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MSPs call for long-term commitment to goose management efforts

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro-Johnston

MSPs representing Orkney used a meeting with the Scottish Government’s rural affairs minister to emphasise the need for the government to “stay the course” in efforts to reduce Greylag geese numbers in the islands.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur and Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro-Johnston met with the minister, Mairi Gougeon, on Thursday, following the announcement that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) would be introducing a package of measures aimed at bringing resident greylag geese numbers in Orkney down to around 5000.

Jamie Halcro-Johnston, who had also raised concerns at a recent ministerial question time, said: “This was a constructive and largely positive meeting with Mairi Gougeon and I am pleased that, ahead of the meeting, SNH had set out a range of new goose management measures.

“However, together with my colleague Liam McArthur, it was made clear to the minister that the Scottish Government must remain committed to controlling the goose population.

“The measures have to be long-term and sustained over a period long enough to reduce numbers. There has to be a commitment to reducing the numbers of geese and not just keeping the population at its current level.

“This means we need to see funding that lasts long enough to ensure that the measures take effect and that farmers have confidence that their concerns are being seriously addressed.

“I will be closely monitoring the new measures being taken forward by SNH in the coming months and at the outcomes of SNH’s study on goose management in the islands.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur.

“I also look forward to hearing how the Minister intends to ensure that efforts going forward are sustained so that farmers in Orkney can have confidence that the Scottish Government are serious on dealing with the problem of excessive geese numbers”.

Mr McArthur said that, while the announcement of measures was welcome, progress on the issue will take time and government must remain committed to finding a resolution.

He said: “It is clear that the minister recognises the importance of tackling this issue and the scale of the challenge involved. While the package of measures announced by SNH today is welcome, it is also clear that it is going to take time to achieve the objective of bringing greylag goose numbers down to a sustainable level.

“That is why it is so important that the Scottish Government now stays the course. Ongoing funding will be needed to support the work of the local management group and allow coordination to take place.

“The minister agreed to look at ways in which this might be achieved and to come back with more detailed thoughts in due course.

“I am encouraged by the developments today but also determined to make sure that this now translates into effective action to address what has been a long-running issue affecting Orkney’s farming community”.

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