Scottish Executive wants animal export ban lifted

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The Independent Online

The Scottish Executive is to press for the lifting of the EU ban on animal exports, despite an increasing number of farms put under quarantine due to the threat from foot-and-mouth.

Two more farms in the Borders have been added to the list of seven that are already quarantined because of a suspected contact with the outbreak in Northumberland.

Scotland appears to have reached a watershed in its battle against the disease, having gone 90 days since the last case of the disease was confirmed. Three months is considered the minimum time before an area can be classified as disease-free.

Ross Finnie, Scotland's Rural Development Minister, said that despite the fact that nine farms in the Borders were subject to restrictions, he intended to ask for Scotland to be treated as a separate case from the rest of the United Kingdom.

"I will push Scotland's export case personally in Brussels and I intend to ask for a meeting as soon as possible," he said.

"Our case will be pressed further at the next Standing Veterinary Council meeting on September 11 and 12."

A lifting of the export ban depends largely on the veterinary committee being satisfied that Scotland poses no further risk of spreading the disease.

But news that farms in the Borders had been served with restriction notices due to contact with the Hexham outbreak could, Mr Finnie admitted, have serious consequences.

"It could have a hugely adverse impact on the case we are pursuing in Brussels to restore our sheepmeat export markets," he said.

"If we are fortunate, this action may be no more than precautionary. If not, it will be a huge setback to our plans to restore normality in Scotland, and declaring the whole country a disease-free area.

"The vets at the moment have not found anything, but I think everyone is nervous about what happened in Northumbria.

"Realistically, I think the negotiations are going to go on until the end of September."

Yesterday a spokesman for the Scottish Executive announced notification of restrictions on two more farms."The farms involved will be monitored for about 21 days and then the sheep will be blood-tested, with the results expected about five days later."

The National Farmers' Union of Scotland said the news underlined the need for tougher bio-security measures.

"To go 90 days without a confirmed case is a great achievement, but we cannot allow complacency to put us all at risk," said a spokesman.