Friday 23 August 2013


In the Herald newspaper of 23rd August, 2012, Rob Gibson SNP MSP and Convener of Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee called for a system of statutory deer management in Scotland which brings the current voluntary system under parliamentary control. In response, Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The views expressed on this by Mr Gibson have clearly come from one viewpoint and the one example in Assynt where the John Muir Trust were seeking to impose a higher cull target to carry out tree regeneration. “Whilst this may have been a laudable imperative on John Muir Trust ground, their refusal to entertain fencing, to properly consult with their neighbours and to discuss alternatives, meant their laudable imperative then became a major problem for everyone else and was clearly going to have a negative socio-economic affect, putting jobs at risk.“In unusual cases such as this, there exists a mechanism within the WANE Act where SNH can intervene where there are clear and sound socio-economic reasons to do so.“This one area, however, is not wholly representative of the situation across Scotland where the voluntary deer management system is operating well and, in recent years, has been working better thanks to greater co-operative working with SNH.“Country sport activities, including deer stalking, bring major economic value to Scotland, as well as preserving employment and opportunities in areas where there would otherwise be greater migration without a healthy industry. This is not something we should be ashamed of or decry and we certainly wouldn’t with any other high value Scottish industry.“One of the problems in introducing a statutory system, for example, is that when responsibility reverts to public bodies, it is very difficult for the public purse to be able to match private investment and introducing such a system would place a heavy resource burden on SNH and the tax payer at a time when there are many other priorities.“Policing it would be extremely difficult because deer roam across boundaries. They are not contained within certain rivers or watercourses like fish are, for example.“While these aspects alone would make such a system highly problematic to work, there is also the major problem of perception.“Strangling the countryside with further red tape is the last thing that the people who work there every day would want or need and many would deem it another centralized attack on their way of life.“Taking decisions away from the people who have the requisite knowledge to make them and placing them in the hands of those they deem to have less, is hard to justify. “What you could end up with is the worst of both worlds. An unpopular, inflexible system operating at high cost to the public purse which doesn’t solve the problem it was set up to address.”