MSPs on the Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee continued to hear evidence this week in their review of deer management in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) was joined on the witness panel by Cairngorms National Park, Forestry Estate Scotland and John Milne (former Chair of Deer Commission Scotland).
SNH was generally supportive of the current voluntary approach to deer management and said that the package of measures which are currently in place to address the impacts of deer to the natural heritage can provide the basis for a modern approach to the management of Scotland’s common deer resource. However, Robbie Kernoghan for SNH said more needs to be done by land owners and DMGs to demonstrate a willingness to look beyond private management objectives and demonstrate that the existing voluntary approach can deliver sustainable deer management. SNH also highlighted the resource constraints within the public sector bodies, such as SNH, which present a challenge to support the enhanced action we are promoting.
The panel all warned against the reliance on statistics and deer counts which are inherently unreliable, but referred to the need to consider local impacts of deer. The difficulty in achieving an acceptable balance between economic, social and environment was recognised. SNH indicated the forthcoming review of the overarching deer strategy (Scotland’s Wild Deer: A National Approach)could provide a way to give a clearer steer on the weight that should be given to different Government objectives, and in particular to ensure that the role that ecosystem health plays in underpinning sustainable economic growth is fully recognised.
SNH also advocated improved dispute resolution mechanisms, with wider use of Deer Panels and mediation services.
The Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) was praised by the majority of the panel (with the exception of John Milne) for the positive contribution it has made in supporting and advising Deer Management Groups (DMGs) in implementing the Code of Practice and the deer management planning process. However it was recognised that more needs to be done and that some DMGs should be encouraged to broaden membership or otherwise ensure the constitution of DMGs includes reference to other land interests, including agriculture, forestry, local communities and the natural heritage.
The problem of adequate resources for DMGs was also stressed and the need to enhance support (financial or personnel) to help develop integrated land management plans, with greater clarity of deer management objectives and outcomes.
In its written evidence SNH also recommended promotion of wider uptake of voluntary accreditation schemes, such as the Wildlife Estates Scotland, and link these to existing public funding mechanisms.
While SNH is generally content with the current regime (voluntary system, code of practice and enforcement measures in legislation), calls for greater regulation of deer management were reiterated by John Milne who garnered sympathy from some MSPs. Funding for such a system was raised and the potential ways to generate revenue included a suggestion from Rob Gibson MSP to re-introduce sporting rates.
To watch the evidence session click here...
The written evidence provided by all the panellists can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_RuralAffairsClimateChangeandEnvironmentCommittee/Meeting%20Papers/Meeting_Papers_2013_11_20.pdf
The Official Report is not yet published but should be available from Monday 25th November here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/29878.aspx