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Union Calls for Animal Health and Welfare Budget Fix

NFU Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to preserve the nation's growing reputation for animal health and welfare (AHW) by ensuring existing and future initiatives remain appropriately funded.

The Union has written to Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney outlining its priorities on AHW ahead of Mr Swinney’s Scottish budget statement, expected on Wednesday (21 September).

With Scotland now responsible for both the policy and budget on AHW matters, the financial settlement with Defra will ultimately leave Scotland looking to deliver core animal health and welfare but with smaller resources.

Any decisions on budget must also take into consideration the publication earlier this year of John Ross's report on cost and responsibility sharing and the imminent publication of John Kinnaird's report into veterinary surveillance in Scotland. With the clear budgetary pressures on delivery of AHW measures, the Union is adamant that limited resources must be targeted or we risk gaps in our provision emerging.

NFU Scotland President and former vet, Nigel Miller said:

"Since devolution, Scotland has developed a proven track record of proactive and positive animal health policies.  Now that the budget for those policies is also devolved the reality is that funding is set to tighten significantly and there will be an ongoing challenge in maintaining our strong position going forward.

"The recent Ross report recognised the need to build on the current Scottish animal health and welfare approach which remains successfully based on stakeholder engagement. While we are already in a strong position on proactive delivery, finding more cost-effective delivery mechanisms will be the big challenge and one that is essential if we are to maintain present controls and surveillance standards. 

"Meeting this challenge must be given immediate consideration.  One example is disease surveillance. This has been a central plank of AHW in Scotland for some time and we await with interest the imminent publication of John Kinnaird’s report and recommendations.  This will be a clear signal on what support is expected for delivering disease surveillance in the future.   

Notes to Editors

The report ‘A Partnership Approach to the Management of Animal Health and Welfare in Scotland: Responsibility and Cost Sharing” was produced earlier this year by an expert forum, chaired by John Ross.  In response to the Ross Report, NFU Scotland identified the following risk factors that will need to be addressed to avoid compromising any future delivery model for animal health and welfare policy in Scotland.

  • Maintaining human resources within the Scottish Government's animal health and welfare division will be crucial if future challenges are to be met.  Resources beyond policy development and delivery mechanisms will be required if stakeholder engagement is to be maintained.
  • The merger of the roles of Head of Animal Health and Welfare and Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland has yet to be tested by a major incident.  Clarity is needed on how these two roles will be delivered under the future Cost and Responsibility sharing environment and what steps will be in place during major incidents to ensure sufficient resources are available and the proper focus is in place for delivery of support and controls.
  • The Ross report supports the introduction of charges.  In the light of contracting budgets, some level of charges may indeed be necessary, but NFUS believes that they should only be resorted to when budgets are over-stretched. Charges should only apply where commercial gain is generated, for instance in obtaining export certification, or to support services resulting from more higher risk management choices, such as importing livestock from high-risk areas. 
  • Charges must not apply to key surveillance activities such as livestock abortion enquiries and anthrax testing.
  • Resources must be focused on developing cost-effective delivery systems, stripping the costs out of delivery without compromising efficacy.  NFUS looks forward to the Kinnaird report's imminent release as a key signpost to future disease surveillance.
  • Relationships with the Animal Health Agency, RPA and BCMS will require proactive management.  Weakness in these relationships will undoubtedly lead to delays in policy development and reduce the available options.
  • NFUS believes that the provision of compensation in the event of exotic disease outbreaks must remain with the Government.  With Scotland no longer having direct access to treasury funding for disease compensation, it is essential that Scottish disease contingency plans fit with European standards and Scotland remains able to access funding from the European Health fund in the event of an outbreak.  Maintaining an ongoing, Scottish, working relationship with Brussels will be increasingly important.
  • Core compensation in exotic disease outbreaks must be accessed from the EU veterinary fund. Experience from 2001 indicates that there may, however, be gaps in future compensation, particularly in covering the higher values of pedigree stock or animals of high genetic merit.  Some form of insurance system must be developed if compensation is likely to be limited to commercial values and discussions must be initiated with insurance companies to investigate this option.
  • The use of vaccines is outlined at European level in certain disease scenarios.  Scotland must have agreed protocols in place for the compensation of consequential losses in the event of vaccine programmes being rolled out.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 155/11


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