The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) appeared before the Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs Committee to support the petition raised by the SCF calling for government action on the wild goose epidemic in crofting areas.
“It is undisputed that there is a problem with wild goose populations escalating and out of control in crofting areas,” said SCF Chief Executive Patrick Krause.
“But Scottish Government cut the budget in 2008 and so we are petitioning the Scottish Parliament to support our call on the government to increase resources, especially to areas such as the Uists where the greylag geese are threatening the future of crofting.”
South Uist crofter and SCF Director Roddy MacDonald added: “Goose numbers have increased significantly, some ten-fold over the last decade and the budget cuts have contributed to this. Greylag geese have been resident in these islands for many years but the problems caused have escalated dramatically over the last number of years.
“Crofters are despairing as they see the geese destroy their crops and their grazing. We had an effective method of control, the ‘Machair Life Project’, which had community support, but the funding for the scheme has now ceased.”
Mr MacDonald continued: “Wild goose meat can be sold now but the licencing is very restrictive and, despite the demand, we are not allowed to sell meat off the islands.
“This is a great resource and a sustainable means of controlling the geese, a natural, community-led method. We just need a bit more financial support from the government and to open up the market for goose meat sales.”
There is also an agricultural problem with the Greenland Barnacle geese on Islay, but unlike the greylags in Uist and Orkney, the Barnacle is rare and therefore protected.
Scotland has less than 5% of the world’s Greylags but 75% of the world’s Barnacles.
A goose control programme on Islay, which costs the public around £1,000,000 a year, pays farmers to shoot and scare the Barnacles to protect crops.
In stark contrast, in the Uists currently only £10,000 per year is spent on reducing goose numbers through the SNH Adaptive Management programme.
Crofters are asking for it to be raised to £80,000 per year to re-instate the Machair Life crop protection project to complement the SNH work.
My Krause concluded: “The Machair Life crop protection project, running with the SNH Adaptive Management scheme has been very effective and the cost seems a small price to pay to protect the world’s only arable machair system and some of Europe’s finest High Nature Value farming.
“Our petition has brought this issue into focus and we are pleased that the Scottish Parliament has taken it on board. Now we wait for the Scottish Government to do the right thing before it is too late.”