Foot-and-mouth Disease (Sheep Sector)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative 2:15 pm, 25th October 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what additional support it can provide for the sheep sector to help it recover from the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. (S3O-949)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I am extremely concerned about the serious financial difficulties that the sheep sector is experiencing as a result of foot-and-mouth disease. I will leave it at that.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

In the light of the measures that were announced yesterday, which have been welcomed by the farming community but which many people feel offer only partial compensation, will the minister pursue the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for further compensation? Also, in the light of the threat of bluetongue disease, will the minister update the farming community on what progress is being made on developing a vaccine for bluetongue? When will it be ready? Will he advocate a nationwide vaccination programme for Scottish livestock?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I thank the member for those two questions. The first related to compensation. I make it clear to the chamber that we are making the strongest possible representations to the United Kingdom Government—yet again—to persuade it of its moral and financial responsibility to compensate Scotland's farmers for this crisis. The crisis is having a huge and devastating impact, and is, of course, outwith the control of the farmers. We are making representations, not only that Scotland should be reimbursed for the emergency schemes that we introduced yesterday, but that the compensation case put forward by Scotland's farmers should be addressed.

The member's second question related to another development elsewhere in Great Britain—the outbreak of bluetongue disease. There is no immediate threat to Scotland, but we all acknowledge that south of the border the disease is developing and appears to be spreading. We have to be realistic about the situation and make the best possible preparations. There is a contingency plan in Scotland for responding to any potential outbreak of bluetongue in Scotland.

I am sure that we all agree that it is in all our interests that a vaccine should be made available as soon as possible. We do not have a precise date, but the current timescale suggests that it will happen next year. We are closely monitoring the development of the vaccine. The sooner it is available the better.