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Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, April 20, 2023


Eurasian Lynx

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate, on motion S6M-07598, in the name of Kenneth Gibson, on bringing back the Eurasian lynx to Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. Members who wish to speak in the debate should press their request-to-speak buttons.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the recent campaign for the Eurasian lynx, a medium-sized wildcat native to Scotland, to be reintroduced; understands that lynx have been extinct in Britain for around 500 years; is aware that this was probably caused by widespread loss of woodland, the collapse of wild deer populations and hunting by humans; acknowledges a study carried out by the Lynx to Scotland partnership, made up of Trees for Life, Lifescape and Scotland: The Big Picture, which sought to assess the social feasibility of potential lynx reintroduction through consultation with stakeholders and communities in the Cairngorms National Park and Argyll, and found that there was sufficient support for lynx reintroduction among stakeholders and a desire among others to further investigate the potential, to warrant a continued exploration of feasibility; considers that the case for lynx reintroduction is both moral and ecological and that lynx would make Scotland's ecosystems richer and stronger; believes that lynx are an important species due to their role in maintaining balance and diversity in an ecosystem, as they help regulate numbers and behaviour of deer and some smaller carnivores; is aware that lynx are mainly crepuscular animals, and pose no danger to people; considers that attacks on livestock such as sheep are uncommon; is aware that lynx have slowly spread across mainland Europe in the last few decades, and have been reintroduced in several European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and France; believes that lynx could also act as high-profile ambassadors for nature-rich landscapes, attracting valuable tourism revenue in Scotland's rural communities, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government to rectify lynx extinction in Scotland by a controlled reintroduction, once the necessary ecological and practical assessments have been undertaken.


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

I thank the colleagues who signed my motion and made this debate possible, and those who will contribute to it.

We live in a country that is among the most nature-depleted in the world. The biodiversity intactness index, which estimates the percentage of natural biodiversity remaining across the world, found that the United Kingdom is in the lowest 10 per cent of nations globally for biodiversity and is at the bottom among the G7. Worldwide biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history.

However, recent years have seen some notable improvements, both nationally and globally. Across Europe, increased awareness, hunting bans and habitat restoration have thankfully resulted in a gradual return of many native species.

In Spain, the Iberian lynx has gone from being the world’s most endangered feline to being the greatest triumph in cat conservation anywhere in only 20 years, with numbers rising from fewer than 100 to more than 1,100. Spain has invested to save the lynx, which it calls the “Iberian jewel” and has even built wildlife underpasses so that lynx territories are linked and the cats are less likely to be struck by cars. The animal is popular even with farmers and landowners, who now realise that Iberian lynx do not prey on lambs or domestic animals but displace the foxes that do. Many landowners have even launched tourism ventures that offer visitors an opportunity to see those beautiful animals in the wild.

Here, the reintroduction of beavers, ospreys and sea eagles, and action to save wildcats and otters, coupled with new measures to tackle wildlife crime, are all very positive measures that show a commitment to conservation. However, any debate on biodiversity cannot ignore the fact that the UK is one of the few countries in Europe with no apex predators, casting doubt on our appetite to play a role in addressing the recovery of degraded ecosystems. We cannot expect Africa, Asia and Latin America to save rare species without saving and restoring our own.

The European Union’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse ecosystem degradation. The strategy aims to put Europe’s biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030 and seeks binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species, protecting up to 30 per cent of European land and seas. The UK should be able to do at least as well.

Eurasian lynx are part of the solution and have already been successfully reintroduced in Austria, France, Germany, and Switzerland—countries that are all more densely populated than Scotland. Research has confirmed that our Highlands have enough habitat and suitable prey to support a population of around 400 lynx.

Eurasian lynx are one of four lynx species found around the world and were originally native to Scotland, where the last were exterminated in the southern uplands in 1760. The lynx is a shy, crepuscular, medium-sized wildcat, inhabiting dense woodland and mountain slopes far from human settlements. The demise of the lynx was caused by human activity, including hunting, the collapse of wild deer populations and the widespread loss of woodland. The fact that Scotland has undergone partial reforestation over the past century, coupled with a massive growth in our deer population, means that we now have both ample habitat and prey for lynx to thrive.

Reintroducing the Eurasian lynx is not only morally right but would contribute to nutrient recycling and carcase provision for other species, as well as the regeneration of vegetation and trees.

Any lynx reintroduction programme must, of course, meet strict environmental and policy tests laid down by the Government conservation agency NatureScot, and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. NatureScot rules require licence applicants to prove that a reintroduced species can survive naturally, avoiding conflicts with local land users, such as sheep or chicken farmers, and not causing

“unacceptable harm to people’s wellbeing, livelihoods and recreational activities”.

The partners in the Lynx to Scotland group—Trees for Life, Lifescape and Scotland: The Big Picture—support a five-year trial reintroduction of lynx, recognising that that will rely on navigating complex social, cultural and perhaps political obstacles. Any reintroduction must be preceded by careful discussions between all stakeholders, including gamekeepers, foresters, farmers, conservationists, landowners, tourism businesses and rural communities. During 2023, the lynx focus group will explore the barriers to lynx reintroduction, aiming to build trust between stakeholders and to address areas of disagreement over science and local knowledge.

We face a climate emergency and must be bold to rectify the damage done by our unsustainably high carbon emissions since the industrial revolution. The Scottish Government’s draft climate change plan proposed ambitious targets for future woodland expansion, with 21 per cent of Scotland to be covered by woodland by 2032.

Forestry and Land Scotland plants between 15 million and 24 million trees each year, replanting sites where timber is harvested, creating woodland and replacing dead trees. Unfortunately, a major hindrance to that is that most young trees are vulnerable to deer for up to five years. Forestry and Land Scotland surveys specifically for deer damage to productive crops. Last year, the rolling three-year average of trees—even those protected with environmentally harmful plastic covers—damaged by deer was 20 per cent, a rise from 15 per cent in 2017.

The Eurasian lynx is a big game hunter that preys predominantly on medium-sized woodland deer such as roe and sika and on red deer calves. As a highly efficient predator of deer, its reintroduction will help to reduce, or at the very least redistribute, deer populations and ease the pressure on our woodlands.

Understanding those hunting patterns is also key to addressing the concerns of some farmers and gamekeepers about possible lynx attacks on sheep. According to Dr David Hetherington, who works as the nature networks manager at the Cairngorms National Park Authority and is a leading expert on Eurasian lynx, the presence of four or more deer per square kilometre of forest usually means little scope for sheep predation. Scotland’s density currently sits at more than 10 deer per square kilometre. Dr Hetherington described sheep predation in countries in which sheep graze in flocks in open pasture alongside woodland as

“small-scale with one or two local attacks”.

I encourage colleagues to attend Tuesday evening’s parliamentary reception on lynx reintroduction, which is sponsored by Ariane Burgess. At that reception, they can talk directly to Dr Hetherington about what it would mean to live alongside lynx in Scotland.

Public support is key. The latest research, led by the charities Scotland: The Big Picture, Trees for Life and Vincent Wildlife Trust, involved a year consulting a range of different stakeholders and local communities in Cairngorms national park and Argyll. There was sufficient appetite to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the potential for lynx reintroduction to warrant further exploration.

Discussions should also focus on important practicalities, such as compensation schemes in case of livestock predation. In Switzerland, where there are 250 lynx and fewer deer, the predation of sheep has remained at under 50 animals a year across the whole country since 2006. That has fluctuated slightly in response to changes in the deer population. Problem lynx—that means those that take 15 or more sheep in a year—can legally be shot under licence, but that has not happened in 20 years. To put that in perspective, only a fortnight ago, a dog killed 16 lambs in Fife.

Like many colleagues, I greatly enjoyed watching the landmark “Wild Isles” David Attenborough series on the BBC. It highlights the important work that has been undertaken to halt the alarming decline in nature, wildlife and habitats across the British Isles. Sir David Attenborough said:

“we all need to urgently repair our relationship with the natural world. We now have a few short years during which we can still make a choice.”

For many decades, conservationists have worked hard to save our dwindling wildlife. Now is the time to move beyond just saving existing species by taking a more proactive approach and reintroducing native species that have been driven to extinction by human activity.

Lynx will prosper in Scotland. There is plenty of food and habitat. Whether they will do that is ultimately down to societal choices and our willingness to share space with other species. Reintroducing native species such as the Eurasian lynx is not a panacea when it comes to biodiversity loss, but it can be a positive measure to boost the health of our natural world, and it can help to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss in the process.


Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests. I have been a farmer for over 40 years, and I have been involved in managing the countryside for a period of that time.

I do not think that Mr Gibson will be surprised when I say that I am not one of those people who would like to see lynx reintroduced to the Cairngorms. Lynx have been away from this country for 500 years, and now is just not the time to bring them back.

As far as I can see, as an MSP who represents the Cairngorms, there is no appetite for the reintroduction of lynx, except among some conservation organisations that are interested in single species and the reforestation of the Highlands. Rather than talking about introducing new species, we ought to be managing the species that we are in danger of losing.

In the Cairngorms, one of those species is the capercaillie, which is vitally important. We have pumped millions of pounds into protecting the capercaillie. The RSPB has had Abernethy reserve for a considerable period of time and has done nothing to reverse what has happened. We should be spending more time on the capercaillie. I fear that lynx would attack that ground-nesting bird in the same way that other predators that have come in recently, such as the pine marten, have.

Kenneth Gibson

Research has actually shown that lynx keep down the number of foxes, which are more likely to kill capercaillies. You talk about not reintroducing species. Does that mean that you do not think that we should have reintroduced the beaver, the sea eagle or the osprey back in 1971, for example?

You should speak through the chair, please.

Edward Mountain

I will come to a lot of species, if I may.

Along with capercaillies, there are the other important ground-nesting birds that we see around the Cairngorms. That does not include just curlews and birds that nest on grassland outside woodland edges; it includes shanks and pipers, which would nest in areas of afforestation, exactly where they would be found by lynx.

We have an appalling track record when it comes to the reintroduction of species. I will talk about beavers, as Mr Gibson mentioned them. We should not forget that beavers were illegally reintroduced into this country in Tayside and that they have spread out since. In fact, I was on the committee that heard Roseanna Cunningham explaining that, if we allowed them to go further, they would not be spread by humans beyond that—they would have to spread out naturally—and that lethal control would still be part of the positive management action that would need to be undertaken in relation to that species.

We now have a minister who has changed all that. We are allowing beavers and talking about relocating beavers into areas such as Glen Affric, where they have never been before. I can proudly hold up my hand and say that I have been managing managed land around Glen Affric and have personally authorised the culling of approximately 30,000 deer to allow the trees to grow. Now we are going to bring in an animal that will eat them and knock them all down. That does not make much sense to me.

Mr Gibson mentioned sea eagles. We brought sea eagles back and they are great because we can actually see them. We rarely see beavers, but we can see sea eagles. However, they come with problems. They take lambs and sheep, and farmers on Skye contact me regularly about the need to control sea eagles and prevent them from taking the lambs from their hefted flocks, which prevents farmers from carrying out future activities. In fact, we are paying farmers quite a lot of money when it comes to the loss of lambs.

On other species that we are trying to protect, I want to mention the wild cat. It is a personal issue for me to see wild cats reintroduced. I have spent a huge amount of time going to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to make sure that we are getting wild cats back. They will be in direct competition with lynx and lynx are not going to do them any favours.

So when it comes to the lynx, we in the Highlands are seeing the central belt saying that it is fine to put lynx up into the Highlands, while in the Highlands farmers are despairing at the suggestion that lynx are going to be brought in. Conservation bodies for important species such capercaillie and wild cats are despairing when it comes to reintroducing lynx because the very species that they are trying to protect will become prey.

A lot of noise is made about how beavers are going to increase tourism. I want to know how many tourists have actually seen a beaver, and if lynx were to come back, I want to know how many tourists would actually see one. I doubt very much that there would be many.

On the reintroduction of the lynx, the previous minister for agriculture said at a conference, “Over my dead body”, but I hope that we do not see Fergus Ewing’s dead body as lynx are railroaded into the islands. I send out this message as my final point. Keep your lynx ideas and your lynx effects to yourself. We do not want them in the Highlands.


Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I thank Kenny Gibson for securing this debate, which I see as a contribution to our national conversation about whether we are ready for the reintroduction of Eurasian lynx. In the face of the nature and climate emergencies, we need all the help that we can get from nature. Lynx can help us in our efforts to restore nature, especially in our forests, which in turn will help us to bring down the rising temperatures of our climate. However, any reintroduction must be done with the people who are involved in land management understanding why bringing the lynx back to Scotland is necessary. I commend Trees for Life, Lifescape and Scotland: The Big Picture for their proactive work on this in Argyll and the Cairngorms national park

Under a range of international agreements, countries around the world have signed up to do the work of reintroducing species that were once present and, as Kenny Gibson has said, we have evidence that lynx once made Scotland their home. Coupled with those commitments, we now have biodiversity obligations to protect and restore 30 per cent of Scotland’s nature on land and at sea by 2030, which is just a little more than six years away.

We now understand that nature plays a central role in reducing and stabilising rising temperatures in our climate. Supporting land managers to work together in landscape-scale nature restoration will be key, but we have much work to do and some of it will have to be done by allowing nature to get on with it. That means that we need to create the conditions for natural regeneration, and the lynx can play a key role in creating those conditions.

Reforesting Scotland is essential. Barren mountains and moors are not natural and in most cases they are the result of overgrazing by deer. As we have heard, we have four types of deer in Scotland, including two that are native—the smaller roe deer and red deer—and we currently have an average of 20 deer per square kilometre, when our land has a carrying capacity of about two per square kilometre. Lynx would be a natural predator for the smaller roe deer.

However, it is not only reducing deer numbers that the lynx can help with. In nature, predators help to shape the landscape by simply being present. Deer will not go to places where they know that lynx are present. In that way, the grazing pressure is reduced and natural regeneration can take place. There is a world-class example of that. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone national park in the United States, their presence alone stopped the deer from grazing specific areas of the park, which allowed forest to regenerate. In Scotland, we now have the right conditions for the introduction of lynx—we have enough of the right habitat and enough food.

Will the member take an intervention?

Ariane Burgess

I am aware that, as Edward Mountain has said—I am not going to take an intervention from him—people who manage our land are concerned about the reintroduction of lynx, and I think that we need to bring them into the conversation. As Scotland’s leading expert, Dr David Hetherington, has said, when people hear about lynx, they tend to conflate them with wolves and to describe wolf behaviour. We must get curious about the lynx and want to understand it. Although lynx are a top predator, they are different from wolves. They live in forests, where they are safe undercover, and that is where they prefer to hunt. They are elusive and tend to stay away from humans.

In the Jura mountains in Switzerland, which we have already heard about, where lynx were reintroduced in the 1970s, they have rarely caused problems for land managers and farmers. We could have regulations similar to those that are in place there, whereby if a lynx becomes a problem—that is, if it kills more than 15 sheep in a year—a licence can be applied for to shoot that lynx. In the Jura mountains, a licence has not had to be authorised since 2003.

I invite everyone who participates in the debate and everyone in the Parliament to continue to be curious about how the lynx can help us by joining me next Tuesday evening in the Holyrood room, where we can explore whether Scotland is ready for lynx and hear from Dr David Hetherington.


Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

When Ariane Burgess mentioned the reintroduction of wolves, I thought that Edward Mountain was going to fall off his chair.

I congratulate Kenneth Gibson on securing this intriguing debate. I say to Edward Mountain that that does not mean that the reintroduction of the lynx is imminent, but it opens up the debate to what I hope will be informed and tolerant discussion.

I will reference the detailed research by the Lynx to Scotland partnership, which sought to assess the social feasibility of the potential reintroduction of lynx to Scotland through consultation with stakeholders and communities in two focal areas—the Cairngorms national park and Argyll. I understand that that work represents the first effort to assess social feasibility, which is of central importance for the proposed reintroduction of a large carnivore that has been absent from Britain for a period of time equivalent to multiple human generations.

I will provide some graphic but relevant information. The lynx is, of course, a pure carnivore. Depending on the region and the availability of prey, it hunts cloven-hoofed animals such as roe deer, as well as young red deer, small mammals such as hares and rabbits, and in rare instances, smaller predators such as foxes are also on the lynx’s menu. It hunts mainly in the evening, when its prey is also active, and its territory is heavily wooded and afforested areas.

When hunting, the lynx is aided by its excellent sensory organs, which enable it to see six times better in the dark than a human, and it is able to spot a rabbit from a distance of 300m. With its finely tuned ears, it can also hear the slightest rustle. It is a stalk-and-ambush hunter that catches its prey just like a cat does. However, I understand that, if a surprise attack fails, the prey is not pursued. It seizes its prey with its front claws and kills it with a bite to the throat.

If a lynx has killed a deer and is not disturbed, it will return to its prey over several nights until it has completely consumed it. A lynx needs to kill about one deer a week, which equates to around 60 animals a year. Therefore, the lynx could—I simply say “could”—provide a natural means of keeping deer numbers down. It could also predate on foxes, which, in turn, predate on ground-nesting birds.

Having been driven to extinction in parts of Europe since the beginning of the 19th century—

Edward Mountain

I totally appreciate that other predators, such as foxes and wildcats, could be killed, but the lynx are also going to kill ground-nesting birds—in the Cairngorms, the very ground-nesting birds that we are red listing as an endangered species: the capercaillie. Does Christine Grahame accept that capercaillie would be put under increased threat by lynx?

Christine Grahame

My information from many good gamekeepers in my part of the south of Scotland is that their concern is about foxes predating on ground-nesting birds. Foxes nipping out of the woods are the problem. I ask Edward Mountain to hold his peace, because he will be happy with my conclusion, I hope.

There were diverse views, as expected, on the benefits and disbenefits of reintroduction, and that is rightly the case. Indeed, there was a proposal for the trial reintroduction of lynx to the Kielder forest by the Lynx UK Trust in 2018, which was rejected by the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for, among other reasons, insufficient engagement with key stakeholders and communities.

The overall objective of the Lynx to Scotland study was to provide an evidence base to inform the discourse among stakeholders about the feasibility of reintroduction, to be clear about the range of views of stakeholders, and to gain a clearer understanding of public belief and perceptions around reintroducing the animal. Four hundred and thirty verbatim statements were initially selected from interview transcripts. Those were refined to a set of 52 statements and then considered. Community groups were also invited to engage.

The view was reinforced that roe deer have become hugely problematic over recent decades and difficult to hunt under woodland cover. It was thought that, in an ideal world, lynx would have a regulatory impact on smaller carnivores that negatively impact protected species such as the capercaillie, as I have said, and it was questioned what role lynx might play in contributing to nutrient recycling in woodland.

However, the view was also expressed that red deer are commercially very valuable to the Highland economy and that lynx might be detrimental to that. A potential consequence of lynx reducing red deer abundance was thought to be a loss of grazed heath, with knock-on impacts on protected species and perhaps an increased risk of wildfire on the peatlands. Questions were also asked about the growth dynamics for lynx populations and what limited their numbers in Europe.

The main body of discussion concerned the potential impact of lynx on sheep farming in Scotland. Naturally, farmers want to protect their sheep from traumatic and unnecessary death.

I hope that Edward Mountain is listening, as I have selected three recommendations from the study. First, it states:

“It is not currently appropriate for proponents of lynx reintroduction to submit a licence application for reintroduction. At present, there are significant areas of contestation with regards to the feasibility of lynx reintroduction, and if these are not satisfactorily addressed, there is strong potential for the escalation of existing conflicts.”

Secondly, it states:

“A group with cross-sectoral representation should be established to appraise the findings of this study ... The process should seek to integrate local and scientific knowledge in appraising and addressing these areas, and the output from this group should inform the ... processes.”

I will not quote all the recommendations but, thirdly, it states:

“A comprehensive risk assessment for protected species and rural industries is required, in order to address divergent perceptions over the potential impacts, both positive and negative, of lynx reintroduction.”

I conclude by saying to Mr Mountain that, although I understand his concerns, he should look at that considered report and see that it proposes not that lynx should be reintroduced now but that much more detailed research must be done to satisfy all stakeholders if and when the Eurasian lynx might be reintroduced to Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you very much, Ms Grahame. I know that we can rely on you to provide graphic information, if not to stick to your time limit in a members’ business debate.

I invite Lorna Slater to respond to the debate—for around seven minutes, please.


The Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity (Lorna Slater)

I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate, including Kenneth Gibson for bringing it to the chamber. It is lovely to hear support for conservation and nature restoration. I was interested to hear about the data on the Iberian lynx. I did not know that lynx compete with foxes—it is not an area of specialty for me, so this has been a good opportunity to learn about it.

Mr Gibson rightly highlighted the damage to trees that deer can cause, which underlines the importance of deer management to effective conservation and the promotion of biodiversity.

Edward Mountain highlighted the risks to capercaillie, which we in Scotland are very concerned about right now. I therefore appreciate his highlighting that extremely endangered species, which we are doing much to protect given its iconic status here.

I return to beaver management. Of course, I do not support the illegal introduction of any animal species. The illegal reintroduction of beavers to the Tayside catchment basin caused innumerable problems that have set back the acceptance of the species by a long way. However, some 50 stakeholders have now produced Scotland’s beaver strategy, which aims to reintroduce beavers to appropriate areas across Scotland where stakeholder engagement has been carried out. I appreciate that the way in which things were done in Tayside was not right and should not happen again.

I want to be clear about the minister’s views on the management of all species. Do you believe that lethal control should be part of the management options?

Speak through the chair, please, Mr Mountain.

I am sorry, but I did not catch part of the question.

I was asking whether the minister believes that lethal control should be part of the management options when species are reintroduced.

Lorna Slater

The member raises a good question. At the moment, lethal control is still used overwhelmingly in beaver management. We have managed to relocate only a handful of them in Scotland. Lethal control is still the main management tool, which is unfortunate, but that is the reality of the situation that we are in. Of course, wherever possible, we want to translocate beavers to appropriate sites under licence.

The regional member for the Highlands and Islands Ariane Burgess somewhat contradicted Mr Mountain’s claim that people in the Highlands do not want this to happen. I thank her for providing an alternative view on that.

I welcome Christine Grahame’s point about opening a debate with all stakeholders, and her enthusiasm for full and effective community engagement. As Ms Grahame said, the start of such a debate can be interesting. Recently, I attended an event in Parliament with many environmental stakeholders. I spoke to a gentleman who, for the previous 25 years, had wanted to reintroduce beavers to the UK. When the first reintroductions were done—I believe it was in 2009—that began a process that led to our now having the strategy for those to happen all over Scotland. For him, that was a sort of epiphany, in that his lifetime’s work had come to fruition. Children in Scotland will now grow up alongside beavers in their natural environment. That is wonderful, and it is a significant achievement for us.

The Scottish Government fully recognises that appropriate reintroductions of native species can be beneficial to ecosystems and restoring biodiversity. Those include the successful reintroductions of sea eagle, beaver and red kite. Lynx can bring benefits, such as their ability to reduce deer numbers naturally, as well as the creation of new opportunities for wildlife tourism.

To respond to one of Mr Mountain’s points, I have seen beavers in the wild, but only in Canada. I have not yet seen the beavers in Scotland, because there are simply not enough of them, but I look forward to doing so when there are more. They can be seen at dawn and sunset. When I saw one in Canada, it was in broad daylight, but there we go.

I return to the subject of lynx. The reintroduction of an apex predator such as the lynx can profoundly change the ecology of an area in various ways, as Ms Burgess alluded to. A key consideration in understanding how reintroduced lynx might affect the current ecological balance centres around their interactions with other carnivores. The most notable of those would be with the Scottish wildcat, red fox, badger and pine marten, as all those species have existed in Scotland for hundreds of years in the absence of a top predator such as lynx.

Alongside the potential benefits, we must consider the negative effects that lynx might have. For example, farmers would understandably be concerned about the possible impacts on livestock, and on sheep in particular. Although it is expected that roe deer would make up the vast majority of a lynx’s diet in Scotland, other species might be taken. Those are likely to include rarer and iconic species such as capercaillie, red squirrel and the Scottish wildcat. There might also be risks to the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, through either interference or killing rather than consumption by predators.

We have always been clear that any reintroduction of a species such as lynx could take place only following full consultation that ensured that the views of people who were most likely to be affected were properly taken into account. Anyone who wants to release any new species such as the lynx would require a licence from NatureScot, which would assess any such application in line with the Scottish code for conservation translocations. It would also consult the national species reintroduction forum, which has an advisory role, as well as the Scottish Government and other stakeholders prior to reaching any licensing decision.

The Lynx to Scotland study noted that major barriers would need to be addressed satisfactorily before any such reintroduction could be progressed. It demonstrated that reintroduction projects are often complex and require careful consideration and planning to ensure that national and international best practice guidelines are met. Any proposed application would also require a substantial amount of work to be undertaken to fill the current knowledge gaps, as Ms Grahame alluded to.

The Scottish Government remains open to constructive and informative conversations and debates such as this one, which can help us all to understand more about the potential impacts of lynx reintroductions in Scotland.

Meeting closed at 17:45.