For the first time in almost 20 years, authorities in Scotland have granted permission for a Solway Firth farmer to cull barnacle geese.

The licence was granted by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to Brian Byers, the owner of Ladyhall Farm near Dumfries, where the black-and-white birds have caused extensive damage to undersown barley.

Mr Byers?s application to cull the birds last year failed, but he has now been granted a licence to shoot 20 birds, and is hoping the number will be increased.

He said: ?I asked for financial compensation, but they [SNH] said there weren?t any funds available. I?d prefer to let the geese graze, but I have to make a living.?

?It?s not the best solution, but at least now other farmers in the area know it can be done.?

Between October and March, the Solway Firth hosts the barnacle population from Svalbard, in the high Arctic, which can be as many as 33,000 birds.

An SNH spokesman said: ?In order to grant a licence we need to establish that serious damage is likely; that there is no other alternative; and to ensure that there will be no impact on the species? conservation status.

?In this instance, we were satisfied that there was a risk of serious damage at this farm and a licence was granted to shoot a small number of geese.?

?A condition of the licence is that non-lethal deterrents, such as shooting to scare, and physical deterrents placed in the field must also be employed.?