A glance

  • Crofters on the Western Isle claim that large numbers of greylag geese have been damaging coastal meadows that they depend upon.

  • According to the Scottish Crofting Federation, the number of birds in some isles has more than doubled.

  • According to the group, the increase was due to the dissolution of a scheme that had been funded by the Scottish government to manage geese.

  • NatureScot, a public body, stated that it was working with crofters to develop “sustainable” alternatives.

    Crofters on the Western Isles claim that an “explosion in geese number” is threatening their way of living.

    Last summer, a scheme by the Scottish government to control greylag geese numbers through culling was ended.

    According to the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF), the number of birds in Uist, the isles, has doubled to 8,000 since then. They were damaging crops and coastal meadows known as machair.

    NatureScot reported that Mairi McAllan, Environment Minister, had met with the SCF to discuss concerns about crofters.

    Machair is a support for wildflowers and other plant lives and can be used by crofters to raise livestock.

    According to the SCF, geese caused damage to meadows by their grazing or droppings.

    Donald MacKinnon, Chairman of the Board, stated that there are 8,000 birds currently in Uist and they could surpass the “tipping point” – where traditional crofting practices end.

    “The situation is the same for other Hebridean Islands.

    He said, “Crofting agricultural methods in the Hebrides (especially on the machair) help to nurture an environment rich in biodiversity, which we must protect for everyone.”

    ‘Sustainable approaches’

    According to the SCF, the alternative to the government-funded program was for crofters not to shoot geese without a licence and then to sell the meat.

    However, the Federation stated that few crofters shoot and that logistical issues exist in getting goose meat to potential buyers.

    NatureScot acknowledged the concerns of crofters.

    A spokeswoman stated that NatureScot had supported local greylag management groups in their efforts to control greylag geese. The hope was that these groups would use their knowledge on the ground to manage the population sustainably after funding has ended for adaptive management projects.

    “As per plan, we will continue to work with groups to develop sustainable strategies to control resident greylag geese, and their impact on agriculture. However, our advisory role has been shifted.”