Devolving Animal Health Budgets

SCOTLAND, UK - The need for the animal health and welfare budget to be fully devolved to the Scottish Government was highlighted by Richard Lochhead Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs.
calendar icon 7 October 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Debating the Scudamore Report into Scotland's handling of last year's outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, Mr Lochhead welcomed Professor Scudamore's view that budgets should be transferred to Scotland. He also pledged to continue to examine ways of allowing Scotland, or regions within Scotland, to trade freely if there was an animal disease outbreak elsewhere in Great Britain.

Mr Lochhead said:

"Whilst the Scottish Government has full responsibility for animal health and welfare policy, the budgets are held by Defra. This lack of alignment is in no-one's interests.

"I am not prepared to accept any offer that is not in Scotland's interest."
Richard Lochhead Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs

"Only this week we have seen Defra making decisions on cost sharing which impact on Scotland.

"Defra's announcement that it would provide the hard pressed livestock industry with short-term transitional funding during the withdrawal of the BSE surveillance scheme was welcome but our view is that the funding should not be withdrawn at all at this time.

"If Scotland controlled policy and budgets for animal health and welfare we would not be in this position. This is another example of why the National Conversation on Scotland's constitutional future is so important.

"That said, I am not prepared to accept any offer that is not in Scotland's interest. Sufficient funds must be available to ensure that we can deal with all aspects of animal health and welfare, including disease outbreak.

"I am also keen to examine the possibilities of regionalisation which would allow Scotland, or regions within Scotland, to act as a different zone during animal disease outbreaks. This would mean that an outbreak in England would not automatically impact on the Scottish livestock sector."

The Scudamore Report into Scotland's handling of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2007, praised the Scottish Government for reacting swiftly and commended the Scottish agricultural community as a whole for their actions in reducing the risk of disease spread.

Professor Scudamore made recommendations in five areas: disease preparedness, regionalisation, relationships with UK Government departments, relationships with the EU and communications with stakeholders.

The recommendations include:

  • Development of veterinary risk assessments to allow for the early movement of livestock where deemed safe
  • Review of contingency planning arrangements
  • Consider the potential options for dividing the UK into different disease risk areas
  • Revise Concordats held with UK Government and the Devolved Administrations over responsibilities and budgets

The Scottish Government has already taken several actions based on the report's recommendations. These include:

  • Commissioning an independent review to build on existing contingency plans and produce a framework for handling exotic diseases
  • Leading a GB-wide working group to develop risk assessments for priority animal movements
  • Discussing improved representation for Scotland with the European Commission
  • Revising Scotland's Exotic Disease Communications Strategy

An outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease was confirmed on August 3, 2007 following a leak of the virus from the Pirbright Laboratory in Surrey. A further outbreak was confirmed on September 12.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment commissioned the review into Scotland's handling of the foot and mouth disease outbreak to identify ways in which disruption to the industry could be minimised during future outbreaks.

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