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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S6W-04596
Asked by: Mark Ruskell, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Green Party
Date lodged: 23 November 2021

Question

To ask the Scottish Government how it will give effect to the commitment in the shared policy programme agreed by it and the Scottish Green Party Parliamentary Group to make more use of translocation of beavers and provide financial and practical support for this.

Current status: Answered by Lorna Slater on 24 November 2021


Answer

Having been driven to extinction, beavers are now again an established part of Scotland’s wildlife, and the Scottish Government recognises that they will play an important role in restoring Scotland’s natural environment. Through their creation of wetland habitats that support a range of species including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals. Beaver dams can also play an important role in filtering sediment from watercourses and in mitigating flooding.

We will support trapping and translocation projects as a proactive measure to help establish beaver presence in areas of Scotland outside their current range and beyond areas where it might be expected that natural expansion would reach in the short term. As set out in the Shared Policy Programme, financial and practical support will be made available to facilitate translocation.

NatureScot have played a key role in working with stakeholders to develop our approach to beaver management and build sufficient experience enable us to take this significant step in expanding the beaver range in Scotland. NatureScot will lead on developing a national beaver strategy to direct this work as part our programme to restore and enhance biodiversity across Scotland. We will ask NatureScot to put this new policy direction into effect from the start of the new trapping season in the summer of 2022. This will mean that projects that aim to create new populations of beavers outside their current range will be considered for licenses. As is normal with these types of projects, groups proposing them would be expected to provide support on aspects such as consultation, monitoring and management. Trapping and translocation as a licensed mitigation measure will be carried out by or on behalf of NatureScot.

We will ask NatureScot to examine aspects of trapping and translocation with a view to guidance and streamlining the process. For example there may be scope for expanding the range of techniques and traps employed, as well as reducing some of the current measures and monitoring of beavers trapped and released within Scotland. We will also ask NatureScot how capacity for trapping and translocation can be increased if necessary to support additional demand.

All use of trapping and translocation will continue to be in accordance with animal welfare best practice and in accordance with the IUCN Guidelines and the Scottish Code on Conservation Translocations. Both of these documents emphasise the need for meaningful consultation and the importance of local acceptance of translocated animals. This will remain an important aspect of the Scottish Government and NatureScot’s consideration of translocation proposals.

The Scottish Government understands that through their modification of the environment, beavers can produce negative impacts on some species, on agricultural land, forestry and on infrastructure. Many of these impacts can be reduced or avoided through mitigation measures that allow beavers to remain in situ . NatureScot will continue to provide advice and financial support for such measures for as long as they are required. We will also promote the development of ideas for beaver mitigation techniques employing new technology. Lethal control will continue to be utilised as a management measure where necessary and as a last resort.

In conclusion we look forward to facilitating the expansion of beavers as part of our efforts to restore Scotland’s natural environment while supporting land managers to manage any risks this may pose. We will build on the experience of managing beavers in Scotland learned over the last twelve years or so and enabling the biodiversity and hydrological benefits to be seen over a wider area of Scotland, while continuing to ensure important economic interests can continue to be protected.