7. I draw the attention of Parliament to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a partner in a farming business.
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the management of the geese and stoat populations in Orkney. (S5O-03717)
Scottish Natural Heritage met the Orkney goose management group in June 2019 to discuss agricultural damage caused by resident greylag geese. A range of actions were agreed to help the group to develop a management strategy.
Work has now commenced seeking to eradicate stoats from Orkney, as part of the Orkney native wildlife project. Stoats are a non-native species on Orkney, and sightings can be reported on the websites of the Orkney native wildlife project and Scottish Natural Heritage.
I know that the cabinet secretary and Scottish Natural Heritage are aware of the impact of goose numbers on Orkney. The frustration of local farmers has not been addressed yet, and a long-term sustainable solution needs to be put in place. However, the cabinet secretary will also be aware that some elements of the package of measures that are being considered will require funding for implementation. Is she looking for funding to support measures to combat geese numbers in Orkney being included in the Scottish Government budget?
I am always looking for more money for my portfolio; I hope that Jamie Halcro Johnston will take that as read.
However, the arrangement between SNH and the Orkney goose management group talks about a range of actions. I do not want to list them because I suspect that the member already knows what they are.
I understand the real problem that is developing. Historically, greylags have been a migratory species, but there is now a population that is staying put: they have stopped travelling and have decided to take up residence. That is one of the factors that creates the problem. I reassure Jamie Halcro Johnston that we are keeping an eye on the matter and thinking very carefully about what can be done.
In the summer, I took up the offer from Douglas Paterson to see first hand the damage that is caused to crops and farmland in the east of Orkney’s Mainland. I acknowledge the work that has been done by SNH and others in the local group, but I extend the invitation, on behalf of Douglas Paterson and the local NFU Scotland, to the cabinet secretary to visit Orkney in the early part of next year to see first hand the damage that is being done to farm land in Orkney.