The Scottish Rural Commission (SRC), established in 2012 to look into all aspects of the Scottish countryside and develop strategies for growth and development, has issued its Final Report and Policy Recommendations. The report focuses on many issues, including tourism, agriculture, viable communities and the management of Scotland’s wildlife. The introduction to the recommendations for sustainable management of wildlife states that: “The evidence we received leads us to believe that there are areas, especially in species management, where the scales have tipped too far towards conservation.”

The SRC states that “Wildlife management in Scotland has evolved over centuries. The overall impression we got from the evidence taken was that the system works very well indeed.” However, there are suggestions for improvements, and the SRC finds attractive the principle of “species control and protection measures assessed on a European-wide basis as opposed to a Scottish-only perspective”.

The SRC says that in some instances it found “conservation pursued purely for the sake of conservation” with “species reintroduction at the clear detriment of another”.

The document also proposes transforming deer management groups into habitat management groups (HMGs), stating that “the new HMGs should have cross-sector representation from all interested parties and not just landowners.” On protected species, the report states: “We believe there are instances of species we have been protecting for the last 30 to 40 years that do not require the same level of protection anymore. A looser approach to protected species licensing should be pursued by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).”

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has responded by saying that a better use of the licensing powers available should be part of a new conservation approach, which the SGA believes is urgently needed.

A spokesman for the SGA told Shooting Times: “The evidential need for new conservation approaches, which include adaptive management and the use of the legal licensing powers the Scottish Government holds, is beyond overwhelming and the State of Nature report and the recent British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Breeding Bird Survey shows this quite clearly.

“There are sensible people within SNH who are listening and understand that, at some stage, iconic wildlife species such as capercaillie and wading birds are going to die out completely or deplete alarmingly unless logical and sensible interventions take place which befit where we are now, not 40 years ago.

“Protection, correct at the time, brought about conservation successes and there are now large predators again throughout their range in Scotland.

“However, no-one has to paint it on walls that, if you have radically increased protected populations of things that decimate many other things, then you may have to step in at some point to help the vulnerable.

“In society, for example, we don’t let the elderly or the sick just die out because they are more fragile than others. It would contravene what the world regards as decent or moral.

“However, the grey partridge, the curlew, the lapwing, the songbirds, the red squirrel, where is their helping hand at their lowest ebb? So using the licensing powers available must be part of a new and adaptive approach to where we are today.

“Unfortunately, while there may be an appetite within parts of the licensing body, SNH, to show common sense, such measures do not win votes for the politicians with the casting say, particularly when there are referendums looming. While this remains the case, common sense may be more of an ideal.”

To read the full report, visit: http://bit.ly/1abJRfB.