Cllr Donald Crichton, Chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee, has written to Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, to express concern with goose management in the Outer Hebrides - an issue which the Comhairle’s Crofting Joint Consultative Committee, which is comprised of representative organisations including the Comhairle, Community Land Scotland and the Scottish Crofting Federation, discussed at its most recent meeting on 29 August 2017.
In the letter, Cllr Crichton states: "The Committee was hugely concerned by the apparent retreat by the Scottish Government from funding goose management schemes such as the Adaptive Management of Greylag Geese. As you will be aware geese are causing severe damage to grass and crops across the Outer Hebrides, particularly in sensitive habitats such as the Uist machair. This, in turn, is having a detrimental impact on crofter’s livelihoods.
Our experience in the Outer Hebrides demonstrates that goose management schemes, when properly funded and managed, can effectively control populations of geese thereby reducing the incidence and severity of agricultural damage experienced by crofters.
With the Adaptive Management Pilot having come to an end, we have been advised that a £10,000 Challenge Fund – to be shared between four areas, Coll and Tiree, the Uists, Lewis and Harris and Orkney – is the only central avenue open to enable us to further control / reduce the numbers of greylag geese in the area. This funding is insufficient and will not cover the costs of running a scheme in one area, let alone the required shooting and scaring efforts required across our respective crofting communities.
The Committee was also disappointed to note that licences to sell goose meat are no longer being granted. Even if funding were in place, a restriction on selling goose meat renders it impossible for any management scheme to become sustainable in the long term. Without a licencing scheme and adequate funding, it is inevitable that the goose population will rise to the further detriment of croft land, our communities and our already fragile local economy.
It is essential that the Government works with us on solutions to this issue. I would therefore be keen that we meet in order to discuss and work collectively towards an enduring solution to this perennial problem. I appreciate that you will have a busy diary, but I would be grateful if you could find a slot for a meeting at your very earliest convenience.
I look forward to hearing from you and to the establishment of a positive dialogue."