Am Bratach No. 311
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has performed a U-turn on the issue of deer management at Ardvar in Assynt. Last month we reported on the organisations threat to issue the deer management sub-group with a Section 8 control scheme if they refused to sign a legally-binding agreement to bring down deer numbers. Amid much publicity, this was vehemently opposed by the Assynt Crofters Trust.
In an attempt to resolve the situation, a meeting was held on August 9 between SNH and representatives of the three estates with an interest in Ardvar. In attendance were Nick Halfide, head of operations at SNH, Don ODriscoll from the John Muir Trust, Michael Ross from Ardvar Estate, and Ray Mackay, vice-chairman of the Assynt Crofters Trust.
As a result of the meeting, a document will be drawn up which all parties involved will be invited to agree on. However, concerns remain about the mismanagement of the case on the part of SNH, and the waste of resources involved.
Mr Mackay said: It looks as though we have won in that they are no longer going to go on with the Section 7. If SNH come up with something that the sub-group can live with some kind of agreement which is not statutory then that will be fine as far as the sub-group goes. But the crofters are anxious to get some kind of statement out of SNH to say that the situation has been mismanaged. It just so happens at the moment that there is a group of people who are willing to take them on, but we may not be around in a few years time.
In a filmed interview available to watch on Youtube (The Assynt Deer Argument, published on August 12), Mr Mackay spoke of the Assynt Crofters deep distrust of SNH, which the current situation has done nothing to resolve. He has been especially critical of the management of SNH and what he believes to be misleading information fed to the organisations board, which informed decision-making: What is not good is what that says about the management of SNH and the fact that a small group of people can run up a bill well in excess of three quarters of a million pounds of taxpayers money on what is patently wrong. Its an injustice. Although the present situation may resolve itself in terms of Section 7 and Section 8, the investigation into what SNH has done is certainly not going to end.