Crofting: national development plan

This plan highlights the core elements necessary to ensure that crofting remains at the heart of our rural and remote rural communities.


The Scottish Government will continue to support wildlife management, including the Sea Eagle Management Scheme, Goose Management schemes, and Deer Management, delivered by NatureScot, and recognises the importance of striking a balance where wildlife and crofting can flourish.

The Scottish Government recognises;

  • that Scotland's wildlife is an essential part of the natural heritage we value and protect.
  • the success of the re-introduction of sea eagles to Scotland and that, in some locations, predation of lambs by sea eagles can have an impact on croft businesses.
  • the impact that geese can have on croft businesses, such as the significant agricultural damage on productive farmland associated with high densities of geese.
  • that wild deer can cause damage to agricultural, woodland and natural heritage interests through grazing and trampling, and that owners and occupiers have rights to prevent such damage.
  • that through a shared approach we can adopt ways of working with a range of organisations to deliver wildlife management and work in partnership.

Shared Approach to Wildlife Management

Wildlife management is integral to conservation management, farming, forestry and tourism in Scotland. There is a legal framework and policies to help inform how we manage wildlife, including the mechanisms for both protecting and controlling species, such as licensing.

Wildlife management can be contentious. The Scottish Government has recently introduced the 'Shared Approach' to Wildlife Management' led by NatureScot that sets out how different interest groups can work together to help ensure healthy and valued populations of wildlife across Scotland[34].

The approach articulates the common ground in wildlife management and provides an anchor for making decisions and carrying out actions. It has been signed up to by a broad range of land management organisations and is open to any others that wish to join. The approach is made up of seven ways of working which focus on working in partnership[35].

Sea Eagles

The re-introduction of sea eagles in Scotland has been very successful. They form part of our native wildlife, and there is now a healthy breeding population in the west and north of Scotland. In 2020, there were more than 130 breeding pairs. However, it is acknowledged that, in some locations, predation of sea eagles has had an impact on sheep flocks and that this impact can be significant. NatureScot is keen to work with crofters and farmers to minimise this impact.

While there are no easy solutions, the partnership work that is being done with crofters and farmers as part of the National White-tailed Eagle Action Plan, along with the support of NatureScot's Sea Eagle Management Scheme[36], is providing a good framework within which progress is being made.


The National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Panel has been responsible for developing, and signing-up to, an Action Plan aimed at better understanding sea eagle predation, supporting trials of techniques to reduce impact on sheep farming, and delivering a management scheme to support crofters and farmers. NatureScot is working with partners to review the work done under the Action Plan and to revise the Plan going forward beyond 2020. In addition to the work focused on sea eagle management, there is a wider body of work ongoing to review all agri-environment support mechanisms.

NatureScot has been working closely with a number of monitor farms to test management techniques. In some locations there are techniques that have been successful in significantly reducing impact of predation[37]. NatureScot has begun to promote support for some of the successful techniques to all scheme entrants through a revised approach to the Sea Eagle Management Scheme from 2020. In locations where the techniques have not worked, NatureScot is working with crofters and farmers to test and refine other management actions.

Sea Eagle Management Scheme

The Sea Eagle Management Scheme, administered by NatureScot, offers support for adapting livestock management and prevention measures that can reduce the impact of sea eagles on hill sheep.

Once a crofter has registered an interest in the scheme, NatureScot will arrange a face-to-face discussion with an experienced contractor who will provide tailored advice on management. The scheme is flexible enough to offer a number of options and to be able to support innovative ideas for management. NatureScot is also working with customers to develop whole farm/croft management reviews, which includes Integrated Land Management Planning, where the aim is to support any changes that can be made to increase their resilience to the impact of sea eagles.

The Scottish Government, in partnership with NatureScot, will continue to support a Sea Eagle Management Scheme and help mitigate the impact of sea eagles on crofts and farms.

Through the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, grant support is available for sheds for lambing, and for CCTV cameras used for monitoring livestock during lambing and calving.


Scotland is internationally important for the conservation of wintering geese, hosting around 60% of the global population of Greenland Barnacle Geese and 25% of the global population of Greenland white-fronted geese. Although this is a conservation success story, this success brings problems in regard to the impact geese have on agriculture land.

NatureScot spends approximately £1.3 million each year on goose management across Scotland, and is working with stakeholders to balance conservation of protected geese with reducing and preventing the significant financial impact of agricultural damage. In crofting areas, NatureScot delivers goose management schemes for migratory geese on Islay, Tiree, and Uist. NatureScot has also worked closely with crofters to run adaptive management pilots to manage greylag geese in crofting areas on Lewis and Harris, Uist, and Tiree and Coll.

NatureScot has made significant efforts to address migratory goose issues on Uist and Tiree, with the introduction of a new barnacle goose management scheme in 2019, and it continues to support efforts to manage geese in a number of different ways.

Detailed information on each goose management scheme, such as Islay, Kintyre, South Walls, and Uist, Coll and Tiree, can be found on the NatureScot website[38].

The Scottish Government, in partnership with NatureScot, will continue to support goose management schemes and help mitigate the impact of geese on crofts and farms.

Greylag geese can be shot during the open season and NatureScot has simplified the licensing process by adding them to the General Licence. Anyone intending to use a General Licence on certain Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation, can only do so with approval from NatureScot Licensing team – all relevant sites are listed on the NatureScot website.

NatureScot has been working on pilot-schemes with the Local Goose Management Groups (LGMGs) in crofting areas on, Tiree and Coll, Uist and Lewis and Harris to manage the population of breeding greylag geese. NatureScot also provided additional support to the pilot-schemes to help them make the transition to self-help, where the local community manages the greylag goose population themselves and develops a self-financing model to sustain this work.

The Scottish Government encourages crofters and farmers in other areas to take advantage of the advice and measures, in particular the General License provisions that are available to control the impact of greylag geese, and safeguard their crops. The sale of sustainable harvested goose meat has been supported through NatureScot's Natural Larder, an initiative to promote sustainably harvested and hunted wild food, sourced locally and in season[39].


Wild deer are an integral part of Scotland's nature and biodiversity. Red deer are iconic, especially in the uplands where they are one of the species people most associate with Scotland. However, wild deer can have a negative impact on woodlands, forests and crops. Robust deer management systems play an essential part in reducing damage caused by deer, such as overgrazing, trampling vulnerable habitats, preventing young trees from growing, and damaging crops.

Voluntary Deer Management Groups (DMGs) exist across most of Scotland's red deer range. As at December 2020, there are currently 48 DMGs. The membership of these groups comprise representatives from landholdings within the group's area. The diversity of ownership and management objectives within this membership is increasingly varied, and as a result positive, proactive engagement from all landholdings within the group area is important to the effective, sustainable management of deer populations.

NatureScot issues authorisations under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, to prevent deer damaging the natural heritage and to allow occupiers suffering damage to improved agricultural land or enclosed woodland to control deer in the closed season.

Scotland's Wild Deer: A National Approach (WDNA) is the Scottish Government's strategy for wild deer. It was developed collaboratively in 2008 and is being delivered by a range of stakeholders. WDNA sets out a 20 year vision and 17 objectives based around the environment, people and the economy. The Code of Practice for Deer Management (2012), sets out the public interest associated with the management of wild deer in more detail.

Deer Review

In 2017 the Scottish Government established an independent Deer Working Group to review the existing statutory and non-statutory arrangements for the management of wild deer in Scotland, taking into account the varying circumstances of each of the four wild deer species across Scotland.

In January 2020, the Scottish Government published the Group's report[40]. The report sets out 99 recommendations to 'ensure effective deer management in Scotland'.

The recommendations are broad and cover topics such as:

  • Tidying and consolidating the legislation
  • Taking a more proactive approach to Invasive Non Native Species
  • Setting clearer limits and thresholds for acceptable impact on public interests
  • Promoting greater equity in assessing and addressing the range of public interests impacted by deer

The Scottish Government is working with stakeholders to consider all of the recommendations made by the independent Deer Working Group, and will publish a full response to those recommendations and set out plans for future deer management in Scotland.

In November 2019, SNH published 'Assessing Progress in Deer Management'[41]. The Scottish Government will consider this report alongside other evidence in forming the response to the Deer Working Group Report.

The Scottish Government, in partnership with NatureScot, will continue to support deer management schemes and help mitigate the impact of deer on crofts and farms.

Through the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, grant support is available for deer fencing for the protection of crops and grassland, or for deer farming.



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