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Animal Health Plan Would Impact Scottish Farmers

by 5m Editor
3 July 2009, at 9:59am

SCOTLAND, UK - The National Farmers Union of Scotland is asking policymakers to consider how the new animal health plan will impact Scottish farmers.

NFU Scotland, in its response to a Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation on the creation of an Independent Body for Animal Health in England, has urged policymakers to take the impact on Scottish livestock farmers into consideration.

In a week when the 10th anniversary of devolved powers for Scotland is being marked, the proposed framework for developing and implementing animal health policy within England raises important issues regarding the future health status of Scottish livestock and has cost implications for the devolved countries of the UK. Although policy on animal health and welfare is a devolved matter, Scotland's share of the UK budget has remained stubbornly in Defra's coffers throughout the past decade.

The consultation also confirms Defra's ambition to charge livestock producers in England a disease levy with a view to pursuing cost sharing on animal health measures – a move that NFUS would be fundamentally opposed to if proposed for Scotland.

Commenting on NFU Scotland's submission to the consultation, Vice-President Nigel Miller said: "The policy for Animal Health and Welfare is devolved and Scottish stakeholders, working alongside the Scottish Government have made year-on-year improvements in the health and welfare of Scotland's animals since devolution 10 years ago. However, the anomaly that sees policy devolved but budgets retained in Defra must be resolved before the current round of budget cuts bite any deeper. Despite several assurances, the appropriate budget has yet to move from Westminster to Scotland and that money must be transferred prior to any changes being formalised by the current Defra consultation on the creation of a new English Animal Health body.

"NFU Scotland is also against any move towards cost and responsibility sharing with regards to animal health and welfare in Scotland but will properly enter the debate once the European Commission publishes its own proposals on this subject. Accelerating this process to adopt national standards for England, as envisaged by this Defra consultation, has already been ruled out as an option for Scotland by our Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, and that is to be welcome.

"It is concerning that the relationship between the proposed Independent Body for Animal Health in England and the three devolved administrations in the UK is touched on in the discussions but no consideration has been given to a coordinated approach. Given shared borders and a common interest in properly tackling exotic and endemic diseases, a robust framework to ensure good communication and compatible policy development is required and should be defined at this early stage," Mr Miller said.