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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Scotland awaits disease all-clear
Scotland has been disease-free for three months
Farming leaders in Scotland are pressing for disease-free status and the lifting of export bans after 90 days without a foot-and-mouth case.

The three-month period of being disease-free ends on Thursday, with the last case confirmed in Scotland on 30 May.

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 1,989
Animals slaughtered: 3,773,000
Awaiting slaughter: 17,000

Farmers say Scotland's rural development minister Ross Finnie should now press European officials for a lifting of the ban on meat exports.

Mr Finnie said Scotland could achieve disease-free status soon - but he remained nervous.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "I have obviously got some concerns.

"Clearly no news is good news and the vets at the moment have not found anything.

"But I think everyone in this situation is nervous about what happened in Northumbria."

He said he could not put a time on when restrictions would be lifted.

Mr Finnie said: "Realistically I think the negotiations are going to go on until the end of September and then it will be a question of having regulations to give effect to whatever conditions are finally negotiated as part of the settlement.

"There is a lot of work to be done and the fact that we have this group of cases (in Northumberland) just complicates matters."

Border fears

Farmers in Scotland are anxiously awaiting the outcome of tests on nine farms under tight foot-and-mouth restrictions in the Borders, after possible dangerous contact with a farmer from Northumberland.

We are ready to vaccinate if the balance of acceptability and scientific advice leads us to vaccinate, but we are not at that position yet

Rural affairs minister Lord Whitty

Northumberland farmers are hoping the new disease cluster there has been stamped out.

Thirteen cases in six days were discovered in the Allendale area, but on Wednesday there were no new cases.

The cluster dashed the hopes of the county's farmers who had also been hoping "provisionally disease-free" status was imminent, after no cases were reported since 22 May.

Mr Finnie warned farmers north of the border to "keep up their guard" against the disease.

He said the biggest obstacle to achieving disease-free status was a failure by the industry to maintain its biosecurity measures.

Farming leaders called for tighter controls to stop the disease coming into the country.

Jim Walker, president of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, called for special disinfection stations at border crossings, to ensure all farm vehicles entering the country are free of the disease.

Vaccination row

Meanwhile the arguments over whether to vaccinate livestock re-emerged south of the border.

On Wednesday the government's "rural advocate" Ewen Cameron called for a vaccination programme to be tested. He said the public would not tolerate large-scale culling if the disease breaks out again.

The NFU gave his comments a cool reception, saying it could see no reason to carry out such tests in the middle of a serious disease outbreak.

And on Thursday farming minister Lord Whitty said scientific advice was currently that vaccination was not an alternative policy to culling.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are ready to vaccinate if the balance of acceptability and scientific advice leads us to vaccinate, but we are not at that position yet.

"We're not saying we're not prepared to try it, but circumstances where it is likely to be more effective than our current policy have not yet arisen."

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The vast majority of the English countryside is also free of the disease"
Bob Howatt, Scottish lamb and beef farmer
"In the short term, it's not going to make an awful lot of difference"
Ross Finnie, Scottish minister for rural affairs
"There is no disease confirmed"
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