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BVA President Calls On Scottish Politicians To Deliver Funding For Veterinary Education In Scotland

1 year ago

18th May, 2023 09h50


In a speech at the Scottish Parliament this week (Tuesday 16 May), British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Malcolm Morley warned that the future of veterinary education in Scotland ‘sits on a precipice’ and called for adequate long-term funding to secure sustainable provision of inclusive veterinary education and, with it, the future of the country’s agrifood economy.

Addressing more than 80 guests at BVA’s Annual Scottish Dinner, Dr Morley highlighted that Scotland had long been at the forefront of veterinary education but that the impressive work of its vet schools, including the new development of SRUC’s school of veterinary medicine, needed crucial Government support to remain sustainable and to plug veterinary workforce challenges, especially in Scotland’s rural and remote areas. 

Dr Morley said: “Scotland has long been at the forefront of veterinary education and is home to two of the oldest veterinary schools in the UK. The exciting development of SRUC’s School of Veterinary Medicine is timely, offering a new model and aiming to increase access to the profession and encourage graduates to stay in rural areas once qualified — complementing the impressive work already underway in Scotland’s existing vet schools.

“However, more than ever, it’s crucial that the Scottish Funding Council provides the necessary financial support. The reality is that current funding per Scottish vet student doesn’t meet the cost of providing this education — and while the vet schools have been increasingly resourceful in implementing innovative models, the future of veterinary education in Scotland sits on a precipice if sustainable long-term funding is not assured.”

Addressing guests including George Burgess, the Scottish Government’s Director of Agriculture and Rural Economy, MSPs, and key representatives from animal health and welfare organisations and colleagues from across the veterinary profession, Dr Morley also underlined the importance of investing in the people and infrastructure of crucial public sector veterinary services.

He said that central to this was the recognition that investing in people was not just about investing in vets, but other members of the vet-led team, such as vet techs, musculoskeletal professionals and equine dental technicians. Dr Morley called for Scottish Government to join BVA in lobbying Defra for urgent legislative reform of the “outdated” Veterinary Surgeons Act, which “doesn’t recognise these important roles or enable us to embrace the full potential of the wider veterinary team”. He also welcomed potential plans for a Scottish Veterinary Service and recognised the work of the Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services Scheme (HIVSS), and its coordinator Freda Scott-Park, in supporting veterinary provision to remote crofting communities.

Speaking about agricultural transition in Scotland, Dr Morley underlined that veterinary engagement will be key to its successful development and that it must support animal health and welfare and sustainability. He said: “The new agricultural policy offers the opportunity to harness the unique and trusted relationship which exists between vets and farmers, empowering collaboration to drive positive outcomes on all levels. Central to this is developing sustainable agricultural practices that minimise environmental impact and prioritise animal health and welfare. To enable this, we must ensure there is veterinary engagement and representation on key bodies such as the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board, AREOB, and safeguard animal health and welfare as a central component of agricultural transition — alongside our custodianship of the land.”

Turning to aquaculture, Dr Morley highlighted the recent publication of BVA’s position on UK sustainable finfish aquaculture and vets’ critical role in taking a One Health approach to it. “We’re calling for dynamic, consolidated regulation, with a more joined up approach to how new and existing fish farms achieve consent to build on a new site. We are also calling for improved research and development in the aquaculture sector – particularly around issues like the measurement of welfare outcomes and welfare at the time of slaughter.”

The BVA President ended his speech by thanking BVA Scottish Branch colleagues for their energy, commitment and expertise, as well as outgoing Scottish Branch President Romain Pizzi for his contributions. He welcomed Gareth Hateley to his new role as BVA Scottish Branch President.

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