments rather than blanket bans on movement.

Commenting on the update, Scudamore said he was impressed with the considerable effort and speed with which the recommendations in the review had been adopted and implemented.

“This will put Scotland in a strong position to deal effectively with any outbreaks of disease in the future,” he said.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead saw the review results in a wider context saying it demonstrated the government’s continued commitment to Scotland’s agricultural and related industries.

For NFU Scotland, president Nigel Miller said there was no room for complacency when it came to tackling the ongoing threat of the disease.

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“The UK is free of foot-and-mouth disease at the moment and it is in these peace times that we must take stock of the lessons learned from previous epidemics, and prepare for the worst,” he said.

“The disease continues to be present in other parts of the world, and so ensuring that we are well prepared, and well practised in how to react if an outbreak occurred in the UK, is paramount.”

However, the union believed there were still areas where the contingency plan could be further improved. For example, how access to the countryside is monitored when an outbreak is first recognised, the number of rendering facilities that are available and how far culled cattle may need to be transported to reach those facilities.

There was also union concern over dealing with specific issues raised by having a vaccination rather than a slaughter policy.