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Union Calls for Clarity on Species Debate

Reckless introductions threaten farming, crofting and existing ecology

Faced with a number of calls for large scale predators including bears, wolves and lynx to be introduced to the Scottish countryside, the Union is looking to Scotland’s politicians and the lead agency, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to show stronger leadership in this area.

The Union will meet Scotland’s Environment Minister Aileen McLeod in the coming weeks to discuss species management.  The Minister is currently deciding on the introduction of beavers to Scotland – something which NFU Scotland has consistently opposed.

NFU Scotland Vice President Andrew McCornick said: “The landscape of modern-day Scotland is a rich mosaic. Although agriculture is the biggest single land use, our countryside provides food, forestry, tourism, renewables, field sports and environmental goods.  The Scottish public value the contribution that farmers and land managers make and the access that they have to that beautiful, managed environment across the whole of Scotland.

“However, recent history has taught us that any species introduction – whether legal or illegal – can have an impact on the many benefits that the Scottish countryside currently delivers.

“There are now farmers and crofters in some of Scotland’s more remote areas losing lambs on a regular basis to sea eagles.  With a ministerial decision on beavers pending, there are farmers on Tayside producing food on some of Scotland’s most productive land but seeing their efforts literally undermined by beaver damage to long-established drainage systems and waterways.

“The route to licensing species introductions, and the stakeholder consultation that would take place around such a plan, is in the hands of Scottish Natural Heritage.  As part of the National Species Reintroduction Forum, our members can be reassured that NFU Scotland will have a voice in that.

“While we appreciate that there is an application process and a code around species introduction to be followed, we feel that now is the time for both Scottish Government and SNH to step out of the shadows on this debate and give a clear steer to farmers, crofters and land managers of where their thoughts lie on the possibility of species like wolves, bears and lynx being released here.

“Farmers are justifiably concerned at what the introduction of predators could mean for their livestock, particularly the many thousands of sheep kept on Scotland’s hills and uplands.

“However, new species will also affect Scotland’s existing biodiversity and ecosystems. Many farmers and land managers are already working with other Scottish stakeholders on priority Scottish species such as wildcats, capercaillie and red squirrel and protecting and managing existing wildlife habitats.

“I genuinely believe that Scotland’s biodiversity is in good health, and farmers are at the heart of delivering that.  

“Scotland’s focus must be on integrating land use and the environment in a balanced way through the conservation of the species that we have.  

“That message must not be lost in headline-grabbing calls to create an imaginary Scottish landscape that hasn’t properly existed for many centuries. Such moves could be very damaging – economically and ecologically – to Scotland’s already flourishing environment.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 135/15


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