National Goose Forum minutes: February 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the National Goose Forum on 14 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Hugh Dignon, SG (Chair)

Sam Turner, SG

Rae McKenzie, NatureScot

Jessica Shaw, NatureScot

Morag Milne, NatureScot (secretariat)

Ross Lilley, NatureScot

Stewart Shaw, NatureScot

Donald Fraser, NatureScot

Andrew Connon, NFUS;

Bill Dundas, RPID

Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland

Steve Campbell, SASA

Nils Bunnefeld, Stirling University

Patrick Krause, SCF

David Muir, Uist LGMG

Richard Hearn, WWT

Paul Walton, RSPB

Alastair Watson, Orkney LGMG

Donald MacKinnon, Lewis and Harris LGMG

Peter Isaacson, Tiree and Coll LGMG


Gary Clewley, BTO

Sally Reynolds, Lewis and Harris LGMG

Brian Minshull, BGAG

Robert Epps

Penny Middleton, NFUS

Alastair Martin, Solway LGMG

Alan Younie is covering the Shetland area just now as James Daniel, who was Shetland’s representative for the National Goose Forum (NGF) has sadly died.  Karen Ramoo from Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) has changed post, and SLE will appoint a new representative when Karen’s post has been filled.


Items and actions

Hugh Dignon welcomed everyone to the meeting.

The minutes of the last meeting (14 November 2022) were agreed. Action points from previous meetings are listed at Appendix 1.

Goose policy review (verbal update from Bill Dundas/Rae McKenzie)

The results from the goose policy questionnaire were shared with the NGF on 14 November 2022. Local Goose Management Groups (LGMGs) and other stakeholders were then each asked to identify the top three things that they considered a priority for future goose policy. NatureScot and Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) met with all LGMGs and with key stakeholders to facilitate discussions about stakeholders’ priorities.

Bill outlined early findings including the following:

  • From the list of top priorities, LGMGs have identified that they want long term funding for resident greylag control

And for annex 1 species, they

  • Want a more equitable distribution of money and bag licences between the LGMGs
  • Want the policy objectives to be updated to consider other national policy drivers such as climate change
  • Want management to be informed by species action plans

Views on integration with future agri-environment mechanisms were mixed; some were in favour and some against.

Next, NatureScot will draft the policy review, taking stakeholders’ views and Scottish Government’s policies into account. NatureScot will share the draft policy review with the Scottish Government before circulating it to the NGF for their comments. Therefore, the final report should not surprise anyone, and should summarise broad consensus if not agreement on all the detail.

The following points were raised during discussions:

  • Further stakeholder consultation is welcome
  • Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) offered to help develop an action plan for resident greylag geese
  • There were questions about the government’s plans for developing future agri-environment support. Answers were provided through the next agenda item
  • Andrew Connon noted geese are responsible for not only reducing the quantity of agricultural produce that can be harvested/put to its intended use but also for the wasted inputs used to produce the crops that geese eat. He asked if both these losses could be calculated and Hugh agreed we need to develop a better understanding of goose impacts not only on agriculture production but also on delivering Government’s net zero targets
  • Richard Hearn noted any goose management plan for Icelandic greylags would be linked to a plan for resident greylags and suggested a single plan for both
  • Paul Walton noted that if the review were to consider options for integrating goose payments into Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS), it should also consider the alternative option to offer funding for stand-alone goose management schemes. Hugh reminded us that the focus of the policy review is to develop policy; delivery mechanisms fall outwith its scope

Future agricultural support mechanisms (verbal update from Ross Lilley)

Ross described which outcomes future agricultural support will aim to deliver. He also described the timetable for developing various support mechanisms. 

His presentation will be circulated as paper 1. A link to the outcomes that future agricultural support seeks to deliver will also be circulated.

The timetable for agricultural reform is described at

Agricultural Reform Route Map

Instead of the current three-tiered support mechanisms four tiers of support will be offered;

  • ‘Baseline conditionality’ measures (by 2025)
  • ‘Enhanced’ support
  • ‘Elective’ support and
  • ‘Complementary’ support (by 2027)

The enhanced measures are new, the elective measures will be competitive.  The National Test Programme is developing an audit approach for individual farms, to help farmers to identify which outcomes are priority for them.

The following points were raised during discussions:

  • It makes sense for government to support goose control to help deliver both its biodiversity and its climate change targets
  • Relationships between the food production, climate change and biodiversity targets are complex and the European Union (E.U.) has dedicated hundreds of millions of euros to better understanding and responding to them. What is the Scottish Government doing? How will we find solutions in Scotland? We are losing out by doing this on our own
  • The SCF considers the agri-environment route makes sense but is reluctant to support it because historically crofters always seem to lose out and find it difficult to access
  • We expect farmers will be supported to make the transition to regenerative farming as yields will, initially, be lower 

Update from LGMGs and other members

Bean geese: the peak mean is up by seven birds on last year’s count to 2017 in January 2023. In contrast, the Norfolk population is down to four birds this winter. The Bean Goose Advisory Group (BGAG) managed to catch birds and to put tracking devices on three of them this winter to help identify their breeding grounds.

More pink feet were mixed in with the bean geese this year, making them more difficult to count. Bean geese are leaving earlier in the spring.

For Orkney, NatureScot has issued a single class licence enabling pink feet to be taken from February to mid-April to prevent serious agricultural damage. The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) is funding the control of resident greylag geese this spring and the LGMG hopes to be able to continue corralling work in the summer, subject to securing funding.

Alastair Watson suggested it would be helpful to have separate plans for resident and Icelandic greylag geese since their objectives will differ.

Action Point (AP): if others provide written updates, Morag will include them with the minutes.

Avian flu incidence

Verbal update from Rae McKenzie

Rae presented an overview of the distribution of birds found dead and the incidence of avian flu. NatureScot has used a system called ‘Epicollect’ to collate this data. 

This winter avian flu was found in greylag, pink-footed geese and Greenland barnacle geese. 

On Islay, Greenland barnacle geese were particularly affected with numbers rising to 40 to 100 birds found-dead per day. Losses have now tailed off. In total, 2000 to 5000 birds may have been lost from this population.

On the Solway, Svalbard barnacle goose losses were significant last winter but the birds were hardly affected this winter. Last summer, the Svalbard barnacle goose had its best breeding season in 25 five years and the birds that returned this winter looked healthy.

NatureScot is contributing to a response plan and a research plan. Both plans aim to help us better understand avian flu.

Rae’s presentation will be circulated as paper two.

Any other current business and date of next meeting

Gary Clewley has offered to provide an update on the Goose and Swan Monitoring programme for our next meeting.

Date of next meeting

(AP): The Scottish Government will advise Morag when to canvass for dates. 

Morag Milne

23 February 2023

Appendix 1 Action points raised at previous meetings

Actions from 5 August 2021 meeting

Morag will circulate a link to Birdstrike’s report about the greylag corralling trial when NatureScot publish it.

Update at 14 February 2023

Outstanding.  Pending publication of report.

Actions from 2 March 2021 meeting

David Muir asked if we had published our (early 2019) NatureScot economic appraisal of wildlife management.  Rae offered to find out.

Update at 14 February 2023

Outstanding.  The report has not been published.  Ross Lilley will share a copy.

Actions from 14 Nov 2022 - none



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