BASC is warning against tighter controls on deer population management in Scotland after a parliamentary report outlined recommendations that could radically affect the current voluntary approach.
Despite a decline in deer numbers in the last 10 years, the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Land Reform and Climate Change Committee has recommended consideration of a “statutory duty of sustainable deer management”.
This move, facilitated by the immediate effect of the use of powers under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, could mean that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) would intervene or lead on deer management planning, requiring land owners and deer managers to submit numbers to be culled.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland director, said: “This report recognises the progress that has been made in recent years with respect to sustainable deer management, both in the uplands and the lowlands. However, it also states that a “step change” is still needed especially with respect to reducing deer impacts on the natural heritage.
“The prospect of new legislation, moving away from the current voluntary approach, may see land managers compelled to cull more deer than they would have otherwise wished as well as a review of the current close season for red deer stags.
“We all recognise that SNH is not currently resourced to undertake much of this work and that many land managers will also need further support.
“BASC Scotland looks forward to engaging with the independent working group that is proposed to develop this new approach, representing not just professional deer stalkers but the many thousands of our members who are recreational stalkers and will be required to make a significant contribution to ongoing sustainable deer management.”
John Thornley OBE, who is BASC vice chairman, chairman of BASC’s deer stalking committee and a trustee of the Deer Initiative, said: “Whatever changes are made in the future need to combine not only the protection of our natural habitat but that of the welfare of the deer. The statutory approach will not necessary achieve the objectives here and more needs to be done to enhance our voluntary, self regulatory approach that stalkers across the UK can participate in.”