Jean welcomes shoot-and-sale license for Uist geese

Jean has welcomed the decision of Scottish Natural Heritage to pilot licenses for crofters and other farmers on the Uists and Benbecula to sell the meat of greylag geese.

The measure will provide much-needed income for local communities, ultimately making goose management self-funding, as well as reducing the needless waste of discarded carcasses.

The licenses will run until March 2015, and build upon a similar pilot in Orkney which began last August and runs until July this year.

Jean said:

“This is great news for the Western Isles. Control of geese is vital to crofting and other farming in the islands, but until now most of the birds have simply had to be thrown away. This has also meant that goose control has cost crofters time or money.

“Under this pilot, we’ll see the end of the shameful waste of high-quality meat, and an income stream that will make goose control self-financing and add to the diversity of croft products.

“This is also a boost for Scotland’s largest community buy-out, as Stòras Uibhist, the community company that owns most of South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay on behalf of the residents, will be the license-holder for those islands.”

Jean had previously pressed the Scottish Government on the issue, asking Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in a Parliamentary Question whether he had discussed the impact of the geese on farming, and the possibility of introducing a mechanism for their sale:

Question S4O-02193: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 22/05/2013
To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with Scottish Natural Heritage regarding the impact of greylag geese on agricultural land and the possibility of introducing a mechanism for the sale of greylag geese.

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse (30/05/2013):
My officials have had extensive discussions with Scottish Natural Heritage and with stakeholders represented on the National Goose Management Review Group regarding the impact of greylag geese on agricultural land and possible solutions to limiting their impact on certain Scottish islands, including the trialling of adaptive management techniques.

At the request of farmers on Orkney, Scottish Natural Heritage is working on the development of a scheme to permit the limited sale of wild goose carcases under licence, provided an effective and proportionate system of identification and control can be established.

We are required to consult with the European Commission before putting any such scheme into practice and we intend to start those consultations very shortly.

Motion: The Community Energy Efficiency Programme at the Scottish Green Awards

That the Parliament congratulates Shetland Islands Council and Community Energy Scotland on being finalists at the 2013 Scottish Green Awards as a result of their joint grant scheme, the Community Energy Efficiency Programme; understands that the programme is a two-year grant aid scheme designed to help volunteer-run community facilities to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint; further understands that 43 grants, worth almost £355,000, were awarded to 32 different community groups across Shetland, including public halls, youth centres, heritage centres, boating clubs and sport and leisure clubs, resulting in the upgrading of 26 facilities; believes that energy and carbon reductions could range from 12% to 48% less once all improvement works have been carried out, and considers that the Community Energy Efficiency Programme is a model example of how a joint partnership between a council and a charity can help communities to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate Challenge Fund Advice Surgeries

 

The Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) has made 563 awards to the value of over £46.9 million since its launch in 2008. The fund helps community groups who have projects designed to help reduce their carbon footprint, and funded projects in the past have included community growing projects, initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle and energy efficiency advice.

To encourage potential applicants, the Scottish Government will be holding two further advice surgeries in the Highlands and Islands next week to provide information to local community groups and interested parties. These will be held between 9.30am and 12.30pm on Tuesday 23rd July at the Merkinch Community Centre in Inverness and between 9.30am and 2pm on Thursday 25th July at the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Council Building in Stornoway (with videolinks to the Council Offices in Balivanich and Barra).

I would encourage any and all community groups with any ideas to pop along to these events in Inverness and Stornoway to hear more from the CCF. More information can be found at their website.

Speech: Stage 1 Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill

I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the bill’s basic principles at stage 1. Although a lot of my colleagues have identified during the debate issues that require more work or consideration, I think that there is consensus that work can be done to improve the sustainability, accountability and transparency of the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors. Indeed, the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s report on the bill commented that

“the current draft of the Bill is very much the starting point, and should the Bill reach Stage 2 it will require amendment in order to make it … robust”.

There is no doubt that the cabinet secretary and the Government have a tough and delicate task on their hands. Again, the committee’s report reflected the difficulties in finding consensus on the way forward on contentious issues due to current difficulties between the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors. Although it is not something that can always be addressed by legislation, I am sure that we would all agree that improving the relationships could and should be part of the process.

The importance of the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors to Scotland’s Highlands and Islands communities must not be underestimated. The popularity of Scottish salmon continues to grow at an exponential rate, with aspirations to increase sustainable production by 4 to 5 per cent per annum until 2020.

Enabling the sectors to continue to grow and to provide jobs and exports in an ecologically sound manner is essential to ensuring the sustainability not only of the sectors but of many rural and remote communities. However, do we know what the increase of 5 per cent per annum until 2020 will look like? Planning applications are already being refused on the basis of proliferation. We need a national plan if we want to see such growth.

Recognising the opportunity for Scotland and realising its potential is the right thing to do. Being sensitive to the natural environment, legislating against abuse by a large industry, always protecting the fantastic wild salmon and its life cycle and believing that quality must not be compromised by quantity should all be Scotland’s trademarks.

Of the issues that the bill seeks to address, I am of the opinion that the presence of sea lice and the strategies used to contain them will be paramount to the bill’s success. I welcome the minister’s announcement of £1 million of funding for scientific research. I believe that that is essential not only to reassure the public but to ensure that we have sustainable growth in fish farming.

In conclusion, I support the bill at stage 1. I look forward to seeing work on the bill continue over the coming weeks and months to create a strong framework for the sector.

Motion: Importance of Crofting to the Highlands and Islands

NOTE: This motion is eligible for Member’s Business, meaning that, if selected, it shall be debated at some point in the Chamber.

 

The Role of Crofting in the Highlands and Islands
That the Parliament understands that there are 18,027 crofts in the Highlands and Islands and across Scotland, housing over 33,000 people; considers that crofters play a key role through the production of store animals for the agricultural supply chain and in maintaining land in remote areas; believes that crofts are a valuable source of high-health status animals for larger agricultural food producers; considers the work of crofters to be vital to Scotland’s national food and drink policy and to the continuing success of the sector; understands that most crofters rely on common agricultural policy subsidies to earn a marginal income and that they have to take on second jobs; believes that, by bringing in new inhabitants and because of the economic links that crofters have with the rest of the agricultural sector, crofting has helped maintain population levels in remote communities, considers crofting to be of paramount importance to the environment, food and drink sector and economy, and would welcome the interests of crofters and their communities being championed.

PRESS RELEASE: JEAN URQUHART CONGRATULATES COLLEAGUES ON APPOINTMENTS

Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has today welcomed the Scottish Government’s cabinet reshuffle, congratulating her colleagues that have assumed Ministerial posts.

The reshuffle was conducted following the retiring of Bruce Crawford, Brian Adam and Stewart Stevenson from Ministerial office, with a new Ministerial post of External Affairs and International Development also established.

In particular, Jean congratulated Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who has replaced Stewart Stevenson as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change after Mr Stevenson stepped down. The minister’s brief contains many issues of relevance to the Highlands and Islands.

Commenting, Jean said:

“As Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul will have a role in helping to direct policy on crofting, aquaculture and biodiversity, as well as liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA and the Forestry Commission.

“Through my involvement with the Parliamentary Cross-Party Group on Crofting, I am aware of the challenges and opportunities facing crofters.

“I look forward to working with Paul, and my other colleagues who have assumed Ministerial posts, over the course of the coming months and years.”