NFU Scotland attacks '˜brazen' claims over lynx release

The release of lynx into the Scottish countryside is a far more complex matter than its advocates would have anyone believe, NFU Scotland claimed yesterday.

Talks over a possible trial reintroduction of lynx have angered NFU Scotland. Picture: Contributed
Talks over a possible trial reintroduction of lynx have angered NFU Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Commenting on the latest proposals to release lynx in Scotland – this time in Argyll and Invernessshire – the union said that the move was the latest in a long line of “brazen and presumptuous claims” about the imminent reintroduction of the cat.

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“This sham consultation exercise does not, in any way, equate to an application for release in Scotland,” said the union’s deputy director of policy, Andrew Bauer.

He said that if such an application was ever formally made, he could “categorically reassure” farmers that the process for securing permission was long and complex.

Responding to reassurances made by the Lynx Trust UK that the number of sheep taken by lynx would be low, Bauer said: “On the forest edge, there will be significant predation of ewes and lambs and no amount of warm words and reassurances will convince any farmer or crofter otherwise.

“We have used meetings with key stakeholders, officials and politicians to express our grave concerns, not only about the implications of the proposed reintroduction for livestock keepers, but also the tenor of the public debate.”

The comments came after the Lynx UK Trust announced it had been in discussions with major landowners about a trial reintroduction of Eurasian lynx in Argyll and Invernessshire – claiming that the area could “comfortably be home” to 250 lynx.

Citing the control of the burgeoning deer population, the trust said the cats would bring ecological benefits – including increasing capercaillie numbers. The organisation said the cats would help control the pine marten population and, by keeping these animals in the trees, more capercaillie eggs would hatch if Lynx were present.

The trust said that areas in Argyll and Invernessshire, extending to over 10,000 square miles had been identified as suitable lynx habitat.

“This could comfortably be home for 250 lynx stretching from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, just 30 miles from Glasgow, into the West Highlands and Great Glen,” said the organisation’s scientific adviser, Dr Paul O’Donoghue.

‘Time to park this plan’

The chairman of the Scottish region of the National Sheep Association, John Fyall, called on both the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage to give the sheep industry some strong indication that they would “park up” any proposals to reintroduce lynx.

“The sheep industry is facing extreme exposure in the Brexit debate while struggling with current support measures,” he said.

“With the industry under so much pressure, our lobbying efforts should be focused on these areas rather than having our resources further stretched by groups wanting to reintroduce animals which have been absent for 1.,500 years.

“We need a clear line from both the Scottish Government and SNH that we can focus on these issues.”