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Letter Published in The Scottish Farmer January 26th 2002

Factual Remarks on FMD

Sir. - Mrs Fletcher, in her letter (the Scottish Farmer, January 12) expressed concern about the views of Dr Peter Nettleton on vaccination, as reported in The SF on December 22.

Dr Nettleton is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's inquiry into the effects of foot-and-mouth in Scotland and it is a condition of membership of the committee that members refrain from personal and public comment on issues before the committee, while work is going ahead.

I was therefore concerned by the press reports of the remarks attributed to Dr Nettleton, at a briefing for the press at the Pentlands Science Park on December 13. I have now seen a copy of the paper Dr Nettleton produced for the occasion and have spoken to him about the reports. I have also spoken to James Armour who is a member of the inquiry committee, who was present at the press briefing when Dr Nettleton spoke. I am completely satisfied that Dr Nettleton's remarks were factual and scientific and entirely directed towards explaining how the foot-and-mouth virus affects living cells.

This is a complex area and it seems that his response to a question about vaccination would appear to have been misinterpreted and consequently misreported.

Dr Nettleton is aware of the importance of avoiding personal comment in public on matters of debate for the committee, as are all the members of the committee. This incident illustrates the need for vigilance in legitimate discussions of complex scientific matters.

Professor Ian Cunningham
Royal Society of Edinburgh
Inquiry into foot-and-mouth