Plans to scrap out of season deer cull to be debated in Scottish Parliament following successful motion
Plans to scrap the closed season for deer culls hit an unexpected road block after a motion was passed by the rural affairs committee.
Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain had moved a motion to annul the proposals at the rural affairs and islands committee on Wednesday.
The committee members voted four in favour and four against, with the convener Finlay Carson’s casting vote allowing the motion to be agreed by five votes to four.
The proposals put forward by the SNP and Greens involved removing the statutory closed seasons on male deer, which vary depending on the species. For red deer, the closed season runs from the end of October to the end of June.
Mr Mountain had set up a petition last month urging for opposition to the plans, which he said would lead to increased suffering for male deer and non-selective management.
He said the plans to reduce the national deer herd should be about “good management, not just culling”.
Co-leader of the Scottish Greens Lorna Slater defended her party’s proposals during the committee meeting. She said the steps were required to reduce the impact deer have on the environment and to shift the “administrative burden” for NatureScot, which manages the licencing to manage numbers.
Ms Slater said nearly half of the male deer population was already culled out of season (48 per cent). She said the proposals were based off recommendations made by the Deer Working Group – an independent working body established by the Scottish Government in 2017 to review the existing statutory and non-statutory arrangements for the management of wild deer in Scotland.
According to the group’s figures, there were some 500,000 individual deer, both roe and red, in the 1990s. By 2020, this has increased to one million.
According to a NatureScot report, some 50,000 more deer need to be killed a year to meet biodiversity targets. The Scottish Government said spiralling numbers were negatively affecting the land due to trampling and overgrazing.
The vote to annul the Scottish Government’s plans were supported by Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesperson Rachael Hamilton, who said existing closed seasons “serve Scotland well” and that Ms Slater must “seriously reflect” on her “misguided plans”.
Mr Mountain said he was “delighted that common sense has won out” following the vote, adding: “Lorna Slater’s proposals to reduce the deer herd would have resulted in non-selective killing and were completely excessive.
"It was clear from her responses at committee that she was wildly out-of-touch in relation to deer management and didn’t understand the consequences of what she was proposing.
“It would have led to increased suffering for male deer and the potential for uncontrollable slaughter.
“Lorna Slater and the SNP-Green Government need to go back to the drawing board and come back with a much more thoughtful approach.”
Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: “There are already mechanisms whereby people can control male deer out of season, where necessary, by applying to NatureScot.
"The abolition of the season was unnecessary. It was an animal welfare downgrade and it was pushed through without proper consultation with deer managers. This is the correct outcome.”
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