A Strong Foundation
5. Scotland has a solid base on which to build. It already has:
5.1. Close links and strong partnership working between government, industry and other stakeholders, including quarterly meetings of the General Stakeholders Group as well as many other groups. That collaboration has led to a co‑ordinated approach to animal health and welfare that links to other crucial parts of the rural economy, such as the food and drink sector, and a strong focus on animal welfare combined with effective enforcement of animal welfare legislation;
5.2. A growing reputation for good quality, high health status produce and stock, backed by established health schemes for both cattle and sheep and, as a result, a gradual opening up of new export markets following the recovery from the impact of bovine spongiform encephalopathy ( BSE) and of the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease;
5.3. Been declared as officially free of bovine tuberculosis, with industry and government working together to maintain that status through careful sourcing of stock, abattoir surveillance and a rigorous regime of pre- and post‑movement checks. These measures support a risk-based system of routine herd testing;
5.4. A flexible and skilled workforce that has access to training through a network of land based colleges as well as to the degree and post-graduate education available from Scotland's Rural College  ( SRUC) and others; and
5.5. A vibrant and long‑established land‑based science sector with a hard won and enviable reputation for the quality of its agricultural, veterinary and environmental research.
6. The Scottish Government is committed to building on this foundation. It has, for example:
6.1. Championed Scottish farming internationally, particularly in Europe;
6.2. Worked with industry to reduce the impact of bovine viral diarrhoea ( BVD) and sheep scab;
6.3. Enabled the long‑standing Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services Scheme  ( HIVSS) to continue supporting the provision of veterinary services to the remotest parts of Scotland by ensuring that it is compliant with State Aid and audit requirements;
6.4. Invested £8.9 million via the Scottish Rural Development Programme ( SRDP  ) to support activities that promote animal health and welfare activities. For example, a previous measure under the Land Manager Options ( LMO) scheme supported the preparation of an animal health and welfare management plan and other control measures such as biosecurity and isolation areas on farm. The Scottish government also funds, through the Veterinary and Advisory Services Programme  , scanning surveillance for new and re-emerging animal disease threats as well as workforce training  provided by LANTRA  and SRUC;
6.5. Provided £6 million to the Scot EID project to support the efficient and cost effective implementation of European sheep electronic identification legislation, electronic pig movement reporting and development of a BVD database  ; The Scot EID data systems are unique, giving Scotland a significant advantage concerning policy implementation, industry development brand integrity, quality assurance, disease control, and underlying research.
6.6. Continued to fund a long-standing research programme in animal health and welfare science at Scottish research institutes and universities that underpins core research providers and includes research into new priorities, such as vectors and the impact of climate change  . This includes funding for EPIC (Epidemiology, Population Health and Infectious Disease Control), the Centre of Expertise in Animal Disease Outbreaks  .
6.7. Worked to achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees for pollination and honey production in Scotland through strengthened partnership working with stakeholders with interests in honey bees  .
7. Much of Scotland's livestock production is both extensive and based in upland areas. Although the image of slow maturing suckler beef herds grazing the lower grassy slopes over summer while sheep forage higher up helps market Scottish produce, livestock production faces particular challenges. Around 85% of agricultural land is unlikely to be able to support anything more than low intensity farming, and as a result is classified as Less Favoured Area. Land used for livestock production in Scotland tends to have poorer quality soils and be where the climate is cold and wet, so grass grows slowly. Labour is also often difficult to find in these areas as people seek employment elsewhere. Rural Scotland Key Facts  shows that remote rural areas have a much lower proportion of the population in the ages 16-44 and a higher proportion of people 55 and older compared with rest of Scotland.
8. In addition, transport costs, for example, to bring in winter feed or to take sheep away for winter grazing on lowland grass, are often high. This is particularly so on islands where additional ferry costs may be incurred.
9. These challenges are also opportunities. Concentrating on the benefits of extensive farming in a landscape as unspoiled as Scotland's can give a competitive edge in the market. To maintain that edge and improve profitability Scottish producers need to build on Scotland's reputation for high quality produce. That reputation depends in no small measure on the health and welfare of Scotland's livestock.
10. Many factors can negatively affect animal health and welfare, including inadequate biosecurity, the prevalence of endemic disease, inefficient systems on farm (including insufficient attention to genetics and poor nutrition), fluctuating market conditions and poor livestock handling. By contrast there are drivers that promote good animal health and welfare, such as high levels of skills, knowledge exchange, the spread of best practice and the increased profitability that comes with improvements in quality.
11. As a result, there are a number of organisations and groups that can influence animal health and welfare, including government, the veterinary profession, industry, academia and, through their purchasing decisions, retailers and consumers. It is important to recognise the rights and responsibilities of each interest, including the limits of their influence.