Separate animal health budgets for England, Scotland and Wales to promote animal welfare and tackle disease outbreaks have been cautiously welcomed by equestrian bodies.
Since devolution, Wales and Scotland have managed their own policy decisions, but from 1 April they will also choose how to spend animal health funds.
England will have £105m to spend, while Scotland will receive £21.03m and Wales £21.02m over the tax year.
But these figures will decrease over the next four years, in line with Defra’s budget cuts.
Josh Slater, council member for the British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA), said: “This is a logical step to join up policy making and budgeting and a clear benefit for Scotland and Wales.
“But it is essential that we maintain our high level of biosecurity. Horses are a global business and we must be confident in our own defences.”
The two outbreaks of equine infectious anaemia, also known as swamp fever, in the UK last year (news, 16 September 2010) could have been a major issue if Defra had not been able to intervene quickly, he added.
Professor Tim Morris, chairman of the British Horse Industry Confederation, said: “This decision will have an effect on long-term policy-making as each country has different priorities.
“Scotland tends to put more focus on farm animals while Wales is more likely to spend the money on horses.
“In an outbreak, there is no doubt that each country would work together as they have in the past. However we could see a differing approach to how quickly control measures were lowered.”
Muriel Colquhoun, president of Horsescotland (formerly the Scottish Equestrian Association), said: “It is essential that there is joined-up thinking in place. Disease does not stop at the borders.”
In a statement to parliament, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: “Research and surveillance will continue to be centrally funded to maintain scientific capacity and capability in Great Britain.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (31 March, 2011)