Foot-and-Mouth Response 'Deficiencies' Highlighted
By Russell Fallis, Scottish Press Association
Scotland's public services watchdog today highlighted "serious
deficiencies" in the way the Executive responded to concerns over its culling
policy during the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001.
whose animals were killed amid efforts to halt the spread of the highly
infectious animal disease complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman,
Professor Alice Brown, who has now issued her findings in a 92-page
She says there are no grounds to question the legality of any of
the decisions to cull and despite "some procedural shortcomings" mainly relating
to the serving of notices, the killings were then properly carried
But her report, which uses pseudonyms so as not to identify
complainants, criticises how the then Department of Rural Affairs dealt with
complaints and other correspondence.
She describes as "unsatisfactory and
fallible" the system for dealing with correspondence, which allowed around 600
letters to ministers to be overlooked for a number of weeks.
In one case
Professor Brown has also urged the Executive to apologise to 'Mrs Green' for
failing to explain disinfection measures after killing her pet goat following
the discovery of foot-and-mouth on a farm, with fields completely surrounding
Mrs Green is believed to be Elizabeth Walls, of Mouswald,
Dumfries and Galloway, who was not available for comment tonight.
April 5, 2001, Ms Walls' goat Misty, was given a lethal injection against her
In today's report Professor Brown accepts the vet's explanation
that he had killed the goat away from its owner while she was distracted by
police officers to spare the animal undue distress.
She also found "no
evidence" to support an allegation that an agricultural officer "abused and
assaulted" the owner's daughter, named as 'Ms Gold' - thought to be Kirsten
But she said an examination of correspondence by the two women
had revealed "a complete breakdown in the system for responding to letters sent
to ministers", after it took 31 weeks for the Department of Rural Affairs to
reply to their complaints.
A senior official was due to give a "thorough"
reply but took ill, the report states, and the complaint appeared to have been
overlooked until another officer spotted other unanswered letters.
in the circumstances of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, to take so long to reply to
a complaint is unacceptable, particularly given the nature of the events
described and the initial concern with which Departmental officials viewed its
It was also "unacceptable" that the owner's requests for
information on what disinfection precautions she should take after the goat had
been killed went unanswered.
The Department of Rural Affairs eventually
explained that normal preliminary disinfecting precautions were not taken after
the cull as the risk of contamination after this was relatively low - despite
having forcibly killed the goat due to infection concerns.
layperson these two views appear incompatible, and clearly if the decision not
to disinfect had been taken, Mrs Green should have been told of it and of the
reasons for it," Professor Brown says.
"I recommend that the Department
now apologise to Mrs Green for this omission."
She also urges officials
at what is now the Environment and Rural Affairs Department to offer to resume
talks with Mrs Walls to provide compensation, including a consolatory payment
"to take into account the added distress that these delays caused after the loss
of her family's goat".
The Executive has accepted these recommendations,
the report states, and has a review of the Environment and Rural Affairs
Department's complaints handling process has also been