THE Scottish Government has no intention of permitting a cull of white-tailed eagles, it has been confirmed.

Responding to a question from Green MSP Mark Ruskell, a written answer from environment minister Màiri McAllan reiterated that the species has the highest levels of protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, being listed on Schedules 1, 1A and A1. This means the nests of white-tailed eagles are protected at all times from disturbance, even outwith the breeding season.

Ruskell’s question regarding the possibility of a cull, submitted in late July, followed controversy over the eagles – the largest bird of prey in the UK, which were driven to extinction in Scotland in 1918 but reintroduced from the 1970s onward – due to the fact they may prey on lambs.

In April this year, the Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil called for a cull, saying: “The eagles are now living on food that is not provided by nature, but is provided by agricultural activity within the environment, therefore, the extra food that farming and crofting is putting into the environment is bumping up the number of these predators beyond what they would have in nature."

However, the Scottish Wildlife Trust argued that the species was still in recovery, and permitting the cull could jeopardise the eagles’ successful reintroduction to Scotland.

In her response this week, McAllan said that the government accepted that sea eagles may sometimes take lambs, and therefore can have a financial impact on farmers and crofters. However, NatureScot operates the Sea Eagle Management Scheme (SEMS), which supports farmers and crofters in managing the impact of these birds, and was “significantly revised” in 2020 following consultation with groups including the National Farmers Union Scotland and the Scottish Crofting Federation.

The decision was welcomed by Ruskell, who described it on Twitter as “common sense”.