Scottish Government will consider safeguards including keeping birds indoors if bird flu cases continue to rise across Aberdeenshire

North East MSP Tess White

THE Scottish Government has confirmed it will consider safeguards including keeping birds indoors in the run up to Christmas if a surge of Avian flu outbreaks continue across Aberdeenshire and the North of Scotland.

In parliament, environment minister Gillian Martin said the situation was “extremely serious” and that “mandatory biosecurity measures” may be needed if cases continue to rise after a question from North East MSP Tess White.

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The Scottish Conservative voiced her concerns as five outbreaks have been detected in Aberdeenshire since July.

At Holyrood, she spoke of how the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) were “very worried” about the escalating situation and would support housing orders being introduced for commercial flocks.

It comes after 23,500 birds on a farm near Peterhead were affected by the disease, killing 1,500 earlier this month. Protection and surveillance zones have also been set up in Lochcarron, the Highlands, near Tingwall in Shetland and at four locations on the Isle of Lewis.

In her question to Environment Minister Gillian Martin, Ms White asked: “There have been five outbreaks of avian flu in Aberdeenshire since July and earlier this month, 1,500 birds were killed near Peterhead. It’s no wonder NFU Scotland has described the situation as very worrying and that it remains a serious concern.

“Will the Cabinet Secretary reassure poultry farmers that all safeguards against avian flu will be considered by the Scottish Government ahead of the festive period, including housing orders for commercial stocks.”

In her response, Ms Martin said: “I would like to thank Tess White for her interest in this area. It is extremely serious and the risk to wild birds and to poultry is constantly monitored and assessed by scientific and technical experts and reviewed on a weekly basis.

“Biosecurity will be particularly important as the uncertainty rises as we enter the winter period – Tess White is absolutely right on that.

“If the risk to poultry from wild birds increases to certain levels, Scottish ministers may consider the introduction of mandatory biosecurity measures to the declaration of an avian influenza prevention zone.”

Afterwards, Ms White said: “These cases are causing devastation to our poultry farmers in the North East and across the rest of Scotland and I welcome the clarity provided by Gillian Martin following my concerns.

“Many businesses are dependent on the Christmas market but face the prospect of losing everything if an outbreak of avian flu occurs.

“It’s vital the Scottish Government prepares robust safeguards to prevent a repeat of the hardship faced last year by poultry farmers as a result of avian flu.”

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