Future of crofting on Outer Hebrides '˜threatened by geese'

The ancient tradition of crofting on the Outer Hebrides is being threatened by a growing population of geese, community leaders have warned.
A croft on the Outer Hebrides. Picture: Allan Milligan/TSPLA croft on the Outer Hebrides. Picture: Allan Milligan/TSPL
A croft on the Outer Hebrides. Picture: Allan Milligan/TSPL

Crofters on North and South Uist use the unique machair grassland found along the coast to feed their livestock over winter, but locals claim the machair is now being destroyed by an ever-expanding population of greylag geese.

The birds are protected and can be shot under license, but crofters claim not enough funds are available to manage the population effectively.

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“It is clear from crofters’ comments that not only is the joy gone from crofting due to goose damage but that if nothing is done to control goose numbers, crofting that is particular to the Uists will end within five years with the consequent irrecoverable loss to the machair ecology,” Russell Smith, chairman of the Scottish Crofting Federation, told The Times.

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The crofting federation claims a fund set up by the Scottish Government to help islanders manage the geese population has yet to materialise.

Mr Smith argued that since Islay had been awarded £1 million to control barnacle geese, other areas should also benefit from a more generously funded management scheme, which could extended.

Local business owner Rory MacGillivray, said the birds were so successful it had become impossible to reduce their numbers.

“If there isn’t a finance scheme in place, crofting on the islands is at a very dangerous state,” he said. The Scottish Government said in a statement to The Times: “We recognise the challenges crofters in the Uists face due to the need for goose management and will work closely with the Scottish Crofting Federation to develop solutions.”

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