Shetland bluetongue meeting

NFU Scotland is calling on all of Shetland's livestock farmers and crofters to attend a public meeting to decide on the island's preferred option for controlling bluetongue.

The meeting, organised by NFU Scotland's Shetland Branch, will be held on Friday 8 August at 8pm in Room 12 of the Islesborough Community Centre. NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Miller will address the meeting.

The Scottish Government is proposing two options for bluetongue control on Shetland. These are based around compulsory vaccination or voluntary vaccination of livestock against the disease.

Either option would see the island lose its disease-free status, but put it on an equal footing with the rest of Scotland, where a compulsory vaccination programme is expected to be introduced this coming winter.

The previous position favoured by Shetland was to remain a bluetongue-free area, but this is no longer an option. Although the current risk of bluetongue remains low, a decision on Shetland's position is required now to allow the Scottish Government to prepare the necessary legislation to allow any vaccination scheme to begin as soon as it is required.

Shetland NFU branch chairman, Hazel Mackenzie said: "This is a very important decision for the whole of Shetland. It will affect all sheep, cattle and goat producers.

"The Shetland branch of the NFUS has arranged this public meeting for all livestock producers to hear the latest on bluetongue and air their views."

Local veterinarian Hilary Burgess added: "This is a complex subject and there are advantages and disadvantages to Shetland in all options. We know that a compulsory vaccination scheme in the rest of Scotland could begin as early as November this year, so we need to find the best option for Shetland in terms of disease prevention, cost and practicality."