Deer Sector news & updates

Deer Management Round Table meeting with Ms. Slater, 26 March 2024.

Deer Management Round Table Meeting

NatureScot office – Battleby, Perth.

Tuesday 26 March 2024, 10:30 – 12:30

Welcome and introductions

Colin MacPhail welcomed the group and introduced Ms Lorna Slater MSP, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity. Attendees in Annex below.

Statement on deer management followed by Q&A – Ms Lorna Slater MSP

Ms Slater set out the context of deer numbers across Scotland in the light of existing and proposed legislation and outlined the challenge in meeting the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy outcomes and the critical role of deer management and other herbivores, in achieving this. Ms Slater acknowledged that change is required and recognised that this is already taking place. The current consultation and the proposed Deer Management Restoration Orders aim to move the discussion away from ‘damage’ to ‘enhancement’ and Scottish Government is keen to hear the views of stakeholders and is open to trialling new approaches, particularly on how we change as a sector, what support for venison and wider incentives are needed and how communities can play a greater role.

The following points were raised in discussion:

  • LDNS: importance of incentives for lowland deer management and how narrow the margins are with the result that the majority of (roe) deer management is voluntary. Unclear how DMNROs would work in a low ground setting.
  • BDS: need to increase capacity for increased deer management; through incentives but also increasing capacity by supporting people to come into the industry.
  • EnvLink: supportive of proposals in the consultation and a shift to greater incentives for deer. Agreed that with a focus on enhancement but noted that a more simple change to legislation would be to move from ‘damage; to ‘enhancement’ to trigger use of existing regulatory provisions.
  • ADMG: noted that DMNROS are complex and additional regulation undermines voluntary approach and risks of driving a wedge in sector; streamlining existing regulations would be preferred. Recognition sought for collaboration and progress on deer reductions – noting the work of the Common Ground Forum.
  • SLE: agreed with ADMG and asked where the policy rational and evidence for the need for DMNROs had come from. Also raised concern of subjective assessment by NatureScot replacing an evidence-based approach. Also noted that a venison subsidy would incentivise and increase in deer management.
  • Scottish Venison: thanked Minister for support to venison sector but noted that support for future schemes had been shelved. Concerns that Defra investment in venison in England poses a risk to Scottish venison market in London/south of England. Sustained support, at scale would be welcomed.
  • Wild Deer Best Practice: would welcome more detail on application of DMNROs to allay uncertainty in the sector.
  • Trees for Life: noted the need for balance between additional regulation and more incentives to support skill, venison etc. Holistic view across the sector is required.

Ms Slater thanked the group for their views and noted concerns around DMNROs and incentives for deer management. Minister noted that public finances where particularly challenging but that she will advocate for departmental money and that all opportunities for financial support would be looked at. Ms Slater confirmed that Scottish Government and NatureScot would continue to engage with and seek the views of stakeholders as the proposed legislation develops.

Community Stalking – Donald Fraser

Donald Fraser updated on community stalking initiatives, including those at Creag Meagaidh NNR and Beinn Eighe NNR. Key points:

  • Giving local communities greater access to deer stalking on public land is part of solution and provides benefits such as training, building relationships and involving communities.
  • Creag Meagaidh model works for NatureScot’s management objectives; building capacity, local engagement and education.
  • NatureScot is developing models and mechanisms to help land managers manage risk and give confidence to communities.
  • NatureScot are keen to work with others in developing more opportunities. BASC and SGA also engaged.
  • Strategic Deer Board see this as a priority and are working with FLS and NatureScot to make progress.

CNPA Incentives pilot – Grant Moir

Grant Moir updated on the incentives pilot taking place in Cairngorms National Park. Key points:

  • CNPA has been discussed and agreed at the Strategic Deer Board. Scheme will be a two-year trail focussing on additional payments for venison to subsidise the red deer hind cull.
  • Strategic Deer Board are also progressing pilot schemes focussing on lowland/ roe deer and sika.
  • Key part of the picture is better understanding of costs and benefits of deer reductions. We have a good understanding of costs of increased deer management and are working to better articulate the benefits in terms of caron sequestration, enhanced biodiversity etc

Common Ground Forum – Alan McDonnell / Tom Turnbull

Alan McDonnell and Tom Turnbull updated on the work of the Common Ground Forum. The process was initiated by ADMG and Environment link with the support of the Centre for Good Relations to build relationships between deer managers in the highlands. The Common Ground Forum was formed following two years of progress and a desire to continue to success of the initial process.

CGF is continuing the outreach and broader engagement, including joint advocacy and with an emphasis on the engagement and empowerment of deer stalkers. The CGF is a positive initiative, working on common issues and respecting different opinions and is important in the current context of significant change in deer and land management in Scotland.  A recent CGF event in Glen Quoich attracted over 70 stalkers, a powerful and influential audience, and more events are planned.

Ms Slater thanked everyone for their contributions, recognised the challenges ahead and commended the collaborative approach being taken before leaving for another engagement.

Minutes of last meeting and actions

The minutes from the meeting of the full DMRT on 25 September 2023 were agreed. One action is outstanding:

  • Brodie Wilson (SG) to request an update from DEFRA on non-lead ammunition and the phasing out of lead ammunition.

Update from Strategic Deer Board – Grant Moir, Donald Fraser & Robbie Kernahan

Grant, Donald and Robbie updated on the business of the Strategic Deer Board.

  • Board met in March at Mugdock Country Park. Focus was on lowland deer issues and challenges of deer management in a peri-urban environment with 800,000 visitors pa.
  • Key areas of discussion included; community stalking, incentives for deer management and the business case for demonstrating benefits for biodiversity and climate.
  • The Board also discussed the consultation on proposed legislation. It was noted that all of the issues raised today (DMNROs, incentives etc) were being actively discussed by the Board.
  • Simplification of existing regulatory provisions and moving beyond ‘damage’ to ‘enhancement’ was discussed in the context of the concerns around DMNROs raised earlier.
  • Future incentives and the challenges of mainstreaming deer management into future agricultural support was discussed. Support was sought from the sector to make the case to Ministers.

NatureScot Operational and Regulation update – Donald Fraser

Donald Fraser updated on operational and regulatory matters.

  • NatureScot has increased resources and has a team of Wildlife Management Officers working across the whole of Scotland focussing on Operational Delivery Workstream priority areas and working with DMGs.
  • Section 7 areas in Caenlochan and North Ross are making positive progress. This is recognised by NatureScot who are keen to recognise more publicly.
  • Section 8 process at Loch Choire is progressing with the intention of moving forward to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • This compromises 300,000 ha of regulatory engagement and the continued delivery of DMGs was recognised.
  • Deer Online Service, part of the modernisation of NatureScot’s on line licensing service is progressing. Authorisations and Returns are available online in quick and simple process. Next stage is to integrate with RPID to extend the reach of cull return requests.
  • A suite of wider strategic work; eg looking at incentives scheme (lowland and sika) is also underway and cross-referenced with the continued delivery of the Deer Working Group recommendations; available on NatureScots website:

Managing Deer for Nature and Climate – Donald Fraser

Donald updated on the ongoing deer consultation, Managing Deer for Nature and Climate, which closes on 29 March 2024.

  • NatureScot and Scottish Government have proactively engagement with stakeholders.
  • Focus has been on DMNROs but other themes in the consultation need to be addressed. Scottish Government have received over 800 responses and are keen to continue to receive constructive feedback on improving the proposals.
  • NatureScot have been assured that issues raised will be looked at in depth and the Strategic Deer Board is engaged in the development of new legislation.
  • There will be a process of structured engagement before a draft bill which is expected in the Autumn.
  • DMRT are a key forum to continue to engage with the development of new legislation, next meeting (25 June) will be focussed on tdiscussing the results form the consultation analysis and the full DMRT group will be invited.
  • Concern was raised about the deer-specific legislation being part of a much bigger and more complex Natural Environment Bill and potential for lack of scrutiny. NatureScot will have a key role in giving evidence to Committees on technical detail and evidence in the Bill.
  • Continued engagement was welcomed by all as this is crucial to the support of the sector.

Any other business

  • Wild Deer Best Practice: WDBP officer post secured until March 2025. Full review of guides underway and new guides (eg Drones) being developed. Programme of events being planned; feral pigs, WHIAlite, and practitioner events at Creag Meagaidh and Harris/Lewis).
  • FLS noted that their venison contract was being re-tendered this summer.
  • Communicating success: it was noted that all partners could do more to promote successes and common ground more widely.

Date of next meeting and close

The full DMRT group will meet on 25 June 2024 and again in late September / early October 2024.

Actions arising

  • Brodie Wilson (SG) to request an update from DEFRA on non-lead ammunition and the phasing out of lead ammunition.
  • NatureScot to issue invite to full DMRT group for 25June meeting.


Davie BlackMCofS
John BruceLowland Deer Network Scotland (LDNS)
Peter ClarkBASC
Mike DanielsJMT
Ross EwingScottish Land and Estates
Nadia FlahertyScottish Land and Estates
John FletcherVeterinary Deer Society
Simon FranksScottish Forestry
Alex HoggSGA
Alan McDonnellTrees for Life
Grant MoirCNPA
Al MonkmanBDS
David MuirScottish Crofting Federation
Rebecca MayhewLLTNPA
Attila MorvayFSS
Duncan Orr-EwingRSPB / LINK
Ben PacholekPolice Scotland
Dick PlayfairSVP
Karolina SamerekLANTRA
Linzi SeivwrightADMG
Lorna Slater MSPScottish Government
Tom TurnbullADMG
Anton WatsonFLS
Dan WatsonNTS
Brodie WilsonSG – Wildlife Mgmt Team
Donald FraserNatureScot
Jamie HammondNatureScot
Robbie KernahanNatureScot
Colin MacPhailNatureScot Board member – Chair
Paul RobertsNatureScot


Olivia AndronicFSS
April ArmstrongConfor
Liz Barron-MajerikLANTRA
Victoria BrooksSCSTG
Mike CottamCNPA
Martyn DaviesGWCT
Finlay ClarkADMG
Richard CookeSVP
Angus CorbyTransport Scotland
Harriet DonaldLL & TNPA
Hugh DignonSG – Wildlife Mgmt Team
Niall EvansLANTRA
Peter FraserSGA
Mike FlynnSSPCA
Jonnie HallNFUS
David LynnPolice Scotland
Ross MacLeodGWCT
Doug McAdamWild Deer Best Practice Guides
Colin McCleanCNPA
William McGheeForest Policy Group
Elena McWattFSS
Robin PakemanJames Hutton Institute
Gavin RossNational Wildlife Crime Unit
James ScottBDS
Bruce SewellFLS
Jake SwindellsScottish Countryside Alliance
Robert SharpLow Deer Groups
Alex StoddartScottish Association for Country Sports
Juli TitheringtonSF
Helen ToddRamblers Association
Andrew VoasSG – Veterinary Adviser
Liz WalkerSG – Biodiversity Unit
Allan WattCEH
Angela WilliamsCommunity Land Scotland / Knoydart Foundation
Bruce WilsonScottish Wildlife Trust