SCOTLAND'S supply of field animal vets has dried up – and in a bid to restore the flow, the Scottish Government is to create a new Scottish Veterinary Service.

Speaking at the NFU Scotland AGM, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon gave the green light to the new service, saying that it would be developed within the lifetime of the current Parliament.

It is envisaged that the SVS would replace the field animal health and welfare functions currently delivered by the UK Government's Animal and Plant Health Agency, meeting needs across the public and private sector for land and marine based animal health.

A programme board made up of representatives of the organisations involved in the delivery and enforcement of animal health and welfare and food safety will meet for the first time at the end of this month, responsible for assessing what functions the SVS should have, and what format they might take.

Ms Gougeon said: “For a range of reasons – Brexit among them – we do not have enough of the right people with the right qualifications. The SVS will help us create opportunities for more young people in Scotland to want to pursue rewarding careers in veterinary, animal health and food safety services.

“This process will present some exciting opportunities to focus on what is best for Scotland. There will also be challenges along the way, but I am confident that a model designed specifically around the needs of Scotland will deliver efficiencies and an enhanced service," said Ms Gougeon.

"We will, of course, continue to work collaboratively with APHA as well as the other administrations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as part of the overall control of diseases within the UK."

Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Jesus Gallego added: “The SVS will provide an opportunity to introduce efficiencies, better resilience, and strengthen delivery and enforcement across a range of animal health and welfare tasks. It will also provide better opportunities for staff training and retention, building on the vast expertise and services we offer across Scotland.”

The British Veterinary Association responded cautiously to ScotGov's plans.

BVA Scottish Branch President, Romain Pizzi, said: “We see advantages and potential risks in the creation of a new Scottish Veterinary Service, so we’re keen to help shape the plans.

“In Scotland we pride ourselves on high welfare, high quality agricultural produce so there are real opportunities for a more Scotland-centric approach that can really focus on our own animal health and welfare priorities.

“But we know that diseases and animal welfare problems don’t respect borders, and so it will be critical that there are systems in place for a new service to collaborate and liaise with the rest of the UK, and beyond, on disease surveillance, data collection, and information sharing.

“Veterinary expertise must be at the heart of any new service, and we look forward to engaging with Scottish Government through the stakeholder group as the plans develop.”