Wildlife charities including the John Muir Trust have backed calls from a member of the Scottish Government’s environment committee for more deer culling powers in a bid to protect woodland and habitat.
Under the current system, the management of deer numbers in Scotland is mainly carried out by landowners on a voluntary basis.
But under MSP Michael Russell’s suggested amendments to the controversial Land Reform Bill, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) would be given stronger powers to urge landowners to take action.
Environmental charities say that in some areas of Scotland, high deer numbers are causing damage to internationally important habitats, ancient woodlands and peat bogs.
The rural affairs, climate change and environment committee believes the voluntary deer management scheme is not tackling the issue and has urged the Scottish Government to consider strengthening its approach to culling them.
Mr Russell’s proposals have been backed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, Cairngorms Campaign, Ramblers Scotland, John Muir Trust and Woodland Trust Scotland. His suggested changes to the Land Reform Bill call for more powers to be given to SNH to ensure deer populations are better controlled by deer management groups to “protect the public interest”.
The radical Land Reform Bill – which includes plans to transfer one million acres of land into community ownership by 2020 – has been widely criticised, with claims it would put thousands of jobs in rural Scotland under threat.
Scottish Government policy is to plant 10,000 hectares of new woodland across Scotland each year until 2022. Gamekeepers claim that organisations are turning to culling in order to prevent deer from eating and destroying young trees.