MSP urges council to ‘get round the table’ over bird flu fears

Dead birds, like these at Tayinloan, are causing concern to beach-goers.
Donald Cameron MSP believes talks could help ease fears about the impact avian flu could have on the local economy and tourism.

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A member of the Scottish Parliament is urging Argyll and Bute Council to ‘get round the table’ with landowners, business owners and other stakeholders in a bid to address the impact of a suspected avian influenza outbreak in Kintyre.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has written to Pippa Milne, the authority’s chief executive, amid growing concerns about the number of dead seabirds being washed up on the area’s shores.

Although bird flu is yet to be officially confirmed in Kintyre, positive cases have been identified on Islay and Arran, islands on either side of the peninsula.

Last week, in response to pressure from South Kintyre councillor Donald Kelly and Tayinloan resident Iain Logan, Argyll and Bute Council said Scotland’s councils were not responsible for clearing up and removing the birds, adding that it was not ‘in a position to do so’.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said it was the landowner’s responsibility to safely dispose of the carcasses as animal by-products; on public land, this is the local authority’s responsibility.

As a result of this dubiety, Mr Cameron has written to Ms Milne in a bid to reach a solution.

He said other councils, including North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire, had taken action to remove the dead birds in their areas, and Argyll and Bute should consider following suit.

He added that talks could help ease fears about the impact avian flu could have on the local economy and tourism.

‘I understand that Argyll and Bute Council has indicated that responsibility for the clearing of seabird carcasses lies with local landowners, and that much of this work has so far been carried out by local residents,’ said Mr Cameron.

‘I’m also led to believe that several other local authorities have taken action to safely clear seabird carcasses in order to protect the public, and to avoid instances of further contamination to other bird populations.

‘While I understand that Argyll and Bute Council is under severe budget constraints, and has to prioritise resources as best as possible, I also believe that it has a duty to intervene in this instance, and that it would be beneficial for all relevant stakeholders to get round the table to find an appropriate solution that puts public safety at its heart.

‘This is understandably a distressing situation for the affected communities, as well as having an impact on visitors to Argyll and Bute.’

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson told the Courier: ‘We have received Mr Cameron’s letter and will respond to him directly.’

The council urged people to continue following DEFRA guidance relating to avian influenza.