North MSPs on a powerful Holyrood committee have condemned the proposed closure of a specialist veterinary centre in Inverness.
Dave Thompson, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said that closing the Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Inverness veterinary disease surveillance centre (DSC) “would not be very clever”, while Mike Russell, Argyll and Bute, said there is an “open and shut case” to save the centre
They were speaking as senior staff from the SRUC set out their case for closing the centre to the Scottish Parliament’s rural affairs, climate change and environment committee.
Mike Wijnbeg, managing director of the SRUC’ commercial arm SAC Consulting Ltd and Brian Hosie, head of SAC Consulting’s vet services described the Inverness centre as “bottom of our league table” for post-mortems.
Closing the branch would mean farmers and crofters would have to transport carcases to centres in Thurso, Aberdeenshire or Perth for examination.
Mr Thomson said that farmers were unlikely to transport carcases further than 30 miles and argued that closing the centre would result in “no data” being recovered from Inverness and the west Highland areas.
He also suggested that the SRUC should consider relocating the service to Dingwall if they wanted to sell their current site at Drummondhill.
He said: “If there is no facility that is easily reached, then farmers, smallholders and crofters will struggle to get their animals to a DSC for investigation.
“I suggested that the Edinburgh DSC is closed instead, as there are alternatives within easy reach for those based in the Lothian area and the roads in Lothian are in much better condition than those in the north.
“To close the Inverness DSC goes far against what the Scottish Government are trying to do to build up the Highlands.
“I did suggest that, if the SRUC need to raise capital, they could relocate Inverness DSC to Dingwall and sell the land at Drummondhill, which would be very profitable for them, and release much needed funds into the research of animal diseases.”
In response Mr Hosie said: “One thing that came out of the consultation was that many vets and farmers feel that the existing site at Drummondhill is in an inappropriate location and that access is poor because the centre is in an urban situation beside a primary school.”
Mr Russell said “It is an open and shut case, I am sorry to be blunt but there are circumstances in which it is necessary to be blunt.
“You have to pay attention to what the people who use your service want, they do not want it to close.”
Mr Wijnberg told the committee that at present 49 people are based at the Inverness centre, carrying out about 250 post-mortems a year which is fewer than any others.