Landowning charities disappointed by block on deer reform

13 Sep 2023

The LINK Deer Group of environmental NGO landowning organisations today expressed its disappointment at the decision by the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee to block a key part of the Scottish Government’s move towards a modernised system of deer management.

Following a debate, the committee was split down the middle, with four MSPs supporting a motion from Edward Mountain MSP to annul a Scottish Government amendment that would end close seasons for male deer; and four MSPs opposing the blocking motion. We understand that the proposed reform to remove male deer seasons will now go to the full Scottish Parliament for a vote and where we firmly hope that it will be approved. 

The Scottish Government’s amendment to existing legislation was one of a number of measures proposed by the independent expert Deer Working Group to address the growing ecological, economic and social impacts of Scotland’s high deer population. Most of these recommendations were accepted by Scottish Government.

“As the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity made clear to the committee, Scotland’s deer population has quadrupled in the sixty years since male close seasons were first introduced,” said Duncan Orr-Ewing, the Convener of the Scottish Environment LINK Deer Task Force.

“At a time when we face a climate and nature emergency, we need urgent action to reduce Scotland’s one million strong deer population. We will not meet our targets for peatland restoration, woodland expansion, and biodiversity without taking the necessary action to reduce grazing pressures on our land. This is also firmly emphasised in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy”

Mike Daniels of the John Muir Trust said: “For decades, there has been a growing consensus that we need strong action to reduce deer numbers to protect our natural heritage, curb damage to crops and forestry, reduce road accidents.

“Four out of five political parties included in their 2021 Scottish election manifestos a commitment to implement the recommendations of the Deer Working Group.  It is disappointing, therefore, that at the very first hurdle, a key recommendation of the Group has been voted down.

“This is essentially about private versus public interest. There is no biological or animal welfare reason for maintaining close seasons for male deer. The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission and major animal welfare organisations have scrutinised the need for this change and have raised no objections to the proposal.”

The change would not oblige any landowner to cull male deer all year round.  It would simply make it easier for land managers to choose the option of sustainable deer management for environmental, social and economic benefit to the nation.   


Image: Mae Mackay

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