Deer management has long been recognised as a vital contributor to land management, and how we manage deer has a fundamental impact on our ability to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. The 2023 State of Nature Scotland Report found that since monitoring of 407 species began in 1994 the abundance of those species has declined on average by 15% and while there have been wins with some species increasing in abundance, in the last decade alone 43% have declined. The report serves as a stark reminder that our efforts to ensure effective management of wild deer matters more now than ever before.
Achieving our ambitious targets on tree-planting, woodland regeneration and peatland restoration will have a profound impact on improving our natural environment in the years to come but we will not achieve those aims without effective deer management. That means we need to get the right balance of the right densities of wild deer in the right areas to maximise the environmental benefits they can bring as part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem.
The benefits of carefully managed wild deer populations are not just environmental though, and we want to ensure we are maximising the socioeconomic benefits deer can bring. Deer provide important employment and social opportunities to our rural communities and they form an iconic part of Scotlands landscape. Venison from wild deer provides a healthy, sustainable meat source and I want to ensure that we are championing venison and supporting deer managers to get venison into the food chain.
As with any wildlife management issue, I am conscious that there are a wide range of interests in the management of wild deer, from private deer managers who deliver 80% of deer management in Scotland to public bodies to environmental Non-Government Organisations. This consultation sets out to seek your views on our proposed changes to Scotland’s systems of deer management, including in relation to a number of recommendations made by the Deer Working Group in their 2020 report on The Management of Wild Deer in Scotland.
This consultation is an opportunity for you to have your say on what we are proposing and to help shape future legislation – I look forward to hearing from you.
Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity
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