Troublesome geese look set to stay on croft land

GETTING rid of troublesome geese looks unlikely to get any easier for crofters in the future as Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson defends control measures in place.

Mr Stewart Stevenson, who is also responsible for crofting, told the Gazette on his recent visit that geese were part of Scotland’s landscape and that he trusted SNH’s judgement on their control.

There have been repeated calls from local crofters for all year round shooting licences to be available and possibly even the creation of a new cottage industry in the supply of goose meat in order to protect valuable croft land from the increasing numbers of geese.

“We do have programmes in place for scaring the geese and for killing some,” said Mr Stevenson. “We will work with people and we need to make sure they are not unnecessarily disadvantaged by the geese who do destroy crops and grazings.”

He added: “SNH have the expertise to determine when it is right to be shooting geese.”

He said that in places like Islay they had taken action such as changing the times for planting crops to minimise the damage.

He refused to comment on the possibility that a new cottage industry could be created for crofters through the sale of goose meat.

Mr Stevenson said it was ‘an important time for crofting’ with the implementation of the new Crofting Act, although there are no plans for a specific study on the effect of the changes in the near future.

“The effects will be longer term but we will of course monitor the new legislation,” he added.

He said they were currently considering their approach to the elections for the new Crofters Commission and were undertaking a consultation. He was unable to give a timescale for the elections.

He pointed out that the Scottish Government was taking an integrated approach to supporting and connecting local communities through changes like the new crofting legislation but also through linked policies such as Road Equivalent Tariff.

As well as his responsibility for crofting, Mr Stevenson is in charge of Scotland’s response to climate change. The Gazette questioned him on what action the Scottish Government were taking to support the protection of communities in the Uists particularly.

Coastal erosion, rising sea levels and severe weather which impact on the community’s ability to fish, croft and crop are of huge concern to the local community who have most recently been working with the charity Oxfam to strengthen sea defences.

Mr Stevenson said that responsibility for addressing these issues lay with the Comhairle but that the Scottish Government was working to ensure communities are more prepared for flooding.

“We can’t engineer out all the risks,” said Mr Stevenson. “But what we can do is to make sure that we support public safety in many different ways by investing in infrastructure but also by better flood warnings and better communications and cooperation between SEPA and the Met Office.”

Mr Stevenson, who was appointed as the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change in May, was in the islands for a three day fact finding visit to various fish farming sites.

For more on his aquaculture visits see page 3.