14 September 2001

Scotland moves closer to independent inquiry

AN independent public inquiry into foot-and-mouth disease could be held in Scotland.

Although the UK government has so far rejected the need for a public inquiry, the Scottish Parlia-ments Petitions Committee has agreed to send a proposal for a full public inquiry forward to the parliaments rural development committee for further consideration.

The petition was presented to the Petitions Committee on Tuesday (Sept 11) by pressure group Advocates for Animals. Director Les Ward told the committee: "The F&M outbreak in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, has been an economic, social, environmental and animal welfare disaster that requires the fullest scrutiny in a public arena."

Open to public

Although the Royal Society of Edinburgh is to hold an inquiry alongside the three main inquiries launched recently in England, Mr Ward insists an independent inqu-iry, open to the public, is needed.

"We believe that only the fullest independent scrutiny is appropriate, where not only those directly affected can have their say but also where there can be full access to those who were responsible for advising and ordering the control measures against foot-and-mouth, whatever their position."

It will now be up to the rural development committee to decide if the proposal should be taken any further.

Disease eradicated

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said there were no plans to hold a public inquiry. "We already have a number of inquiries underway relating to the F&M outbreak. When the disease is finally eradicated from Britain then it will certainly be necessary to find out how it started and what lessons should be learned. But at this stage there are no plans to launch a public inquiry."

Although NFU Scotland is not actively seeking a public inquiry, it would co-operate if one were launched, a spokeswoman said.

"We would co-operate in any inquiry that gets to the bottom of what has gone on so we can ensure this never happens again. But we would be concerned that it could turn out to be like the Phillips report into BSE, which took years, cost millions of £s and came up with nothing." &#42