Deer-stalking syndicates lose leases

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SOME local deer-stalking syndicates in Galloway are mystified why they have had their cash-generating leases suddenly terminated by the Forestry Commission and replaced by contractors hired by the FC to cull the deer instead.

Those running the syndicates say it makes no economic sense to pay someone to do a job that was previously done by the sydicates – who paid the Forestry Commission for the privilege.

One deerstalker described the situation as “daft”.

He said: “We pay around £100 per animal, so if we cull 20, that is £2000 for the government. But the contractors they are hiring are paid about £120 per animal. There’s one syndicate that pays £7000 for its lease but the Forestry is now going to pay contractors £10,000 to do the job instead, so that is a £17,000 difference. It’s daft.

“But the other blow is to the local economy. The clients come from all over, including down south, and they all need to be housed and fed and watered. I know of one at least who always brings his wife.

“Some come back seven or eight times a year and they all spend money in the local shops and garages and restaurants and pubs. There is a lot of money going to be wasted from the local economy. There’s probably an average of six people in each lease who come here six or seven times a year. That amounts to a lot of money. And it is going on all year round.

“There are three private contractors going out every night. They have 900 deer to cull between them and they are making a fortune from taxpayers’ money when syndicates would pay for the privilege and bring benefits to the local economy.

“And there is a lot of investment made by the syndicates. We have to provide the rifles and ammunition and buy quad bikes and all the other equipment.”

Another who has run a syndicate for 25 years said: “Deer-stalking brings in a lot of money to the area so it makes no sense to pay contractors to do the job instead.”

However, an FCS spokesman said: “There is a real need to manage deer numbers on the national forest estate in Galloway to an acceptable level.

“We operate around 40 deer 
management leases or per­missions within Galloway Forest District and when each lease period comes to an end, we take a decision either to take the area back in hand or to re-tender so that all interested parties have a fair and equal opportunity to bid for one of the new deer management permissions.

“We have found a number of 
lease areas are suffering from being seriously damaged by 
deer browsing. For this reason we will take six of these leases back in hand so we can focus our efforts on reducing impacts caused by deer, thereby pro­tecting vulnerable sites. We had discussions with the syndicate operators and informed them that the plan is to end their leases in June this year.

“The rest of the leases/permissions, operated by local syndicates, remain unchanged.”

n Editorial – page 14