A new plan by the Cairngorms National Park could be self-defeating and will erode fragile goodwill of land managers whose collaborative efforts are needed to meet climate challenges.
That is the view of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) who have criticised elements of the draft 5 year vision in a consultation which closed on Friday (17th).
(Hear Chairman Alex Hogg's reaction by hitting PLAY on the image at the foot of this article).
Contained within the plan are increased tree planting targets, heightened deer culls and curbs on game management which go beyond plans announced by Scottish Government.
The Park’s new 5 Year Vision proposes deer densities of only 5-8 deer per sq km, reduced grouse bags and less pheasant releases within the Park boundary.
However, Scotland’s gamekeepers believe the vision will critically undermine the viability of game businesses within the Park, leading to job and investment losses.
This, they claim, would inhibit other key priorities such as skilled deer management and wildfire mitigation, which the Plan requires to achieve its aims.
Mixed game estates and farms are bulwarks of the Park’s economy, generating income and investment while the Park’s economy shrank by nearly 15% in 2020 due to Covid-19.
Gamekeepers have labelled divisive elements of the vision ‘irresponsible’ and feel it will deepen cracks between resident land management workers and the Park’s leaders.
They also believe it diminishes the cultural heritage of the Park, one of the elements it was set up to protect when founded by an act of Parliament in 2003.
“Instead of utilising the vast skills within the land management community, this plan belittles their present and future contribution. It is extremely disappointing.
“This is a time when centuries of knowledge in field-skills and things like humane deer management and wildfire mitigation are vital in a changing climate. The Park needs to take these people with them. Ultimately, the white collars won’t deliver the priorities, people on the ground will,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg, MBE.
One of the plan’s proposals is for the Park authority to push for less gamebird releasing despite consultation notes admitting the present information held by them was ‘patchy’.
Last Autumn, a DEFRA review in England found that impacts of pheasant releases were localised, with no negative affects 500m from release points.
Pheasant and partridge shooting is part of sector sustaining 8800 FTE Scottish jobs, a significant proportion of those jobs within the Park.
(for more on game sector jobs)
The SGA written response said it was unsound to frame policy on incomplete data, stating:“Subjective evaluations of certain activities founded on information gaps is not a foundation for policy, given the Park’s duties to its residents and businesses.”
The SGA also described the Park’s deer management blueprint as ‘unworkable’. Scottish Government is set to legislate to promote a Scotland-wide deer density of 10 deer per sq km, in the present Parliamentary term.
The Park’s draft plan, in contrast, will see the pursuit of open range deer densities up to 50% lower.
“This would mean the Park promoting deer population levels at odds with every other region of Scotland. This is confusing and unworkable.
“SGA members have managed more deer in the last decade than any other representative organisation (over 1 million), see: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/deer-vision/
"The biodiversity benefits of this should not be forgotten by those shaping policies which could further undermine viability.
“Deer and game managers make up an interwoven element of the Park’s cultural heritage which cannot be readily sacrificed. Indeed, their contribution outlasts, by more than a century, the formation of the Park itself. This is relevant, given the Park’s founding aim of enhancing the natural and cultural heritage.”
*To read the full consultation response by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, click: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/latest-news/2021/december/full-response-cairngorms-national-park.php