Animal health and welfare policy includes action to help prevent, plan for and deal with disease, including veterinary surveillance, controls on livestock movement, identification and traceability, animal by-products and the control of imports and exports.




Animal health and welfare policy, with the exception of the veterinary profession, veterinary medicines and international negotiations, is devolved to Scottish Ministers. We work closely with a range of stakeholders, other UK administrations, regulatory and enforcement authorities to develop evidence based policies.

The Animal Health and Welfare in the Livestock Industry Strategy: 2016 to 2021 is a five-year strategy, tailored to Scotland's needs. The strategy was prepared in consultation with farming organisations, animal welfare organisations and veterinary scientists.

The Animal health and welfare framework 2019 to 2020 sets out a risk based approach to the duties carried out by local authorities in Scotland.

Review of the field delivery of animal health services in Scotland 

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is an agency of Defra working on behalf of Defra and both Scottish and Welsh Governments. On behalf of Scottish ministers, they are the lead operational partner responsible for:

  • identifying and controlling notifiable endemic and exotic diseases in animals, and aspects of surveillance for new and emerging pests and diseases
  • scientific research in areas such as bacterial, viral, prion and parasitic diseases and vaccines. They act as an international reference laboratory for many farm animal diseases
  • facilitating international trade in animals and products of animal origin (PoAO)
  • regulating the safe disposal of animal by-products to reduce the risk of potentially dangerous substances entering the food chain

The budget to support the delivery of APHA activities in Scotland was devolved to the Scottish Government in April 2011, with a condition that the agency would continue to be funded to deliver these services for a period of three years. Given it was approaching nine years since the devolution of that budget, Scottish ministers appointed Professor Charles Milne to carry out an independent review of the animal health and welfare services delivered by the APHA in Scotland.

The review of the field delivery of animal health services in Scotland was received in early January 2020 and Scottish Ministers approved work to begin scoping out and evaluating a possible Scottish veterinary service (SVS). Whilst work was initially paused, this has now been resumed and is a Programme for Governmnent commitment. We invited Professor Charles Milne to produce a supplementary paper to take account of the changes, such as EU exit, COVID-19 and changes to legislation, since his original report was created.

A programme board consisting of organisations that may become part of the SVS is being appointed to provide Scottish ministers with advice on the functions that will come under the auspices of the SVS and the operating model of the service, as well as helping secure the necessary resources to ensure the SVS is able to deliver its priorities, as set by Scottish ministers.

Recommendations on the most effective model will be assessed by the programme board and will be put to ministers within 14 months, with the intention that the Scottish Veterinary Service is created within the life of the current Parliament.

Bills and legislation

Animal disease control and welfare is subject to a range of legislation. Relevant law is detailed in the corresponding section.



Telephone: 0300 244 9874

Scottish Government   
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate  
Animal Health and Welfare  
P Spur - Saughton House  
Broomhouse Drive  
EH11 3XD  

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