Geese and ducks pictured at a local small holding. Above: Gillian Martin MSP.
By Bill Heaney
The Minister for Energy and the Environment , Gillian Martin, pictured top of page, told MSPs: “Since the commencement of the current avian influenza outbreak, the Scottish Government has continued to promote best-practice bio-security measures for bird keepers that are designed to protect their poultry premises from highly pathogenic avian influenza.”
That was quite a mouthful, even if the Minister was talking turkey.
She added: “The Scottish Government has robust and tested contingency plans and, where outbreaks have occurred, the Government’s response has been immediate.
“All appropriate disease control measures and veterinary investigations have been applied, with the aim of preventing further spread of the virus.
“Owners who have been impacted have received guidance and support, including financial compensation.”
Tess White pressed on: “There have been five outbreaks of avian flu in my constituency since July and, earlier this month, 1,500 birds were killed near Peterhead.
“It is no wonder that NFU Scotland has described the situation as very worrying and said that it remains a serious concern.”
She asked the Minister to reassure poultry farmers that the Scottish Government will consider all safeguards against avian flu ahead of the festive period, including housing orders – restrictions on where birds are kept – for commercial stocks.Gillian.
Gillian Martin said this was and “extremely serious issue. The risk to wild birds and poultry is constantly monitored and assessed by scientific and technical experts and is reviewed on a weekly basis jointly by the chief veterinary officers of the United Kingdom.
“The risk to wild birds remains high, while the risk to poultry is low, and bio-security plays a crucial part in that assessment and is the single most important factor that is under bird keepers’ control.
“Tess White is absolutely right that bio-security will be particularly important as uncertainty rises when we enter the winter period.
“It has been quite unusual to have avian flu in the summer months, and we are entering the period when migratory birds return, which increases the risk.
“If the risk to poultry from wild birds increases to a certain level, Scottish ministers may consider the introduction of mandatory bio-security measures through the declaration of an avian influenza prevention zone.
“On its website, the Scottish Government provides advice on how to maintain good bio-security standards.”