Chapter 1. Introduction and Background
Scottish Ministers announced on 24 November 2016 that the beaver populations in Knapdale in Argyll and in the Tay and Earn catchments could remain in Scotland subject to satisfactory completion of a Habitats Regulations Assessment (SEA) and a Strategic EnvironSEAtal Assessment (SEA).
The Assessment found that beavers will have a significant impact on certain areas, such as agriculture, waterways, forestry, and infrastructure. These impacts will be concentrated in the Tayside area, associated with higher population densities than Knapdale, and the greater intensity of land-use. The potential significant impacts will include flooding through damage caused to field drainage systems and the undermining of flood defences, and damage to infrastructure and crops. The SEA highlights that mitigation measures as currently used in other countries, and also those currently subject to trial work in Scotland, could be satisfactorily applied to avoid significant adverse effects.
Under the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005, the SEA process requires that the Assessment is put out for public consultation. This consultation was not whether or not beavers should remain in Scotland, but rather a consultation on whether the assessment had correctly identified potential impacts and appropriate mitigation.
Beavers, initially widespread throughout Britain, were last recorded in Scotland in the 16th century. Consideration of the feasibility and desirability of reintroducing beavers to Scotland started in 1995 and culminated in the 'Beavers in Scotland' ( BiS) report produced by Scottish Natural Heritage on behalf of the Scottish Government and published in June 2015.
Following completion of the Scottish Beaver Trial at Knapdale, the work of the Tayside Beaver Study Group and related projects and initiatives, Scottish Ministers are minded to allow beavers to remain in Scotland.
Scottish Ministers agreed that:
- Beaver populations in Argyll and Tayside can remain
- The species will receive legal protection, in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive
- Beavers will be allowed to expand their range naturally
- Beavers should be actively managed to minimise adverse impacts on farmers and other land owners
- It will remain an offence for beavers to be released without a licence, punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine
About the Consultation
The consultation sought the views on the Beavers in Scotland - Strategic Environmental Assessment through the following five questions:
Question 1: Do you agree with the reintroduction policy and that the Environmental Report has correctly identified the potential impacts and appropriate mitigation?
Question 2: What are your views on the evidence set out in the Environmental Report that has been used to inform the assessment process?
Question 3: What are your views on the predicted environmental effects as set out in the Environmental Report? See page 15 and Section 4.
Question 4: Are there any other environmental effects that have not been considered?
Question 5: Please provide any other comments you have on the Environmental Report.
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