Support for Scotland's island crofters and farmers

Monika Reichelt

Financial support will be made available to help crofters and farmers on Scotland’s islands effectively manage local populations of greylag geese.

In some locations, an increase in numbers of geese has caused significant agricultural damage to barley crops and improved pasture, from cropping being eaten and trampled.

To address these issues, the Scottish Government is providing further funding to existing adaptive management projects on Orkney, Uist, Lewis and Harris and Tiree and Coll.

These projects, established by NatureScot in 2012, help local communities to control goose populations and reduce their impacts on agricultural activity and unique habitats, while retaining their conservation interest. 

Environment and Land Reform Minister Mairi McAllan visited Rennibister Farm on Orkney to announce the funding and meet farmers and members of NFUS. Ms McAllan said:

“I have listened to the concerns of farmers and crofters on Orkney, Lewis and Harris, Uist, Tiree and Coll about the difficulties they have had in controlling resident greylag populations.

“I understand how serious the impacts can be for crofting communities, and for the unique machair habitat and biodiversity that their traditional form of agriculture supports.

“That’s why we are contributing up to £50,000 towards resident greylag goose control on these islands over the next two years to mitigate the impact on agriculture and support unique and important habitats.

“This is part of our wider approach to delivering more resilient and sustainable farming systems.”


In recent years the number of resident greylag geese has increased significantly in particular locations; on Orkney from the estimated population of 1,500 birds in 2001, 21,367 birds in 2012 to 26,500 birds 2021. This increase in the population of resident greylag geese can cause agricultural damage to barley crops and improved pasture, from cropping (being eaten) and trampling.

NatureScot established four adaptive management pilot projects in 2012 (in Orkney, Uist, Tiree & Coll and Lewis and Harris) to test whether local populations of resident greylag geese, a quarry species, could be managed effectively to reduce their impacts on agricultural activity, whilst retaining their conservation interest.

Following recent discussions with representatives of farming and crofting communities additional funding has been made available for the current financial year and next.

NatureScot will continue to work with stakeholders to balance conservation of geese with reducing and preventing agricultural damage.

NatureScot will carry out a 5-yearly review of goose policy in 2022.  This will look at, inter alia, the balance between funding for management of high conservation value geese such as barnacles against the much smaller sums available for greylag goose control.

You can read the full press release here.