THE first case of mad cow disease in Scotland for a decade has been confirmed in a beef herd in Aberdeenshire.

The Scottish Government said it has restricted animal movements at the unnamed farm in Huntly as a precaution after the identification of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

Ministers stressed the five-year-old animal did not enter the food chain, and the response was standard for a case of “classical BSE”, which did not represent a threat to human health.

The animal’s offspring have been traced on and will now be culled.

All the animals concerned are on the same farm.

The last case of BSE in Scotland was in November 2008, and ministers have previously argued Scotland should be classed as a country of “negligible risk” to boost beef exports.

One or two cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency is now investigating the source of the Aberdeenshire outbreak.

The case was identified as a result of strict control measures, and Food Standards Scotland said it had confirmed there is no risk to human health.

All animals over four years of age that die on a farm are routinely tested for BSE.

Control measures to protect consumers include the removal of specified risk material such as the spinal column, brain and skull from carcasses.

Proteins called prions involved in BSE are suspected of causing the fatal degenerative condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease if transmitted to humans.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Following confirmation of a case of classical BSE in Aberdeenshire, I have activated the Scottish Government’s response plan to protect our valuable farming industry, including establishing a precautionary movement ban being placed on the farm.

“While it is important to stress that this is standard procedure until we have a clear understanding of the diseases origin, this is further proof that our surveillance system for detecting this type of disease is working.

"Be assured that the Scottish Government and its partners stand ready to respond to any further confirmed cases of the disease in Scotland.”

Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “While it is too early to tell where the disease came from in this case, its detection is proof that our surveillance system is doing its job. "We are working closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to answer this question, and in the meantime, I would urge any farmer who has concerns to immediately seek veterinary advice.

Ian McWatt, Director of Operations in Food Standards Scotland, said: “There are strict controls in place to protect consumers from the risk of BSE, including controls on animal feed, and removal of the parts of cattle most likely to carry BSE infectivity.

“Consumers can be reassured that these important protection measures remain in place and that Food Standards Scotland Official Veterinarians and Meat Hygiene Inspectors working in all abattoirs in Scotland will continue to ensure that in respect of BSE controls, the safety of consumers remains a priority.

"We will continue to work closely with Scottish Government, other agencies and industry at this time.”

North East Tory MSP Peter Chapman said: "This is a potentially extremely serious issue for farming in Scotland, and particularly the north east.

"We’ve been free of BSE for many years, so this is a very concerning development.

"Now we need everyone to work together to find out everything they can about this case.

"The good news is this disease isn’t transmissible between cattle in contact with each other, so there is no risk to neighbouring farms.

“But we need to know all about the animal, where it’s been, where its offspring are, and offer as many reassurances as we possibly can that this is a one-off instance.”

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “The first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) being detected in Scotland in a decade will greatly concern farmers across the country.

“It is vital that the Scottish Government takes speedy and effective measures to reassure and protect the industry and the communities it supports.

“Scottish beef is amongst some of the finest in the world and is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to our economy.

“The Cabinet Secretary must keep Parliament and the public informed of developments.”