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BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston reports
"The army has 259 men on the ground - more than it is able to deploy"
 real 56k

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"Vaccination is not in anyway an alternative to the current slaughter"
 real 28k

Brigadier Hugh Monro says
"This is a war we are fighting, and we have to win it."
 real 28k

Scottish farmers' leader Jim Walker
"I don't think there is anyone in rural Scotland interested in elections at the moment"
 real 28k

Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Farmers warn PM against vaccination
Soldiers work on the new road to the burial pit
Soldiers work on the new road to the burial pit
The leader of Scotland's farming union has warned the Prime Minister that a foot-and-mouth vaccination programme would leave large parts of the country facing economic ruin.

Jim Walker told Tony Blair that it was the wrong course of action to bring the outbreak under control.

And the Scottish National Farmers' Union (NFUS) leader said the vaccination programme should not be agreed simply to allow an election to take place on 3 May.

He met Mr Blair at Downing Street as a mass burial site south of Lockerbie started to take in sheep slaughtered as part of a pre-emptive cull.

NFUS leader Jim Walker
Jim Walker: Vaccination warning
And Tory leader William Hague - who has urged Mr Blair to delay calling a general election - was visiting Lockerbie on Thursday afternoon to see how Dumfries and Galloway is coping with the crisis.

After his Downing Street meeting with Mr Blair, Mr Walker said: "I still fundamentally believe he cannot hold an election on 3 May because he needs to spend his time, his energy, and his concentration on eradicating this disease.

"And how can that happen if he is campaigning up and down the country for votes?"

He said that people in rural communities were more concerned with saving their livelihoods than a possible general election.

"I don't think there is anybody in rural Scotland, England, Wales or Ireland who are the least bit interested in elections at the moment," he said.

Confirmed farms in Scotland include
99 cases on 29 March
Lockerbie (15 cases)
Canonbie (13)
Gretna (17)
Moffat (3)
Kirkpatrick Fleming(2)
Annan (3)
New Abbey(2)
Haugh of Urr
St Anns
The Scottish total rose to 99 when two new cases of the disease were confirmed on Thursday.

They included the second case outwith Dumfries and Galloway, which was detected on Flatt farm, Newcastleton, in the Scottish Borders.

Newcastleton, where a case was confirmed the previous day at Sorbietrees farms, is just outside the area containing all other Scottish cases.

Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie described the first Borders case as a "worrying development" and said officials were trying to trace how the spread had occurred.

He also stressed that there were no immediate plans to introduce a programme of vaccination of animals, but has not ruled it out as an option.

Britain has received approval from European Union vets for vaccination of animals around affected UK areas if necessary - but Mr Walker said such a move would be sacrificing agriculture to save tourism.

He said: "Zones which are vaccinated would need surveillance zones around them and they would have movement restrictions in place for at least a year after the final outbreak of foot-and-mouth in the UK."

He said vaccination would "send the region concerned into economic disaster for that 12 months and consign agriculture in effect to the dustbin in those particular regions.

William Hague
William Hague was visiting Lockerbie
"It is an absolute scandal that it is even being considered."

The army started to dispose of slaughtered sheep in the mass burial site five miles south of Lockerbie on Thursday morning.

The animals, which were killed as part of the pre-emptive cull, will be buried in trenches which can hold up to 250,000 carcasses.

The army says the site will allow it to move closer to the target of slaughtering and disposing of 10,000 sheep a day.

More than 100 vets are currently involved in the slaughtering process in Dumfries and Galloway - but officials say around 20 more are urgently needed to meet the workload.

'Dither and delay'

During his visit to Dumfries and Galloway, Mr Hague was hosting a forum of farmers and business people who have been hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Speaking in Lockerbie, he said: "We have supported the government in the measures it has taken, but we are increasingly exasperated at the dither and delay that stopped these measures being implemented quickly and effectively."

He said urgent help was also needed for other rural businesses facing ruin because of the crisis.

"A week ago, I wrote to the prime minister proposing an emergency loan scheme to help these rural businesses with interest free loans of up to 10,000.

"He said he would give it serious consideration, but a week later, we have heard nothing.

"Rural Scotland cannot wait any longer."

  • Meanwhile, the Scottish Executive has asked businesses to tell it how they are being affected by the crisis.

    A freephone telephone line has been launched on 0800 027 5550 to help the executive build up a picture of the outbreak's economic impact.

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    See also:

    29 Mar 01 | UK Politics
    Hague calls for election delay
    28 Mar 01 | Scotland
    Animal disease spreads in Scotland
    26 Mar 01 | Scotland
    Soldiers tackle cull ordeal
    25 Mar 01 | Scotland
    Rare breeds slaughter protest
    15 Mar 01 | Scotland
    Foot-and-mouth 'could cost 20m'
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