Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, last week met with Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, to discuss the damaging impact of greylag geese in the Uists.
The adaptive goose management pilots for Orkney, Tiree, Lewis & Harris and the Uists ended last year as local Goose Management Groups transitioned to a self-help approach, with a Challenge Fund being put in place to help these groups.
The local MSP was joined at the meeting by David Muir, a Scottish Crofting Federation representative from Uist.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“While I think the adaptive management pilot demonstrated how local groups could manage geese numbers in the future, there was concern that Uist was not yet in a position to transition to this self-help approach.
“At the meeting, the Cabinet Secretary heard first-hand about the damaging impact of greylag geese. It was positive that she listened carefully to these concerns and recognised the challenge that crofters in Uist face.
“SNH has increased the funding available for the Uists and other adaptive management pilot areas to move towards a self-help solution. In order to help the transition to self-help and prevent any increase in goose numbers while the self-help approach is being developed, the Scottish Government is prepared to make available a further payment of £10k to help control greylag goose numbers in Uist during 2018/19.
“I was also pleased to hear that the Scottish Government will work with SNH to explore potential for further generation of income through goose carcass sales.
“Clearly there is a lot still to do before we can say that the numbers of greylag geese are down to anything like manageable numbers, and I will continue to raise this issue.”
David Muir added:
"The SCF welcomes the additional funding which will help keep increasing numbers of greylag geese in Uist in check, however, ways must quickly be found to reduce the goose population of almost 6,000 to recently revised target figures of between 1,800 and 2,200. Barnacle geese pose a different problem. Unlike greylags they are resident in North Uist from autumn until spring with population sizes ranging from 4,000 to over 8,000 and they cause extensive damage to grassland. They are heavily protected and, although we realise numbers can only be reduced through international co-operation, urgent action is required.
"The meeting with the Cabinet Secretary provided an opportunity for the plight of Uist crofters to be explained directly in terms of geese causing not just destruction of grazing land, but also for the potential loss of already limited supplies of the unique local corn seed mix which is vital for cattle fodder as well as for the environmental health of the machair."