The Scottish Parliament will have the opportunity to ensure a better future for Scotland’s beavers today, says a coalition of leading environmental charities.
The Scottish Rewilding Alliance is calling on MSPs in Holyrood to vote to ban the licensed killing of beavers in Scotland at least until their conservation status is clearly secured.
The Alliance is urging the Scottish Government to back the ban and to allow beavers to be relocated from areas where they affect agriculture to areas where landowners would actively welcome them.
If lethal control continues at 2019 levels, there would be serious concerns about beavers’ long-term future in Scotland, say experts. Scottish Natural Heritage recently announced it had issued licences for 87 beavers – one-fifth of the Scottish population – to be shot in Tayside in the months following the Government’s May 2019 decision to give beavers protected status in Scotland.
Today’s Holyrood vote will be on an amendment by Mark Ruskell MSP to the Scottish Government’s Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill. The amendment would prevent the licensed killing of beavers unless the Government is sure the species has reached a favourable conservation status in Scotland – something currently unknown.
“Just a year ago the Scottish Government told us that beavers would be protected in Scotland, and that beavers were hugely important to the country’s biodiversity. But with a fifth of our population of these special animals killed in just a few months last year, the Scottish Natural Heritage-operated licensing regime seems little better than a free-for-all,’ said Steve Micklewright, Convener of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and chief executive of conservation charity Trees for Life. “Beavers’ activities around our waterways help protect our towns and cities against flooding, and they restore wetlands and create habitats for a wealth of wildlife. Occasionally, as in Tayside, they can have local impacts on agriculture too, and Ministers are putting landowners around the Tay in an impossible position by blocking beavers’ relocation to other more suitable areas of Scotland. We urge Parliament to support a ban on killing beavers, given their fragile conservation status here, and we’re calling on the Scottish Government to let those beavers in more controversial locations be relocated to areas where landowners would welcome their return for the first time since the sixteenth century.”