Deer Numbers (Support for Sustainable Management)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting communities to sustainably manage and reduce deer numbers. (S6O-03092)

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Effective deer management is vital to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crises. Our consultation paper, “Managing deer for climate and nature”, which was published on 5 January, seeks views on our proposals for new deer legislation.

It is important that local stalkers are able to contribute to deer management and that the benefits of venison as a healthy and nutritious food are available to communities.

We are piloting projects that increase community involvement in deer management by providing £80,000 to create new venison larders, and we are working with NatureScot to support community deer management at Creag Meagaidh.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

Community models of deer management are common in many European countries and have recently been piloted in Scotland. Can the minister provide an update on that pilot and any lessons that have been learned? Can she say whether there is scope to roll out community-based models on publicly owned land throughout Scotland and incentivise communities to participate in that vital work?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The Creag Meagaidh pilot provides local residents with opportunities to develop deer management skills. Once they are qualified, it provides them free access to stalk deer on the reserve. We have already seen a successful reduction in deer numbers there, and participants have given enthusiastic feedback on the pilot’s benefits.

I am keen that we learn from the pilot and support more community-led deer management schemes, which is why I am pleased that a proposal is being developed in the Cairngorms to increase deer management in the national park. The proposal includes trialling new incentives and providing support for local venison.

Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

I welcome the minister’s answer to Colin Beattie.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation Scotland has a flagship policy that calls on the Scottish Government to allow trained local deer stalkers to carry out deer management on publicly owned land. It will enable a sustainable food source to be harvested, processed and consumed locally; protect the environment; drive and improve economic productivity; and enhance community knowledge of deer impacts and benefits.

Will the minister implement BASC’s community deer management proposals as part of addressing the significant challenges of deer legislation in this parliamentary session?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

As I said in my previous answer, I am pleased with the result of the pilot scheme on community-led deer management, I am excited about the work that is under way in the Cairngorms national park and I look forward to expanding the programme, so that we can have more community benefits from our deer management plans.