BVA president Nicky Paull last night addressed attendees of the BVA annual Scottish dinner, focusing on topics such as responsibility and cost sharing, the Scottish Rural Development Plan and the provision of veterinary services.

BVA president Nicky Paull During the course of her speech, Mrs Paull paid tribute to Sandy Clark – former secretary of the Scottish branch of the BVA, who passed away in December 2008 – and welcomed Simon Hall into his new role as Scottish CVO.

Of her main topics, Mrs Paull began by focusing on the devolved responses to rural affairs and animal welfare, and claimed she was “particularly pleased” that the veterinary profession has been able to maintain strong links across all four nations to provide the best possible service to clients and the animals under their care.

Other elements of her talk included an “urge against any hint of complacency” in encouraging the vaccination of stock against bluetongue, as well as her delight at the “vital role” of vets in the new Animal Welfare Management Programme.

The main points of Mrs Paull’s speech are included below.

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Animal Health and Welfare
“It is now a decade since theScottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern IrelandAssembly were established creating opportunities for regional responsesto regional variations across a whole host of public policy platforms.One area where this approach has been particularly enthusiasticallyembraced is animal health and welfare.

“Unlike issues of law andorder or education where Scotland in particular has gone its own waywithout looking back; I genuinely believe that devolved responses torural affairs and animal welfare have offered the four countries of theUK the chance to watch and learn from each other through greatercooperation. I am particularly pleased that the veterinary professionhas been able to maintain strong links across all four nations toprovide the best possible service to our clients and the animals underour care.”

Bluetongue
“Devolution has allowed each nation to pursue an aim tobecome a shining example of good practice in its own area. I’m sureyou’ll all have your own views on Scotland’s contribution, but I wouldparticularly like to highlight the Scottish response to bluetongue,where compulsory vaccination has been an incredible success story.

“Provingthe British Animal Health and Welfare Strategy’s mantra that preventionis indeed better than cure, the compulsory programme produced avaccination take up well in excess of the 80 per cent target, although Iunderstand the exact figure is not yet known.

The BVA supportedScotland’s compulsory programme throughout the consultation andimplementation and vets have played a major role in encouraging theirclients to vaccinate stock. I certainly hope this strong response andsignificant financial investment by the Scottish Government reaps therewards it deserves, but I must urge against any hint of complacency.Vaccination is only one part of the fight against the disease and Imust take this opportunity to remind you all that importing livestockfrom mainland Europe, where Bluetongue is circulating, continues to bea risk.”

Bovine TB
“Another Scottish success story is the very low incidenceof bovine tuberculosis (bTB). As you will know, England and Wales aredeveloping their own approaches to stop the spread of this disease – adisease which poses a potential threat to human health. Badgervaccinations will be starting in six pilot areas of England next yearand a targeted badger cull will be starting in west Wales shortly. Thefailure of the disease to take hold in Scotland can again be linked tothe strong legislative stance taken by the Scottish Government on pre-and post-movement testing of animals coming into the country. NigelMiller, vice-president of NFUS, announced earlier this week thatScotland may apply for bTB-free status and we will watch furtherdevelopments with interest.”

Scottish Rural Development Plan
“Delivering the President’s speechat last year’s dinner, Nick Blayney flagged up the ongoing difficultiesin delivering the Scottish Rural Development Plan which, at that point,had somewhat stalled. He also congratulated ministers and the then CVOCharles Milne for their perseverance in carrying out negotiations withthe European Commission. I am therefore very pleased to hear that theperseverance has paid off and earlier this year the Commission gave itsapproval to the Plan. This enabled the launch of the new Animal WelfareManagement Programme encouraging farmers to take a more proactiveapproach to improving welfare standards.

“The new scheme has agreater emphasis on animal welfare and benchmarking than the originalAnimal Health and Welfare Management Programme and supports specificactivities such as implementing biosecurity, preventing lameness, andcontrolling various diseases.

“We are pleased to see that vets willplay a vital role in its implementation by undertaking animal welfarereviews, preparing management plans and agreeing specific activitiesfor livestock producers to improve welfare. Working with their clientson farm, the local veterinary practitioner will have close knowledge ofboth the health and welfare of the stock and is best placed toimplement these reviews. The BVA will actively encourage the practisingveterinarians in Scotland to work with the farmers and the ScottishGovernment to bring benefits across the industry.”

Sheep tagging
“As with allthings relating to Europe, there are victories and there arefrustrations. One current source of complaint involves a Europeanruling that all sheep must be electronically tagged – a response to thefoot and mouth outbreak in Britain in 2001. The new tagging regime, dueto come into force in stages from 1st January, has already attractedcross-party condemnation here in the Scottish Parliament anddiscussions are ongoing with Defra and other member states to take theissue back to the European Agriculture Council.

“From theveterinary perspective, we of course support the need for effectivetraceability as a central requirement for disease control andmaintaining public confidence in food safety. However, we share some ofthe industry’s concerns that the proposed scheme for individualelectronic identification (EID) does not provide sufficient improvementover the current procedures to warrant the additional costs andpractical difficulties.

“On the contrary, we are concerned thatcompulsory individual EID could worsen the situation by forcing sheepowners to divert already scarce resources from veterinary advice onimportant aspects of animal health and welfare, which may impact on theavailability, quality and safety of food. We continue to support theneed to look again at these proposals.”

Companion animals
“Although it is farmanimal issues that hit the headlines, the majority of BVA members arein companion animal practice and much of our work therefore will focuson them. With that in mind I am delighted to highlight the Code ofPractice for the Welfare of Equidae, which came into force in Aprilthis year. This is the first welfare code in Scotland made to benefitcompanion animals and we hope there’s more where this came from. Thereis an ongoing need to promote the responsibility of pet ownership for awide range of animals.

“On horses, both the BVA and ourspecialist division BEVA (the British Equine Veterinary Association)have welcomed the requirement for foals to be microchipped and see thisas an opportunity to ban hot branding as a means of identification.This is a position that may be controversial in some quarters, but weare clear that the welfare of the animal must dictate the policy.

“Anothercompanion animal issue that is coming to the fore in Scotland isdangerous dogs, with the introduction of the Control of Dogs (Scotland)Bill by Christine Grahame, MSP for South of Scotland (who unfortunatelyis unable to join us this evening).

“Christine has taken on thework started by Alex Neil MSP to bring a bill that focuses on theanimal’s behaviour rather than its breed. This is a fantastic exampleof BVA policy being put into practice and we’re grateful to bothChristine and Alex for taking a huge leap forward in dealing with theinadequacies of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. We wish you well with thepassage of the bill. With the spiralling problem of status dogs – orweapon dogs I see they are now called – our hope must be that the otherdevolved governments will look again at their current legislativeprocesses in this area and perhaps look to Scotland as a lead in this.”

Responsibility and cost sharing
“Overthe last couple of months the BVA has been consulting its members onDEFRA proposals for responsibility and cost sharing between thegovernment and industry, and the specific proposal for a new body foranimal health policy in England.

“The more I talk about theproposals in speeches and interviews, the more complex they become. Ihope you have all had the chance to look at the proposals and if youhaven’t I urge you to do so – both farmers and vets here in Scotland.This consultation has the potential to completely rewrite how policy isdeveloped and how delivery systems are planned. It may well seem on thesurface that the plans will only affect animal health and welfare inEngland but I assure you that the reality couldn’t be more different.

“I’dlike to make it clear that the BVA has always supported the principleof sharing the responsibility and costs associated with diseasemanagement, as long as it comes with a genuine partnership betweengovernment and industry. As usual, our concerns about the currentproposals lie in the detail of how it will be achieved. I could havedevoted my entire speech to this issue, but I know we all want to hearfrom the Minister so for now I would just like to flag up our concernsregarding how the new structure will fit in with devolution and theneed for a system across Great Britain which recognises that diseaseknows no boundaries. As they stand, the proposals are unclear on therole for the CVOs in Scotland and Wales as well as potentially puttingat risk the single line command structure necessary for dealing withmajor disease outbreaks.

“When dealing with disease incursionsthat put livestock across the whole of Great Britain at risk we have tohave sound policy and a delivery system in disease control, which canbe developed rapidly and are clear to all. The fragmented approach thatthe RCS consultation offers is a great concern to the veterinaryprofession as a whole. It should be a concern to those in government aswell.

“We are very interested to hear views from ministers on howthe proposals will affect Scotland and urge you to make your voicesheard in DEFRA.”

Provisionof veterinary services
“Responsibility and cost sharing cannot be viewedin a bubble. A number of the issues raised by the consultation linkdirectly to the general question of veterinary service provision and onthat note I’m delighted that Professor Lowe is here this evening.

“Asyou’ll know, Professor Lowe has been heading up the DEFRA working groupon vets and vet services, which the BVA has actively been a part of.Professor Lowe’s report is due to be published shortly and while Ican’t go into too much detail here I can confirm that it will set out anumber of challenges for the veterinary profession throughout the UK.

“Happilyfor Scotland the report notes research commissioned by the ScottishGovernment last year that questioned farmers and vets on the provisionof services. The research found 97 per cent of farmers said their vet met alltheir needs and 91 per cent are satisfied with the vet.

“However,before we all get too content, a third of farmers felt their vet didnot add value and perhaps this is the area that we as a profession needto concentrate our efforts.

“We also come back to the age oldquestion of veterinary services in rural and remote areas. At lastyear’s dinner we heard about the reduction in the number of vetpractices providing services to farms; instead choosing to concentrateon companion animal work. As a vital part of implementing on-farmanimal health plans, the profession must look again at how we tacklethis decrease, and I hope Professor Lowe’s report might prove to be thecatalyst for that review. But we cannot do this in isolation and Iwould urge farmers and their representative bodies to also work withthe profession in planning a future where farms across Scotland cancontinue to receive the services they require.

“Still on thetopic of rural areas, the Highland and Islands Veterinary ServicesSchemes continues to support the crofters and the Crofting Counties tomake veterinary services more available in the remoter areas. Thisservice still plays in an important role for livestock keepers in thisarea and long may it continue. I can announce this evening that DrFreda Scott-Park will be taking Sandy’s place as the liaison betweenthe veterinary practices that work in the areas of the Highland andIsland schemes and those in Edinburgh who run the scheme. I know Sandywill be a tough act to follow but I can assure you that Freda doestough very well.”

BVA Congress 2010
“I’d like to end this speech by returning todevolution and making a shameless plug for BVA Congress 2009 to be heldin Cardiff on 24th to 26th September. Don’t worry – it will be Scotlandin 2010!

“This year’s theme is ‘Together Forever?’ asking whatdevolution in Britain means for animal health and welfare and itsimpact on the veterinary profession as a whole. And we are lookingforward to ending our Congress this year with a question and answersession involving a panel made up of the four devolved CVOs. I amcertain the substance of many of the questions asked of them willcentre on how, between us all, we can continue to deliver the bestanimal health and welfare for the single epidemiological unit that isGreat Britain.

“But without pre-empting the debate too much, Ishall just point out that as a relatively small profession I believe wehave been very successful in keeping the lines of communication openacross the national borders in order to share best practice andinnovation in veterinary science and strengthen our links withministers and industry across the four nations. And I am sure we willcontinue to do so.”

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