Legislation aimed at protecting natural environment from deer 'not fit for purpose', warn MSPs

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 3 April 2017 in News

Environment Committee warns that Scottish Natural Heritage is failing to provide leadership in managing the damaging impact of deer

Legislation aimed at protecting the natural environment from deer impacts is not fit for purpose, according to a new report from the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

The report, which outlines changes that must be made to the way in which wild deer are managed, monitored and culled if Scotland is to achieve its biodiversity targets by 2020, found that 50 per cent of Deer Management Groups are not delivering an effective plan on the ground.

MSPs also warned that Scottish Natural Heritage is failing to provide leadership in managing the damaging impact of deer.


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Deer are culled in Scotland to protect the landscape from the effects of overgrazing.

But while the report found that the overall deer population has been declining over the last ten years, it said they are still having a significant impact on the natural heritage.

Committee Convener Graeme Dey said: “The Committee welcomes the fact that some progress has been made but it’s clear that some Deer Management Groups and the Scottish Natural Heritage need to raise their game to deliver the step change needed.

“Habitats damaged by deer take a long time to recover. We simply can’t go on like this if we’re to achieve the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy targets.

“That’s why we’ve outlined recommendations for Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Government to act to protect and hopefully restore these habitats as a matter of urgency.”

Sue Walker, SNH's acting chairwoman, said: "Scotland's deer populations are a key part of our outstanding natural heritage.

"At this point, SNH hasn't seen the report, but we are grateful to the committee for the care and time it has spent considering the challenges of deer management across both the Scottish lowlands and uplands.

"We will of course be considering the conclusions carefully and look forward to the Cabinet Secretary's response to the report."

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