Flawed analysis contained in a recent report on deer management risks damaging future collaboration in the sector, landowners have said.
The comments were made following a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform committee, where Scottish Land & Estates provided evidence to MSPs.
The organisation said that the substantial focus on deer numbers rather than impacts, coupled with doubts around SNH’s examination of socio-economic costs and benefits from deer, contributed to a situation where estates and deer management groups were ‘exasperated’ that their substantial voluntary efforts had not been given time to bear fruit.
Karen Ramoo, Policy Officer (Conservation & Wildlife Management) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Despite the best efforts of the sector in reforming deer management practices and structures, the SNH report published last month has left landowners and estates exasperated that unnecessary change is being pursued once again.
“It was clear that reform had been needed within deer management but it is frustrating that the substantial modernisation work subsequently undertaken by the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) has been called into question before it has had the chance to fully take hold.
“For our members, it is particularly frustrating when we have limited confidence in the conclusions on deer numbers and densities, particularly as data has been used from an incomplete report from the James Hutton Institute (JHI). We see deer numbers as the focus of the SNH report rather than the impact of deer grazing, with the report also failing to differentiate grazing impacts from other herbivores such as sheep and hares.
“Allied to this, SNH claim that high social and economic costs of deer management outweigh the benefits – yet once again fail to provide any robust data to back up this assertion. The report quotes figures from a separate report on the overall economic value of deer stalking to the Scottish economy – but chooses to disregard other statistics from the same publication which leads to no recognition for the multiplier effect of things like stalkers and guests spending in the local community.
“Creating new powers for the management of deer at this point in time would be a backward step – especially since statutory powers of intervention already exist the 1996 Deer (Scotland) Act, provisions in the WANE Act 2011 and further supplemented by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 – not all of which have so far been fully used.
“Deer management work is of vital importance to Scotland’s natural heritage and to our economy. With most deer management group plans now in place, we feel a fair and realistic time period now needs to be given towards the implementation of these plans.
“We hope that the ECCLR Committee and Scottish Government will recognise that many deer managers feel disappointed and disheartened by the SNH report. It has done nothing to spur them on to fully embrace a new more balanced and inclusive approach to deer management and it has eroded a relationship of trust that was beginning to build and that is so vital to achieving the type of consensus and co-operation that will ultimately lead to positive outcomes for all concerned.”