Following the decision by the Scottish Government to not authorise the chemical asulox for use this season for bracken control, the First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf has told The Scottish Farmer that he did not expect the ban to have any significant impact on human or animals.

The comments follow widespread criticism from rural organisations who feel the chemical was critical for controlling the spread of monoculture bracken and reducing the spread of Lyme disease in humans from infected ticks.

The First Minister said: “There is no doubt that asulox might help in that 2% of uncontrolled bracken when it comes to ticks, but that benefit does not outweigh the risks. We are looking at what the alternatives [bracken control methods] are in that respect, and we are going to support as much as we can into those alternatives.

READ MORE: Asulox banned for use this season because of health risks

"Do remember 98% of bracken will be controlled and this is 2% in relatively inaccessible areas which is the point of using asulox from an aerial drop. So, we don’t expect there to be a significant impact on humans or animals.”

Alternatives to bracken control appear to be few and far between, with the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) own advice stating that cutting, crushing or rolling is unsuitable in many cases due to damaging other plants, soils or birds. Further, manual knapsack spraying is not recommended by HSE due to the size and location of bracken.

The controversial decision to not allow the bracken control chemical mirrors a ruling in Wales – but England will permit its use. For the past 10 years, asulox has been approved annually as part of an emergency authorisation process on behalf of the UK administrations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

However, the Scottish Government stated this year that HSE considered that, for the first time, the use of the herbicide did not meet the legislative requirements for emergency authorisation.

But director of Air Agri, Andrew McGillivray, who operate helicopters for aerial spraying across the UK, said: “I am shocked that the decision was taken, there was no discussion between the Scottish government and ourselves in the industry.

"The committee to discuss the chemical met in April and we had hoped to get the minutes within two weeks. But they were not published until two days before the government decision. The report used to make the decision was full in discrepancies and misinformation.”

READ MORE: Clock ticking on bracken control with human health implications

Mr McGillivray said his company had lost £25,000 due to the lateness of the decision, bec ause of having to keep air crew on a retainer.

We asked to the circular economy minister, Lorna Slater – who had made the decision – if there were any plans for a rethink. She said: “The advice from the HSE, the Independent Committee on Pesticides and from our own chief scientific advisor is that the risks of using asulox outweighs the benefits. And as a minister it is really important that I make evidence-based decisions and the evidence is really clear here.”