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The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"Officials are desperate to find out how foot-and-mouth spread so far"
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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK
Fears as foot-and-mouth spreads east
Foot-and-mouth outbreak
The latest outbreak is more than 25 miles from the nearest case
Hopes that the foot-and-mouth crisis in Scotland was being contained have been dealt a blow with a fourth case being confirmed in the Scottish Borders - more than 25 miles from the nearest outbreak.

A further case of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed at Bierhope, Hownam, near Jedburgh.

It brings the total in Scotland to 133 confirmed cases.

All except four of the cases are contained in the Dumfries and Galloway region to the west of Scottish Borders.

Because this is outwith the exclusion zone the vets are examining the source of the outbreak.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said the State Veterinary Service was investigating the source of the outbreak "as a matter of urgency".

She said the latest outbreak was "some distance" outside the nearest 3 kilometre exclusion zone or "firebreak", which represents the maximum distance vets believe the disease can be airborne.

She said: "Because this is outwith the exclusion zone the vets are examining the source of the outbreak."

The news comes as Tourism Minister Alasdair Morrison introduced a raft of measures to ensure the tourism industry will be ready for the Easter holidays.

Alasdair Morrison
Alasdair Morrison: Help is being offered
Mr Morrison also called on private landowners to work in tandem with the Scottish Executive to ensure the countryside re-opened as quickly as possible.

Calls by the Scottish National Party for a selective VAT reduction to help the tourist trade over the foot-and-mouth crisis were rejected by the executive.

The SNP said such a move is required to offer foreign visitors an added incentive to come to Scotland.

SNP Enterprise spokesman Kenny MacAskill said reducing costs was the only effective way to help the ailing tourism industry.

Mr MacAskill said his party advocated reducing VAT rates from 17% to 5% for accommodation and visitor attractions.

"If every Scot visited a B&B or hotel this Easter then I believe the industry would stay afloat."

'Business down 100%'

But the executive has said major efforts are being made to help the industry and re-open major tourist attractions like the West Highland Way.

Mr Morrison said the SNP's VAT plans were not credible.

But the ongoing crisis is causing frustration for tourism operators and executive hopes for the West Highland Way to be re-opened in time have been met with some scepticism.

Gilbert McVean, whose company Travel Lite transports backpackers luggage along the West Highland Way, said the executive had not done enough to tell tourists arriving in the country that the situation was improving.

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill: "Get people out and about"
Mr McVean said landowners were worried over the current situation and that it was time for the executive to offer some comfort.

He said "My business is 100% down, hotels are 80% down and people will go into receivership."

Mr McVean added he did not believe the executive was in touch with "feelings on the ground".

But Mr Morrison said landowners should make sure they knew the latest guidance surrounding the threat of foot-and-mouth disease.

"I don't blame any landowner or local authority for taking the precautionary approach from the outset," he said.

"But we now have clearly defined structures and guidance. It is up to people to make sure that they find the information.

Risk assessments

"The only people who can infect their farms are those who come directly from an infected farm wearing coats or boots or driving vehicles they were using on those farms.

"The guidance is quite clear and it is up to people to find out where is open. This information is available on every website known to man."

The minister urged private landowners to take a wider view of the crisis and conduct risk assessment exercises to ascertain whether the land was free of the disease.

He added that the executive was committed to getting the West Highland Way open for the holidays.

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Scotland
Pyres prompt health fears
03 Apr 01 | Scotland
Scotland launches tourism offensive
31 Mar 01 | Scotland
Blair praises foot-and-mouth efforts
28 Mar 01 | Scotland
Animal disease spreads in Scotland
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