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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 21:31 GMT 22:31 UK
Hauliers' foot-and-mouth warning
Foot-and-mouth sheep
Hauliers faced a backlog of animals after the August outbreak
Scottish livestock hauliers have warned of meltdown in rural areas if a backlog of lambs stranded by the foot-and-mouth outbreak is not moved.

They reacted with anger after the UK Government turned down a request to relax regulations on drivers' hours.

The move would have allowed the hauliers to tackle the animals that need to be moved to allow them to feed.

The Scottish Government has backed their plea and said it was a very serious and immediate problem.

It follows warnings that 100,000 lambs need to be moved from upland farms which are running out of grazing.

This is a very serious and immediate problem - not least for concerns over animal welfare
Richard Lochhead
Rural affairs secretary

Hauliers said they were already struggling with the backlog from the August outbreak when the latest case in Surrey was confirmed last week.

The Road Haulage Association's Scottish director, Phil Flanders, said: "We have asked the Department of Transport for the last five weeks to do something and they keep saying no.

"And on Saturday, to be told that we hadn't made the case and it was only a short term local problem really appalls me because I can't say Scotland is a local problem - what impacts here has an impact in England."

Mr Flanders called for the current 90-hour a fortnight restriction on livestock hauliers to be temporarily replaced by a maximum 56 hour week.

Richard Lochhead, Scotland's rural affairs secretary, said the hauliers should be allowed to work longer hours to shift the animals.

'Repeated requests'

Speaking after a meeting with industry chiefs in Edinburgh, he said: "This is a very serious and immediate problem - not least for concerns over animal welfare.

"We have tens of thousands of hill sheep across Scotland who will be running out of grazing within a few days. We need the extra haulage capacity to move them.

"I am very disappointed that the UK Government has not responded positively to the repeated requests of the Scottish Government and the entire Scottish livestock industry."

Mr Lochhead said restrictions on drivers' hours had been eased during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

He said he would raise the issue with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) farming minister Jeff Rooker when he visits Scotland on Tuesday.

The First Minister Alex Salmond will also raise the matter with Gordon Brown at the "earliest opportunity" the minister added.


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