Damage caused by geese pose threat to future of island crofting

Greylag geese

The Scottish Government is under pressure to provide funding to reduce the number of wild geese in the Uists.

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has called on the government to reveal its plans for goose management in the Hebridean islands, amid warnings that crofting in the area could cease if nothing is done.

“At a recent meeting of the SCF’s board of directors and our advisory council of representatives, it was unanimously agreed that SCF is 100% behind the Uist crofters in their struggle to get meaningful support from the Scottish Government to reduce the wild geese that plague them,” said Sutherland crofter and SCF chairman Russell Smith.

“We had assurances from the Scottish Government that an action plan would be published before now, so we really need to see this happen.”

He said many crofters had commented that the joy was gone from crofting due to the damage caused by geese.

“If nothing is done to control goose numbers, crofting that is particular to the Uists will end within five years, with the consequent irrecoverable loss to the acclaimed machair ecology,” added Mr Smith.

David Muir, who is secretary of the SCF Uist and Barra branch, said previous government promises to increase the £10,000 Challenge Fund for goose management between Orkney, Lewis and Harris, Uist and Barra, and Coll and Tiree, had not materialised, and that the budget was not enough.

He said: “To say £10,000 split between all the islands involved in the scheme, or indeed were it £10,000 for Uist alone, simply is nowhere near enough to halt the explosion in goose numbers and the resulting devastation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is in the final stages of undertaking a review of the current arrangements for the management of wild geese in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government spends £1.2million on goose management across Scotland each year to support crofters and farmers in dealing with the impacts of certain species of geese through local management schemes and adaptive management pilots.

“We are aware that there are serious concerns about the impact of geese on crofting land in the Uists and SNH staff have been in discussion with local crofting representatives to explore the additional support that can be put in place to help crofters manage populations of resident greylag geese, as well as deal with migratory geese.”