Predator control petition carried forward at Holyrood

Male Capercaillie Image by Neil McIntyre

The SGA’s petition on predator control was today (Wed 25th) continued by the Petitions Committee, with Scottish Government set to be questioned further.


Chairman Alex Hogg, who lodged the Petition on behalf of the SGA, will also be called to give evidence before MSPs in due course - a pleasing outcome for members and supporters.


The petition

seeks official recognition by Scottish Government that the control of abundant generalist predators is an act of conservation (benefitting ground nesting birds).


And although the Government did provide a response, described by Fergus Ewing MSP as ‘skeletal’, the Committee will now write again to Scottish Government seeking further clarity, particularly on how its views regarding predator control translate into policies to save species.

A graph from the Upland Predation experiment demonstrates the benefits of predator control for threatened birds.

Words and actions


Mr Ewing picked up on the SGA’s counter-point to Scottish Government that, although claiming to support predator control as a ‘component’ of conservation, words do not necessarily translate into government action - something which carries costs for iconic species.


Capercaillie was the example used.


NatureScot’s Scientific Advisory Committee said, in its report of February 2022, that the principal action required to save Capercaillie was predator control, to reverse the unsustainable trend of poor breeding success. 


The authors recommended that predator control should take place over ‘as large an area as possible within the core area of Badenoch and Strathspey’, whilst also rejecting habitat condition as the chief cause of recent species decline.


They concluded: ‘There is no compelling evidence that changes in habitat quality or availability (independent of effects of disturbance), parasites or inbreeding can explain the recent reduction in breeding success’. 

At the time, the SGA welcomed this report as a potential turning point for Capercaillie, saying it represented a chance to ‘undo years of waste’ - see:


However, the Scottish Government’s much delayed response to the report, by Minister Lorna Slater, paid no attention to the primary action described as necessary by NatureScot’s SAC.


Indeed, the Minister placed Scottish Government’s emphasis for Capercaillie conservation on habitat improvement, as did Eileen Stuart, NatureScot Deputy Director of Nature and Climate Change, saying: “We will continue to support and invest in large-scale and well-managed restoration and expansion of the pine forest as the key conservation management tool to revive capercaillie populations.” 


This promise of further tax payer investment was announced, despite the report itself rejecting habitat as the main reason for Capercaillie decline.

Predator control was not mentioned in the Ministerial statement.


The SGA wishes to thank all those who have signed the petition and are pleased that the apparent contradictions between Scottish Government’s sentiments and its actions/policies can be explored further in the Parliament.


The State of Nature report, published recently, is ample proof that new approaches to conservation are required in Scotland if we are to reverse declines, with 11% of species threatened with extinction. 

WATCH the Petition being discussed at Holyrood in the VIDEO below. 





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