Through the hard work and dedication of farmers, crofters, vets and scientists over several decades, Scotland has developed an enviably high standard of animal health. This delivers economic benefits for producers, for those who depend on the sector, and for rural Scotland as a whole. There are also environmental benefits, as healthier animals are more efficient, they grow more quickly with less inputs and have lower mortality. And consumers, in Scotland and elsewhere, can have confidence that Scottish livestock products come from healthy animals with high standards of welfare.
But the price of this success is vigilance; we have to ensure that we have effective mechanisms to identify new and emerging diseases and conditions before they can establish a foothold. We also need to know about the endemic diseases prevalent in the country, so that we can take steps to control or eradicate them. Our system of veterinary surveillance has evolved rather than been systematically planned, so the time was ripe to consider whether the arrangements are efficient, effective and meet the needs of those who depend on fast and reliable information on animal diseases. While there is confidence that the current system is providing an early warning, and has had successes in recent years such as the early identification of bleeding calf syndrome, there is always scope for improvement, and I commissioned John Kinnaird to conduct this review because I felt that the surveillance system could be strengthened.
The commitment and professionalism of the people who work within that system are not in any doubt. We have been particularly well served for many years by of the staff at SAC and Moredun, who have provided the Scottish livestock industry with such high-quality diagnostics and surveillance, and who have built excellent relationships with veterinary practices across the country.
I commend the review panel members for their dedication to producing a report with firm foundations. They have gathered a huge amount of evidence through surveys of over 750 farmers and vets, and through interviews, meetings and site visits. I know that their recommendations are based on a thorough evaluation of the facts and opinions, and I will give them due consideration when deciding how the Scottish Government should respond to this report.
Richard Lochhead MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment