The Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) has given a “cautious welcome” to the Scottish Government response to the independent Deer Working Group (DWG) report.
Richard Cooke, Chair, ADMG said:
“Whilst we will now examine each of government’s responses to the DWG report’s 99 recommendations in detail we can, I think, say that today’s announcement is far more measured and nuanced than we had anticipated. We agreed with some of the recommendations in the report, particularly those intended to tidy up the existing legislation, but opposed others, as communicated to government at the time. It is therefore pleasing to note that some of those to which we objected have not been accepted by government.
“For example, we are relieved to see that the close season remains in place for females. The prospect that that might have been removed has caused considerable consternation through deer management ranks. The extension of the season for male deer will be a concern to some of our membership however who will have welfare concerns if heavy culling takes place during winter months. We are also pleased that government has rejected the concept that deer management can be deployed at Local Authority level using a panel-based approach. Indeed, government’s endorsement of the Deer Management Group (DMG) system for the upland red deer range is good to see.
“In terms of immediate concerns, on deer densities, whilst the government response states that “adopting a blanket density limit across Scotland would not be appropriate” it then accepts the DWG figure of 10/sq km as a general upper limit for areas of open range in the Highlands. In fact, the average density is already below that figure. Would it not be preferable that all DMGs should continue to work to population densities that maintain deer at a level that is sustainable locally as is now the case with Deer Management Plan population models? Account must also be taken of other herbivores including sheep (which outnumber deer 2:1 across the Highlands), feral goats, hares and rabbits which are routinely overlooked if real progress is to be made in understanding sustainable herbivore management in the round.
“We are also concerned that government has accepted the recommendation of introducing a planned cull approval system. So far as the open range is concerned this is effectively what already happens. The present system of cull setting by DMGs using deer management plan population models takes account of all management objectives and environmental and other public interest considerations and NatureScot staff are fully involved in this process.
“We acknowledge that the climate emergency now overrides all other policy when it comes to Scotland’s environment, and our members have committed to climate and biodiversity action across the board – peatland restoration, woodland planting and ongoing reduction in deer densities where necessary. In this respect, and to be able to take forward the new green agenda we recognise that changes are required and indeed are already happening.
“We understand that any legislative change for example to the Deer (Scotland) Act will be the subject of stakeholder consultation and scrutiny in the next Parliament and we look forward to engaging in that process.”