31 August 2001

Scotlands hopes shattered

HOPES that Scotland would announce that it is finally free of foot-and-mouth were shattered by news that at least seven farms were visited by an English livestock dealer whose own farm has gone down with the disease.

Scotland was to have declared itself disease-free yesterday (Aug 30), 90-days after the countrys last case of F&M which was on May 30. But instead of celebrations, Scottish producers face an uncertain wait before they can resume meat and livestock exports. Everything north of the Border is on ice.

The seven farms in question were visited a fortnight ago by John Horncastle, managing director of North Country Primestock – the company chaired by Sir Don Curry who is leading the governments Commission into the Future of Farming. Mr Horncastle was visiting the farms with a view to buying sheep.

The farms, all now under D-notice restrictions, are likely to remain sealed off for at least two more weeks. After that, blood samples from sheep on the holdings will be checked for signs of the disease which has devastated so many livelihoods in the six months since it was discovered at an Essex abattoir in February.

More restrictions on other Scottish farms may be likely. Government officials are monitoring other holdings in case they too are at risk. FARMERS WEEKLY understands that Mr Horncastle was accompanied by a buyer from Aberdeenshire on a visit to at least one of the restricted farms.

Assistant chief veterinary officer, Leslie Gardner, said plans to lift remaining restrictions in Dumfries and Galloway would be delayed for at least a week. He added: "We will monitor these farms very closely over the coming days and just hope we dont see any signs of disease."

Scottish rural development minister Ross Finnie was due to go to the European Union on Sept11-12 in an effort to lift the export ban. He said: "One of the key things we must convince the EU of is that not only have we got rid of the disease, but also that there is no risk of it be reintroduced."

But there are no plans to stop the resumption of livestock auctions in Scotland, said Mr Finnie. Nevertheless, buyers and sellers at the annual Lairg lamb sale this week were forced to choose livestock from catalogues because foot-and-mouth restrictions meant live animals were banned. &#42