16 March 2001

SCOTLAND

Fears that its moving north

A NUCLEAR bunker at Dumfries and Galloway Council head office has been turned into an emergency centre to deal with foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland. More than 600 farms are under observation and there are fears that the virus could be moving north.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has spent £200,000 on emergency measures, including disinfectant mats across all the main roads. Signs have also sprung up around the region, urging motorists to stick to main roads and avoid travelling on country lanes if at all possible.

Robert Graham, who farms at Irelandton, Twyhlom, watched this week as 4000 of his sheep and cattle were destroyed. Among the cattle was his famous Auchengassel herd of pedigree Belted Galloways. Mr Graham was the fourth generation involved in the herd whose bloodlines could be traced back almost 200 years.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has urged all farmers to remain vigilant, especially because of the difficulties in diagnosing the disease in sheep.

Livestock sold privately outside the ring at Longtown market are causing a particular headache because ministry vets cannot trace them.

The knock-on effects have led to job losses. Perth-based United Auctions have laid off staff. Scotlands highly lucrative seed potato industry has also been hit. With seed crop often uplifted from one farm and delivered to another, there are fears that the movement of vehicles could present a risk of disease transfer.

The Scottish Executive has issued guidelines for hygiene, stressing the importance of controls at both collection and delivery points. If those are adhered to, the executive says, then the risk is minimal. Nevertheless, for many farmers, even a nuclear bunker has failed to stop the disease from spreading.