The healthiest sheep in Scotland should be exempt from “mad” European animal health rules which would mean an electronic tag put in every sheep’s ear, according to MSP Tavish Scott.
Mr Scott is asking the Scottish government to get behind island crofters and farmers and support an exemption from sheep electronic identification (EID).
He said Shetland producers and Shetland Islands Council had invested heavily in the eradication and prevention of animal diseases in Shetland over 20 years. Yet industry observers argued that the EU’s EID rules, now being implemented by the Scottish government, would make no difference to any spread of an animal disease.
Mr Scott said: “Sheep can leave and arrive in Shetland through only one place – Lerwick Harbour. Controlling and preventing disease in Shetland is straightforward because of the 180 miles of sea between Lerwick and Aberdeen. So Scotland’s agricultural minister should back the local industry and give Shetland an exemption from these utterly mad, costly and pointless European rules.”
Mr Scott said the Scottish government was currently running electronic trials of EID and no trial had delivered 100 per cent accuracy.
He said: “Sheep EID cannot achieve the 100 per cent accuracy that it would need to. No farmer is allowed to be five per cent or more inaccurate in his paperwork. Yet the Scottish government has yet to guarantee that farmers will not be penalised for any failure of the EID data which is the responsibility of the individual crofter. Nor has our government said they will pay for EID’s implementation. So Richard Lochhead must get to Brussels and make the case for the maximum of flexibility in EID implementation.”
Mr Scott said the department of rural affairs covering England and Wales had issued a 50-page guidance book to all farmers, but there had been no guidance yet from the Scottish government on EID.
He added: “Yet DEFRA are already telling farmers south of the border that criminal penalties will apply for people who do not conform to the rules. The Scottish government must take a better approach and must not use the same threats against Scottish producers. Crofters and farmers need to know the government’s position now.”