Foot-and-mouth: Scottish desperation grows

Scottish farming leaders are describing the current situation as desperate as the foot-and-mouth crisis continues to disrupt the industry.

The National Farmers' Union of Scotland is calling on the Scottish Executive to consider relaxing controls to allow the movement of aniamls within farms and between farms - allowing sheep to moved to new grazing areas for example.

It is also calling for emergency measures to address the financial crisis on farms and the looming welfare disaster. It said it is continuing to discuss the issue with government.

Other requirements would be regionalisation to allow exports. NFUS said the Scottish government, together with other GB administrations and in line with advice from the European Commission, is currently working at classifying GB into different areas of according to disease risk.

However, until this is done, farming bodies have reiterated their request for abattoirs not to bring English stock into Scotland. Once the classification is complete, it will be clearer how GB could be divided in terms of the future relaxation of export controls and the implications that would have for the movement of live animals and processing of meat across GB.

Another issue is over drivers' hours. The NFUS expressed its anger at what it describes as the UK government's continued dismissive approach to the Scottish haulage problems and it repeated its calls for commonsense from London.

The group is also calling for farmers to maintain standards when it comes to biosecurity. NFUS president Jim McLaren said: "The calls we are receiving into our offices around the country are becoming increasingly desperate. We estimate there will be at least a million lambs on the hills that shouldn't be there. That is generating a huge welfare crisis. Grazing is running out and the prospects of there being enough nutrition available for ewes over the Winter are horrendous.

"We're continuing to work on the details of schemes to alleviate the welfare problems and address the cashflow nightmare across the country. Obviously getting movements going is the best thing that can happen as it would ease the pressure on grazing and could generate cashflow.

"The confirmation of the fifth case in Surrey doesn't change much because the infected farm is in the protection zone. But it is a reminder once again of the need for biosecurity. We are urgently pressing for a relaxation for movements within and between farms as the next top priority.

"But frankly, government and vets need confidence that farmers are adhering strictly to every licence condition already set out if we are to keep the current relaxations and secure more. I would ask every farmer in the country to keep that in mind."

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