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New Scottish Veterinary Service to be created

By David Porter

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Field animal health and welfare functions currently delivered by the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Scotland are to be replaced by a new Scottish Veterinary Service (SVS).

Speaking at the NFUS AGM, the Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon gave the green light to the new service, which will be developed within the lifetime of the current Parliament.

It will meet needs across the public and private sector for land and marine based animal health and provide crucial resilience to the sectors.

A Programme Board made up of representatives of the organisations involved in the delivery and enforcement of animal health and welfare and food safety will meet for the first time at the end of February.

The Board will be responsible for assessing what functions the SVS should have, and what format they may take.

Mairi Gougeon.
Mairi Gougeon.

Ms Gougeon said: “For a range of reasons – Brexit among them – we do not have enough of the right people with the right qualifications.

"The SVS will help us create opportunities for more young people in Scotland to want to pursue rewarding careers in veterinary, animal health and food safety services.

“This process will present some exciting opportunities to focus on what is best for Scotland.

"There will also be challenges along the way, but I am confident that a model designed specifically around the needs of Scotland will deliver efficiencies and an enhanced service.

"We will, of course, continue to work collaboratively with APHA as well as the other administrations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as part of the overall control of diseases within the UK.

“Creating a Scottish Veterinary Service is a Programme for Government commitment that will help the industry to flourish.

"Industry must be involved in setting this up, to ensure this happens, a stakeholder working group will feed directly into the Programme Board.”

Deputy chief veterinary officer Jesus Gallego said: “The SVS will provide an opportunity to introduce efficiencies, better resilience, and strengthen delivery and enforcement across a range of animal health and welfare tasks.

"It will also provide better opportunities for staff training and retention, building on the vast expertise and services we offer across Scotland.”

Responding to the announcement Romain Pizzi, BVA Scottish branch president, said:“We see advantages and potential risks in the creation of a new Scottish Veterinary Service, so we’re keen to help shape the plans.

“In Scotland we pride ourselves on high welfare, high quality agricultural produce so there are real opportunities for a more Scotland-centric approach that can really focus on our own animal health and welfare priorities.

“But we know that diseases and animal welfare problems don’t respect borders, and so it will be critical that there are systems in place for a new service to collaborate and liaise with the rest of the UK, and beyond, on disease surveillance, data collection, and information sharing.

“Veterinary expertise must be at the heart of any new service, and we look forward to engaging with Scottish Government through the stakeholder group as the plans develop.”

The Scottish Government previously announced the appointment of Professor Charles Milne to carry out an independent review of the field delivery of animal health and welfare services provided by APHA in Scotland.

This review considered whether it was most beneficial for Scottish Ministers to either retain the existing services delivered by the APHA or create a Scottish Veterinary Service.

That report was carried out and was accepted by Scottish Ministers and published in February 2020.

The report listed 10 recommendations, including the creation of a stand-alone Scottish animal health and welfare delivery body that would best meet Scotland's long-term interests.

More recently, Professor Milne revisited his report and created a supplementary paper to take account of changes since his original report, such as EU Exit, the new Animal Health Regulations and COVID-19.

The findings affirmed that there was nothing uncovered to fundamentally change the recommendations of the original report.

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