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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Disease handling praise for Scotland
Foot-and-mouth sign
The report paid tribute to the crisis management
The foot-and-mouth epidemic was "better handled" in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, according to a report on the crisis.

The official Lessons to be Learned Inquiry praised Scotland while pointing to "gaps" in the plan designed to combat the virus in other parts of the UK.

The report said: "Contingency planning had been more systematic and the disease did not spread so far.

"Key problems were identified early and dealt with quickly."

Vet at farm
More than 700,000 animals were destroyed
The government-commissioned inquiry, chaired by Dr Iain Anderson, also praised the way that Dumfries and Galloway Council quickly brought the epidemic under control.

The report said that lessons on how to deal with a major disaster had clearly been learned from the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988.

"The arrangements worked well. Foot-and-mouth disease was eradicated from the region within three months," the report said.

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie welcomed the report, but stressed that the Scottish Executive was not complacent and was keen to ensure it has the best possible measures in place to deal with any future outbreak.

He said: "There remains much work to do, to learn and to implement the lessons of the outbreak.

"The Scottish Executive is already moving forward with stakeholders on a number of issues identified by the report, reflecting a concerted effort in Scotland to ensure we never again suffer the misery caused by last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak."

'Cross-agency working'

An estimated 735,000 sheep and cattle were culled in Scotland, but the report said the impact could have been much worse if officials had not reacted so quickly.

An emergency operation came into force after the first outbreak was confirmed in Lockerbie on 1 March.

The report said: "This was, in our view, an example of the disease outbreak being handled as effectively as possible given the circumstances.

"Without doubt, the experience of the Lockerbie air disaster some 12 years earlier facilitated cross-agency working."

The report said proper planning procedures were in place in Scotland, as well as effective computer systems and communication structures.

Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie: "Much work to be done"
It also noted devolutionary changes, which gave the Scottish Executive greater discretion on how the epidemic was handled in Scotland.

This allowed a more pragmatic approach to be taken and helped farmers to understand the policies being enforced, the report said.

However, the inquiry was not in favour of the State Veterinary Service in Scotland being given greater autonomy, a call which was included in last week's report into the outbreak by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The report was critical of the personalities and the procedures involved in last year's outbreak.

Jim Walker, president of the NFU in Scotland, said he was pleased that the report acknowledged that the Scottish response to the outbreak was more effective than south of the border.


Now it is time to move on and take action to ensure that another devastating outbreak is avoided and that if it does occur then the lessons of 2001 will be heeded

Alex Fergusson, Scottish Tories
But he said the government's approach to tackling a future outbreak was still surrounded by "confusion" and said much more needed to be done.

Mr Walker said: "All through the outbreak we pressed the prime minister for a clear policy to be followed and courage at the top to see it through.

"More than a year after the end of the outbreak in Scotland we still need evidence of clear leadership and direction from government in Whitehall."

Tory rural affairs spokesman Alex Fergusson welcomed the statement that the Army should have been called in sooner to deal with the crisis.

He said: "Now it is time to move on and take action to ensure that another devastating outbreak is avoided and that if it does occur then the lessons of 2001 will be heeded.

"News today of illegal pork imports show just how little attention the executive and government have so far shown and that there remains much to be done to protect the public and our farmers from the threat of foot-and-mouth and other deadly serious infections."



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