Deer Management Strategic Board minutes: October 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 October 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Donald Henderson, Chair, Deputy Director of Scottish Government Nature Division
  • Hugh Dignon, Scottish Government Nature Division
  • Erin Garner, Secretariat, NatureScot
  • Alan Hampson, Scottish Forestry
  • Simon Hodgson, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot
  • John Kerr, Scottish Government Agriculture Policy Division
  • Grant Moir, Cairngorms National Park Authority
  • Paul Roberts, NatureScot
  • Sam Turner, Scottish Government Nature Division
  • Brodie Wilson, Scottish Government Nature Division


  • Donald Fraser, NatureScot
  • Simon Jones, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
  • Robyn McCormack, Scottish Government Nature Division

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Donald Henderson welcomed everyone to the meeting.


Minutes and action points from previous meeting – 19 June 2023

The group agreed the minutes from the meeting of 19 June 2023.

Action Point (SG): Approved minutes of June meeting to be published on the Scottish Government website.

The group noted that all matters arising will be covered during the meeting.

Outstanding actions from previous meeting - 19 June 2023

Scottish Government - 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 8/3/23 - 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. Update 19/6/23 - SG colleagues Hugh and Donald agreed to work on this in time to have a draft statement in time for the next board meeting in September. The group would like to be clear in the statement that we need significant reduction of deer. On agenda for 23 October 2023

NatureScot - 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. Colleagues in NS and SG have begun drafting this timeline.

SG - 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. On agenda for 23 October 2023.

SG - Contact colleagues in RESAS to determine what can be done in relation to agricultural payments to incentivise deer management.  

NS - to provide a summary programme management document that could be shared with the Minister.

Agenda item 3 – Deer board vision statement


Hugh Dignon introduced a draft vision statement that was circulated to board members in advance of the meeting. The group welcomed the paper.

Scottish Government advised of the intention to publish this high-level summary of the group’s purpose on the Scottish Government website once finalised.

The group provided feedback on the draft statement, including on the order, tone and clarity of language, and agreed to finalise the statement via correspondence.

Action Point (SG): Amendments agreed during discussion to be reviewed and incorporated into the draft vision statement. Statement to then be circulated and finalised via correspondence prior to publication.


Agenda item 4 – Primary legislation consultation

Hugh Dignon introduced a paper on the forthcoming deer legislation consultation that was circulated to board members in advance of the meeting. The group welcomed the paper.

Scottish Government advised that the proposed consultation will focus on themes which reflect the changes to primary legislation required by the accepted Deer Working Group recommendations.

Scottish Government advised of the timelines for the issuing the consultation and expected parliamentary timing for the wider Natural Environment Bill. The group noted that the formal consultation is one of various opportunities to engage with stakeholders on the proposed changes.

The group noted that the proposed new powers would be proactive rather than reactive, with a focus on supporting and enhancing nature rather than preventing damage.

The group supported the direction of travel indicated and sought clarification in various areas, including links to funding, decision-making criteria and powers, incentives, enforcement, terminology, adaptation and application across Scotland.

Following discussion, the legislative subgroup will reflect on the points raised and Scottish Government will reflect on the feedback prior to submitting a draft to ministers.

Action Point (SG): Draft consultation to be shared with the group prior to submission to ministers.


Agenda item 5 – Herbivore paper update

Donald Henderson introduced a paper that was circulated to board members in advance of the meeting. The group welcomed the paper.

Scottish Government reflected on the links between forthcoming legislative changes, herbivore impact and Scotland’s climate and nature targets.

The group reflected on the importance of engaging with stakeholders in this area, understanding the link between managing deer and managing domestic herbivores, and potential challenges to progress in managing herbivore impacts.

The group considered options for incentives to support changes in land management approaches and/or land use but noted that progress with the incentives workstream is stalled pending decisions regarding herbivore impact.

The group noted that the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy is dependent on reducing herbivore impact in the uplands and progress in this area is key to meet the targets set out in the Strategy.

Action Point (SG): Donald Henderson to investigate next steps and areas of responsibility for progressing the issues explored in the paper.

Action Point (SG): Hugh Dignon, Donald Henderson and Sam Turner to discuss resources allocated to herbivore management and where additional resource would have most impact.


Agenda item 6 – Venison incentives

Grant Moir introduced a paper that was circulated to board members in advance of the meeting. The group welcomed the paper.

Grant advised that Cairngorms National Park (CNPA) is exploring options to incentivise an increased deer cull through trialling a venison subsidy in the park. CNPA is seeking to engage with this group and other relevant stakeholders before progressing a trial.

The group agreed on the potential of venison as an income stream when increasing the deer cull and acknowledged that different areas of Scotland will require different methods of incentivising an increased cull. The group considered the merits of alternative incentives that are not tied to the venison market.

The group raised queries regarding the impact on the wider venison market, venison quality and the length, continuity and source of funding.

Action Point (CNPA): Grant Moir to refine the venison subsidy proposals and meet with Donald Henderson, Robbie Kernahan, John Kerr and Paul Roberts to discuss, with revised proposals to be considered at the next meeting.


The group agreed to keep the date of the next meeting; 11 December 2023 and to schedule further meetings quarterly in 2024.

The group noted that the revised UK Forestry Standard has now been published and includes strengthened requirements around deer planning and management.

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