THEY have been extinct in Scotland for around 300 years but now beavers should become a presence in the countryside once again, following strong support for a Scottish Government plan to reintroduce the species.

Scottish ministers want the species to be allowed to expand naturally following an official trial in Argyll and a study of the beaver population in Tayside.

A report was published yesterday on the response to the recent Scottish Government consultation on the proposed reintroduction of the beaver to this country.

More than 500 responses were received, with more than 83% of respondents stating that they agreed with the policy of reintroducing the species in Scotland.

There was also agreement that the Strategic Environment Assessment had correctly identified potential impacts of that action and appropriate mitigation measures.

According to a statement from the Scottish Government “some concerns were raised, principally by land managers on the importance of long-term funding and a viable management framework being in place to support effective mitigation measures”.

It is almost two years since the Scottish Government announced the plan to bring back the beaver which was once widespread across Scotland but which was hunted to extinction for its fur and the medicinally valuable oil in its scent glands.

Commenting on the report, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “The reintroduction of the beaver to Scotland, after the species was hunted to extinction centuries ago, is testament to the Scottish Government’s commitment to Scotland’s biodiversity, and it’s very encouraging to see the vast majority of respondents to the consultation agree with that decision.

“However, we are very aware that the reintroduction has potential impacts, in particular in areas of prime agricultural land, which some groups are understandably concerned about.

“This is why we have been at pains to work collaboratively with stakeholders wherever possible to discuss those concerns, evaluate potential impacts, and come up with practical and proportionate solutions or mitigation measures where possible.

“We asked stakeholders whether they agreed that the Strategic Environment Assessment achieved those aims, and it’s heartening that they appear to agree that it does.

“We continue to move forward with our intentions to introduce legislation to give beavers protected species status.”