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Measures ensuring effective and sustainable deer management, which will help tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, have been announced following an independent review of deer management in Scotland.
The proposals include phasing out the use of lead ammunition to cull deer, modernisation of existing deer legislation, the development of robust deer management plans and enhanced monitoring of deer numbers.
Consideration has also been given to the potential welfare implications where densities are particularly high, with a focus on how sustainable deer management can better benefit the welfare of wild deer.
Rural Affairs and Natural Environment Minister Ben Macpherson MSP said: ‘As the scale of tackling climate change and the biodiversity crisis increases, and the measures needed to address these challenges become ever more necessary, it is evident that a significant stepping-up of deer management efforts are required.
‘In considering our response to the Deer Working Group’s recommendations, the impacts of deer on our climate change targets and on biodiversity have been the main drivers of our policy on deer management; alongside their socio-economic value as a resource and as a much-loved and iconic species, forming part of the Scottish rural environment, character and landscape.
‘The report also makes recommendations intended to improve the welfare of wild deer and, alongside other evidence, we have given careful consideration to the findings of the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.
‘As Scotland’s deer authority, NatureScot has a pivotal role to play in the implementation of these recommendations and will, alongside the Scottish Government, be engaging further with stakeholders on many of these key issues in the next parliamentary term.
‘I would like to thank The Deer Working Group for its significant commitment in compiling such a comprehensive report.
‘The Scottish Government supports, and has accepted, the vast majority of the 99 recommendations.
‘Deer management is a complex area, and consultation with stakeholders will continue as the practical implementation of the measures announced today are developed.’
Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot’s director of sustainable growth, said: ‘We welcome the Scottish Government’s response, which highlights that sustainable management of Scotland’s deer is vital if we are to enhance biodiversity and achieve a net zero future. NatureScot, as Scotland’s Nature Agency, will continue to lead partners and communities to work together to achieve these goals.
‘Deer are an iconic species in Scotland, but also an important source of revenue for land managers.
‘There are sizeable challenges in shifting the rural economy away from its dependence on traditional use of the land towards a nature-rich economy, with greater focus on woodland creation and peatland restoration.
‘This will impact many people in rural areas, and it is vital that those who live and work on the land see this as an opportunity to steer, drive and achieve positive change, and they are empowered through vital support such as local deer management groups.’
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which said it is the largest body representing professional deer managers in Scotland, issued a statement in response.
Chairman Alex Hogg MBE said: ‘Tax-payer forestry and woodland schemes are installing Scotland’s next wealthy landlords.
‘The direction is clear; iconic deer stand in the way. Wildlife and green groups will be rejoicing.
‘We need input on male and female deer seasons to ensure respect remains for the species and the deer managers doing the culling. Their mental welfare wasn’t considered by this report.
‘Sanctioning night scopes for culls will be endorsing something illegal across much of Europe.
‘Asking deer managers to cut large moving calves from the stomachs of pregnant hinds into mid-April must be off the table if the Scottish Government wants to avoid public distaste.’