Ash contamination reaches south west Scotland

Forestry Commission Scotland undertook a rapid survey of ash trees.
Forestry Commission Scotland undertook a rapid survey of ash trees.

A RAPID survey carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland has now been completed and revealed contamination in ash trees in south west Scotland.

There are seven sites confirmed at Knockmountain, near Kilmacolm and a private nursery in the North East of Scotland.

There are also confirmed sites near Castle Douglas, Carrbridge, Blairgowrie, Montrose and Eyemouth.

In the sample survey, which covered 80,000 kmsq and lasted five days, five per cent of the sites investigated showed potential symptoms of the disease and will now be revisited for further inspection and where necessary samples taken for testing.

As the disease only spreads in summer, typically during July and August, there is now a window of opportunity in which to obtain best scientific advice on the appropriate action to take, including how best to deal with infected sites.

There is no risk to human or animal health from this disease. There is no need to restrict public access to woodlands either, but members of the public are asked to behave responsibly to ensure that they do not inadvertently carry ash leaves from one woodland area to another.

Staff and contractors finished their survey ahead of schedule and on request, Forestry Commission Scotland was able to send around 15 staff to the north east of England to help FC England and DEFRA colleagues to complete a similar survey south of the border.

Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse said: “Although the rapid survey has been completed, and the results are to be cautiously welcomed, we still need to be vigilant and there is no room for complacency.

“To establish the extent of the disease, Forestry Commission Scotland has been carrying out a rapid survey involving inspecting 2,730 ash sites across Scotland.

“Action is also underway to trace the destination of plants sent out from potentially infected nurseries.

“Only 5 per cent of the sites visited in the rapid survey showed any potential symptoms meriting more detailed investigations and subsequent laboratory analysis and this work is on-going.

“In addition to the two sites already confirmed, a further five sites have so far been confirmed as being infected, bringing the total known confirmed cases to seven in Scotland. Further surveys, including more detailed surveys in areas around infected sites, will be needed before we can be confident about the full extent of the disease in Scotland. There is also the possibility of windborne spread of the disease from the continent and from infected sites elsewhere in these isles.

“I must congratulate all the staff and contractors who have rallied to help us respond to this situation. They have done a magnificent job, working round the clock and across the country to get us these initial results quickly and I am very grateful for their dedication and professionalism.” A meeting with key stakeholders in Scotland to discuss Chalara and the findings of the survey is to be hosted by Mr Wheelhouse sometime this week.

Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, briefed the Cabinet last week on the Chalara outbreak and initial findings of the survey.