Scotland will be a bluetongue protection zone from Monday 3 November, the Scottish government has announced.

From that date bluetongue-suceptible animals will be allowed to move freely across the UK.

The date was set after research revealed the risk of midges spreading the disease would be at its lowest, the government said.

Livestock would also need to be protected by the spring when midges became active again.

Richard Lochead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs, said he was glad farmers and crofters had certainty on the date compulsory vaccination would begin.

“At the farming industry’s request we are introducing compulsory vaccination over a period of several months, allowing farmers to choose to vaccinate at a time that best suits them and their farm management needs.

“Until all livestock are vaccinated, there will remain a risk to the industry from importing potentially infected animals. It is vital farmers continue to avoid sourcing stock from high risk areas.”

A compulsory vaccination programme was agreed by the industry last month September.

Vaccination will be compulsory in cattle and sheep and strongly encouraged in other bluetongue-susceptible species.

The initial vaccination window will last until April 30, 2009.