A compulsory bluetongue vaccination scheme has been agreed by the Scottish government with taxpayers’ making a one-off contribution of £3m towards the £6m costs of vaccine in the first year.

Vaccination will take place during the vector-free period next winter but could be shelved in the unlikely event of Scotland remaining free of bluetongue this summer.

The move was agreed on Wednesday (9 April) with stakeholders and has the unanimous support of industry organisations, including NFU Scotland, the National Beef Association, National Sheep Association and Scottish Beef Cattle Association.

“This is an excellent example of the Scottish government working in partnership with the livestock sector and demonstrates our commitment to keep bluetongue out of Scotland,” said Scotland rural affairs minister, Richard Lochhead.

Tenders for the supply of 12m doses of vaccine are to be invited immediately and it is hoped vaccine will be available for use on a limited scale in the summer in the event of a bluetongue outbreak.

It is estimated that the cost to farmers could be as little as 50-60p per vaccination after the grant. All cattle and sheep will be vaccinated in most parts of Scotland. A decision has still to be made as to whether the islands and an area in the north-west will be exempt.

Vaccination will be done by farmers themselves with close veterinary supervision to ensure compliance.

Failure to comply could result in fines as £5000 and/or six months in jail.

NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren said the compulsory scheme with Scottish government funding was “hugely welcome.”