Deer Management Strategic Board minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Deer Management Strategic Board on 19 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Hugh Dignon, Scottish Government Nature Division
  • Donald Fraser, NatureScot
  • Jamie Hammond, NatureScot
  • Donald Henderson, Chair, Deputy Director, Scottish Government Nature Division
  • Simon Hodgson, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Simon Jones, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
  • Grant Moir, Cairngorms National Park Authority 
  • Paul Roberts, NatureScot 
  • Bruce Sewell, Forestry and Land Scotland


  • Alan Hampson, Scottish Forestry
  • Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot
  • John Kerr, Scottish Government Agriculture Policy Division

Items and actions

Welcome and Review 

Donald welcomed everyone to the meeting.

The group agreed the minutes from the meeting of 8 March 2023. Action Point (SG) Robyn McCormack to publish the minutes of that meeting on the Scottish Government website now that they are agreed.

Outstanding Actions from Previous Meeting – 8 March 2023

The Board agreed to further develop and refine the vision statement at the next leadership session, crystallising the vision, binding the Board and providing clarity of intent. Update - The group agreed to prioritise developing a vision statement, involving the Director of Scottish Government, Nature Division. Grant Moir reiterated the bubble diagram he’d previously created. Discussed at meeting – in review.

To consider resource needs for workstream delivery for next Board meeting. Added to paper.

The board agreed to develop a communications and stakeholder engagement plan bringing together key messages, aligning from the vision and objectives. Specifically outlining year 1 opportunities, supported by FAQ on key topics. 12/09/22 - A detailed comms plan is required setting out a timeline for potential ministerial announcements and opportunities for engagement with stakeholders and interested parties. Discussed at meeting – in review. Colleagues in NS and SG have begun drafting this timeline.

The strategic steer from the board was to progress with approach 2, the legislation workstream agreed to take the steer away and reflect this in advice to Ministers. In Progress 

Agenda Item 3 – Regulation Timeline

NatureScot colleagues led the update on the regulation timeline and notified colleagues that section 7s were being undertaken in key priority areas. The group welcomed the update which built on discussions held previously during the day at the site visit looking at how deer were managed in the Flander’s Moss Nature Reserve.

The group acknowledged the differences between upland and lowland deer management, with agricultural damage being a big issue in lowland areas. NatureScot colleagues advised it was difficult for them to argue for section 7s and 8s to be applied in areas where no damage is being assessed in areas where there are no designated sites of public interest. With section 8s being applied there is more resource required. There is a need for the legislation to be changed to measure the on the ground productivity.

The Board agreed that it would be useful to keep Minister’s updated 3-4 times a year however there is sensitivities in notifying Minister’s about section 8s. The Board agreed to pull together a paper for Minister’s outlining what an increase in the regulation of deer management would mean administratively, politically and resource/delivery wise.

The group also agreed it would be good to get Ms Slater on a visit to an area where a section 7 has been applied during her summer tour.

Agenda Item 4 – Legislative Update

Hugh Dignon updated the board that the recommendations being progressed through secondary legislation were being laid before parliament w/c 19 June 2023 and that the suite of primary legislation options were submitted to Minister.

(Action Point) In terms of next steps the board requested to see the consultation before it is issued in order to defend the board position and policy.

Agenda Item 5 – Workstream Updates

The regulatory and legislation workstreams had already provided an update in the above agenda items. So the incentives and operational workstream chairs provided a verbal update on their workstream.

Incentive Workstream

The Incentive workstream chair provided an update on the incentives workstream noting that an increase in deer management would require behaviour change from private land owners alongside incentives. The workstream group had worked on this as much as possible but noted that input is required from colleagues who are taking on agricultural payments to determine what is or isn’t possible.    

Action Point (SG) - to contact colleagues in RESAS to determine what can be done

Operational Workstream

The operational workstream lead provided an update to the group. A meeting has been scheduled with the LLTNP to discuss their action plan which will serve as a template for other priority sites. The site maps had been updated since the last meeting and there was a focus on urban and peri-urban areas.

Agenda Item 6 – Programme management update & discussion high level milestones

Paul Roberts provided an update on the programme management of the Deer Working Group recommendations. He advised that the programme management spreadsheet has been updated and about to go on the website and that the quarterly tracker spreadsheet is already on the website.

Action Point – (NatureScot) – to provide a summary document that could be shared with the Minister.

Agenda Item 7 – Capacity building

Paul Roberts presented the paper on capacity building to the group. The paper demonstrated that there is a need for more people and skills in the deer management sector and the group agreed that strategic thought would be required to determine how to fulfil this.

There was a suggestion that a taskforce is pulled together by the board to understand where capacity and capability is going to come from to undertake the increased cull. The group agreed that a business case should be pulled together to work on the modelling, identifying capacity needs and the relevant constraints including people, larders, processing and extraction needs.

Agenda Item 7 – Comms Update

Paul Roberts presented the paper providing an update on comms which was circulated in advance. Comms colleagues from each of the partner organisations meet monthly. Group members agreed it would be useful to have a comms position agreed ahead of any consultation. 


The next meeting is due to be held on 6 September 2023. The group agreed that the format of a morning site visit and afternoon board meeting worked well and it was suggested a theme along the lines of just transition, economy of deer management would be useful. (Action Point) (NS/SG) – Location for next board meeting to include a college or work place visit.

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