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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2007, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Countryside 'open' despite alert
Warning sign hanging on a public footpath
Restrictions in place in England have been replicated in Scotland

Scotland's countryside is "open for business" despite the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has said.

Three major agricultural shows in Scotland are going ahead this weekend without cows, sheep and goats due to the restrictions.

Mr Lochhead urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of the disease.

A UK-wide ban on livestock movement is in place after cattle at a farm near Guildford were found to be infected.

Large shows at Dumfries and Turriff have been hit by the restrictions which prevent the movement of livestock, while organisers overseeing the second day of the Perth show said they had acted quickly to take precautions.

The discovery on a farm in Surrey has brought back vivid memories of the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, which had a devastating impact on the UK's farming industry and tourism.

There is no room for complacency
Richard Lochhead MSP
Rural Affairs Secretary

It led to the slaughter of between 6.5 and 10 million animals, ruined many farmers and rural businesses and is estimated to have cost the country up to 8.5bn.

Mr Lochhead said government vets in Scotland were on "high alert", but stressed that there were no immediate disease implications north of the border.

"But there is no room for complacency," he added.

"The key message for everyone is vigilance and that Scotland's countryside remains open for business as normal."

Mr Lochhead will attend the Turriff show on Sunday with First Minister Alex Salmond.

He said ministers had attended the other shows in a bid to reassure the industry.

"The agricultural shows may not have animals but the other great attractions will continue," said the secretary.

Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious viral disease which affects cattle
Symptoms include fever, lesions in the mouth and lameness
The disease only crosses the species barrier from cattle to human with very great difficulty
The disease in humans is mild, short-lived and requires no medical treatment

Mr Salmond has offered his full co-operation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and officials in Scotland have also taken part in a meeting of the UK Government emergency planning committee Cobra.

James Withers, the deputy chief executive of NFU Scotland, said there was "significant concern" among Scottish farmers.

"Memories of 2001 are obviously raw but this is one case at the moment," he said.

"We knew this disease would come back - it was a case of if not when, hence the amount of planning that has been undertaken and which is now kicking into gear."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has opened a helpline in response to the latest outbreak. It is 08459 335577.

The Scottish government has also set up a helpline for farmers on 0845 1553366.

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