Finding the Common Ground on Sustainable Deer Management

Finding the Common Ground is a joint project between the Association of Deer Management Groups and Scottish Environment LINK. It intends to develop better relations across the deer sector in upland Scotland to find shared solutions that will support the implementation of the Scottish Government’s action in the light of their response to the Deer Working Group recommendations.

For decades, relationships between some of the groups involved in upland deer management have been characterised by low trust and conflict. If we are to genuinely navigate the changing priorities for upland deer management, we urgently need to understand, and then address, the barriers to workable relationships.

After about a year of preparation and consultation, the project kicked off at the end of August 2022, with a residential workshop for around 40 stakeholders representing different perspectives across the deer management sector – including private landowners and managers, deer stalkers, the Scottish Government and statutory agencies, public landowners, environmental NGOs, the agricultural sector, foresters and community trusts. The group was facilitated by Centre for Good Relations, an independent not-for-profit company whose core work is “civic mediation”, involving facilitation and dialogue to work through issues of contention and dispute, and addressing social conflicts and tensions.

Over the two days the group picked apart some of the main issues that were blocking constructive dialogue between stakeholders, particularly around leadership and communication, addressing the impacts for people working on the ground, accountable dialogue and science and information. Over the following year, these issues will be tackled through further work via the stakeholders themselves, as well as bringing in others.

Tom Turnbull, Chair of ADMG said,

“At a time where land management objectives are rapidly changing the Association of Deer Management Groups welcomes the opportunity to work closely with deer managers from a wide variety of backgrounds to help deliver deer management on a landscape scale across our membership. The Finding the Common Ground Project has been a step in the right direction and we hope it will help to facilitate collaborative deer management in the Highlands.”

Alan McDonnell from ScotLINK’s Deer Working Group said,

“The deer debate in Scotland has been stuck in conflict for too long, and we can no longer afford to allow mistrust to undermine our response to the nature and climate crises.  Achieving the spirit of collaboration so badly needed in deer management will be challenging, but the progress made so far is encouraging and we’re looking forward to seeing where this can lead.”

This project is separate from, but is intended to complement, the processes that the Scottish Government is leading to implement the Deer Working Group recommendations. It should be seen as an enabling process to help identify and implement workable solutions on the ground, and address the greater need for collaboration that the Scottish Government has acknowledged will be needed.

With thanks to NatureScot, Woodland Trust, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Association of Deer Management Groups, Scottish Environment LINK and Future Woodlands Scotland for their generous funding for this project.

More information:
Finding the Common Ground Project Brief
Summary of FtCG workshop, August 2022

Julie Stoneman
Chair of Finding the Common Ground Steering Group