PLANS to hire hawks or falcons to scare pigeons away from the Scottish Parliament building were today condemned as "wholly irresponsible". Experts said the latest attempt by Holyrood bosses to tackle the parliament's pigeon plague would simply shift the problem to other people's properties.
And they cast doubt on whether the parliament would be able to fulfil its promise that the birds of prey would only frighten the pigeons rather than kill them.
Parliament bosses have confirmed they want to bring in a falconry service on a four-year contract – costing 13,000 for the first year – after previous measures failed to deal with the pigeon menace.
In the past financial year, the parliament has spent nearly 11,000 to protect the building from birds, on top of a 35,000 contract for pest control.
Using birds of prey, first considered as long ago as 2000, has always been rejected previously as "not appropriate".
However, now the parliament plans to bring in a hawk three or four times a week. It says the hawks would be well fed and would therefore not attack the pigeons, simply scare them off.
But Emma Haskell, director of pigeon control consultants Picas UK, said: "This is wholly irresponsible of the Scottish Parliament because all they are going to do is push the pigeons on to other people's private property."
She said using birds of prey was "horrifically expensive" and there was no guarantee it would work.
She said: "Unless they are going to fly the hawks 24 hours a day, the minute they are out of the way the pigeons will be back.
"Whether you feed the hawks or not, they are birds of prey and if they want to kill a pigeon they will do so."
Ms Haskell said in order to tackle the problem at source, the parliament should build its own pigeon loft where it could control breeding.
Edinburgh-based animal welfare group Advocates for Animals said it was "extremely sceptical" about the hawk plan.
A parliament spokeswoman said a month-long trial in the summer using birds of prey had been a success and, on the previous rejection of falconry, she added: "The bird problem has persisted and we have to be open to alternative approaches."