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Scotland's reputation for high standards of animal health could soon be further enhanced if the European Commission declares the country officially free from tuberculosis.
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, has agreed to a formal application to Brussels to recognise Scotland as TB free.
Scotland's Chief Veterinary Officer, Simon Hall, will present evidence to support the application during the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) to be held (where) on September 8.
Mr Lochhead said:
"Like much of our iconic produce, Scotch beef is recognised the world over its quality. That in part stems the health status of the animals.
"TB free status would be a big feather in the cap for Scotch beef producers and will further improve access to new and existing markets.
"Full consideration has been given to the potential impact of TB free status on the industry and any subsequent checks which would need to be imposed on cattle being brought into Scotland. We are confident that we can minimise any potential impact on the industry."
Simon Hall, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) Scotland said:
"Bovine TB continues to spread in England and Wales bringing significant cost to affected farmers and increasing the potential threat to Scotland. We need to strengthen Scotland's defence against this disease. If we allowed bovine TB to become established here, the bill for Scotland could easily exceed £5 million a year."
Scotland's has been successful so far in controlling bovine tuberculosis (bovineTB).
Rigorous pre- and post movement testing of cattle coming to Scotland from areas with high incidence of bovine TB has meant that we are now eligible to apply to be recognised as officially tb free.
The situation in other parts of the UK is worsening and this exposes Scotland to an increasing risk of disease unless we take steps to prevent it.
For example,we are vulnerable when cattle from high risk areas coming to Scotland via areas of lower TB risk. Since the start of 2007, 4,822 cattle have come to Scotland from aan area with low incidence of TB that have been in an area with high incidence) in the previous 12 months. None of these were subjected to post movement testing and they provide an ongoing low risk of introducing disease, although all will have been pre-movement tested before leaving a high incidence area.
The final disease controls that will be required are still to be decided.
The Scottish Government is working with livestock industry representatives to address concerns about potential impacts on trade.