UK animal health budgets to be devolved

Animal health and welfare budgets are to be devolved under plans announced by DEFRA.

From 1 April, England will have £105m to prevent and tackle disease and maintain animal welfare, while Scotland and Wales will be handed £21m.

The budgets have been shared based on historic spending and animal numbers.

Announcing the plans, farm minister Jim Paice said the devolved powers had already had policy responsibility for preventing and tackling diseases such as bovine TB for a long time.

“We already work closely on our policies on animal health and welfare,” he said.

“We will work even closer to protect Great Britain from animal disease outbreaks and ensure the best welfare standards possible.”

Mr Paice said research and surveillance would continue to be centrally funded to “maintain scientific capacity and capability” in the UK.

Each administration would identify areas which need research to be commissioned.

In the event of a disease outbreak, all countries would work closely together to ensure the most effective measures were taken across Britain, he added.

NFU Scotland said the announcement should stop Scotland from “operating with one hand behind its back” by being in charge of animal health policy while the UK Treasury managed funding.

“It should open the door to more targeted and dynamic spending on animal health in Scotland,” said Nigel Miller, NFUS president.

“The actual concept of the arrangement is right and, longer term, it should give Scotland’s animal health policy new impetus and focus.”

“There is still a lot of work to do in partnership with DEFRA to delineate exactly how government agencies across the UK and how these efficiencies will be audited and allocated,” Mr Miller added.

“It is vital that these agencies’ activities and operating costs are in the best practical and financial interests of the industry.”