Tighter controls are being introduced on cattle being brought into Scotland, in a bid to ensure the country remains free of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

The Scottish Government announced changes to legislation will come into force from May 18, which will mean stricter testing of cattle prior to being moved.

Additional precautions will also be put in place for animals coming to Scotland from areas with a higher risk of infection.

And compensation payments for “unclean cattle” that have to be slaughtered for TB control purposes are to be reduced – with ministers hoping this will incentivise farmers to keep herds free of the disease.

The changes are being introduced after consultation, with Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon saying they were part of a “comprehensive, practical and proportionate programme of measures”.

READ MORE: Sacred cows: How we became obsessed with dairy farming

Ms Gougeon said: “Although Scotland is officially TB-free, cases do still occur – and breakdowns are extremely disruptive, upsetting and distressing for cattle owners.

“We are committed to maintaining Scotland’s low TB infection rates and OTF (officially TB free) status, which is crucial to the success of our cattle industry.

“These legislative changes are part of a comprehensive, practical and proportionate programme of measures to minimise the risks from all potential sources of infection and reduce the risk of disease spread as far as possible.”

READ MORE: Devastating bird flu outbreaks likely to continue for years, say scientists

Alasdair Macnab, vice president of the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), said: “Scottish cattle keepers are proud of Scotland’s officially TB free status and remain committed to keeping TB out of Scotland.

“NFUS welcomes Scottish Government’s commitment to continually reviewing the processes in place to protect Scotland’s cattle herd and to make sure they remain fit for purpose.

“The changes to the pre-movement test requirements and improved clarity around isolation are being introduced following a consultation process and should offer increased confidence to keepers.

“NFUS urges Scottish cattle keepers to remain aware that the greatest risk of introducing TB into Scotland is from cattle movements, and to continue to ensure their sourcing policies will minimise the risk to their own holding and the national herd.”