Wednesday, 13 November 2013

SGA GIVES EVIDENCE ON DEER ISSUES

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg was at Holyrood today, giving evidence to the Rural Affairs Committee on the subject of how deer are managed in Scotland.The SGA, which represents 5300 working gamekeepers, stalkers, wildlife managers and rangers in Scotland believes rural jobs and the viability of fragile communities will be at great risk if local people have their input on deer issues removed.Deer stalking and deer management supports 2520 jobs in Scotland and, at present, local people with an interest in deer in their area are represented on deer management groups.These groups take into account local biodiversity, designated site requirements, jobs, the welfare of the local deer population and community viability.“We were glad to have the chance to make the case for workers in remote communities. There is a real fear that if we lose the balancing input of working people when it comes to deer management, jobs will be lost and local businesses in these communities will suffer," said Mr. Hogg.“There was a lot of contesting of figures regarding how many deer we actually have in Scotland at the present time and SNH will be able to present the accurate picture when they give evidence. “What was interesting was that, in all the talk about the conservation aspects, little was heard- other than from ourselves and the people who work every day in deer and wildlife management- about communities or jobs in these areas.“The argument has been made that a statutory deer management system would create more gamekeeper jobs. I have been a keeper for about 40 years and previously worked for the Forestry Commission and I can tell you, this is not the case.“Full-time stalker jobs in these areas, and the wildlife and habitat management that goes with that, will be removed. In their place, contract stalkers will be flown in to shoot as many deer as is deemed to be required and will then leave the community to deal with the consequences and impacts on their businesses.“There will be nothing like the same level of concern for the socio-economics, the people of that community, or the welfare of the deer, which will simply become a number.“A lot of progress has been made with the voluntary system, particularly when you consider 84 per cent of designated features on designated sites are now in favourable or improving condition - a figure which has been omitted in much of the debate so far.“We believe the current system best balances biodiversity, deer welfare, local jobs and community socio-economics.”