Holyrood committee hears of Hebridean geese problem

Hebridean islands are seeing a huge rise in greylag geese numbers, according to the Scottish Crofting Federation. Photograph: SCF. NO F06 Greylag Geese
Hebridean islands are seeing a huge rise in greylag geese numbers, according to the Scottish Crofting Federation. Photograph: SCF. NO F06 Greylag Geese

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Crofters in the Western Isles are being completely ‘overrun’ by the massive numbers of greylag geese, according to Patrick Krause, chief executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation.

Mr Krause was speaking at last week’s Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee meeting at Holyrood, when a petition lodged in 2013 by the federation on the control of wild goose numbers was considered again by MSPs, including SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan.

During the meeting, Mr Allan made the point that this is an issue where those working in agriculture and environmentalists are actually on the same side, as the goose population in crofting areas needs controlled both for the sake of crofters’ livelihoods and to protect the islands’ unique biodiversity.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan. NO F20 Alasdair Allan MSP
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

Mr Allan also noted that many people may not appreciate the potential scale of the task for crofters and villages of attempting to try and control the geese themselves.

With greylag geese having more than trebled in number in Uist, for example, over the past decade, the allocation of adequate funding levels to bring down the geese numbers to a manageable level is essential, he said.

Mr Krause remarked during the morning’s proceedings: ‘We are completely overrun, the numbers are just way too high, and that really is the stem of the problem.

‘If we’d controlled them from five years ago or seven years ago when we had the numbers at a more practical level, we wouldn’t be in this situation.’

Commenting following the committee meeting, Mr Allan said: ‘Crofters across our islands are facing increasing challenges and financial strain as a result of the continued damage to their crofts by the out-of-control greylag goose population.

‘I look forward to hearing from NatureScot about what additional support can be put in place for crofters in Scotland’s islands to properly tackle this issue as a matter of urgency.’

The committee agreed that the petition be continued and that they would write to both the Scottish Government and NatureScot to request an update on the timeline and likely scope for their adaptive goose management project.

The petition will be considered again by the RAINE committee once these responses have been received.