Male deer season abolition fails first Parliament test

The abolition of male deer seasons in Scotland may now go to a vote of the full Parliament after Edward Mountain’s motion to stall (annul) the move by Scottish Government was successful at Committee stage on Wednesday (13th September).

Mr Mountain argued that the measure had been poorly consulted and also had animal welfare implications due to male deer being ‘targets the day they are born to the day they die’.

Mortality, he said, would increase if people were ‘chasing male deer before they recover from the rut.’

He told the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee of his fears that the domestic venison industry would be inundated with ‘run’ Stags which were ‘not fit to eat’.

He also argued the ‘misguided’ move was unnecessary as those wishing to shoot males out of season, particularly in forestry, could already do so through light touch authorisations.

The Committee heard that NatureScot had never refused an applicant an out of season licence to shoot male deer, and that there was no record of a refusal.


Vote finely balanced


Despite Minister Lorna Slater arguing that the move, one of 99 recommendations by the Deer Working Group, was largely to remove a bureaucratic burden, the Committee was split evenly at 4 votes to 4.

Convener Finlay Carson opted to use his casting vote to support Mr Mountain’s motion to annul, adding that he felt the measure deserved further scrutiny by the whole parliament.

It will now be up to Scottish Government whether it wishes to try to pursue the move through the Parliament at a later date.

The SGA supported Mr Mountain’s motion to annul and, while the move to remove male deer seasons has not fallen completely, it was encouraging to hear the Committee cast significant doubt over the proposal.


More scrutiny required


Vice Convener Beatrice Wishart MSP voted with Mr Mountain’s motion, on the basis that she felt the step required greater Parliamentary scrutiny and, while the Minister argued that the Government had taken all legal consultative steps, some members of the Committee were concerned that all practitioner bodies managing deer in Scotland had opposed the move and felt the consultation inadequate.

Rhoda Grant MSP expressed concern that two Government bodies, NatureScot and Forestry and Land Scotland (statistically the two biggest beneficiaries of the proposal) were ‘working hand in hand to make life easier for each other’.

She described the proposal as looking more like ‘convenience’, adding: ‘very little thought has been given to the food chain and animal welfare.”

Minister Lorna Slater and Scottish Government must now decide whether or not to proceed

Earlier in the session, the Committee approved the use of lighter bullets and night sights for shooting deer by 6 votes to 2.


Asked by the Scotsman newspaper for comment on the Committee failing to approve the Government’s proposal, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg, MBE, said: “There are already mechanisms whereby people can control male deer out of season, where necessary, by applying to NatureScot. The abolition of the season was unnecessary, it was an animal welfare downgrade and it was pushed through without proper consultation with deer managers. This is the correct outcome.”


You can read the SGA’s response to the proposal to abolish male deer seasons (as well as comments on night sights for deer shooting and changes to ammunition), here:

You can watch the full Committee session, here:





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