Lochhead on the fence as Councillors consider Duck and Geese ban

MORAY COUNCIL HAS until September to resolve the issue that has split a Moray community and involved parliamentarians from throughout the Highlands.

As members of a Council committee prepare this morning to consider a petition calling on a halt to the shooting of wild ducks and geese at Findhorn Bay, local MSP Richard Lochhead has said that he continues to receive representations from both sides of the debate – and that he hoped a decision would be reached before the next shooting season begins later this year.

The Moray MSP has also now received responses to letters he wrote to the local authority, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Government minister for the Environment, seeking their views on wildfowling at the Findhorn Bay Nature Reserve.

The Minister for Environment, Aileen McLeod has advised that the role of SNH is limited unless “there is evidence that wildfowling is damaging the conservation of the birds being shot and suggested that local byelaws would be the best solution to ongoing concerns at Findhorn Bay”.

The Minister indicated that It would therefore appear that asking The Moray Council to introduce a byelaw is certainly an appropriate approach. Councillors will today begin the process that considers the petition signed by 800 local people calling for a complete ban.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Lochhead said: “Wildfowling has been under the spotlight in recent months and it is clear that there is a case for action, the debate is of course whether there should be regulation or a complete ban.

“It has been made clear to me that the community wants a resolution before the next wildfowling season commences in September and I continue to be contacted on a daily basis about the matter.

“I was interested to hear from Scottish Natural Heritage of the action being taken to manage wildfowling in other areas of Scotland and now that both Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve’s Management Committee has approached the Council.

“Friends of Findhorn Bay have submitted their petition and the Council are well informed as to the views of the groups. While the outcome they seek differs, with the Nature Reserve’s Management Committee wanting regulation whilst the Friends of Findhorn Bay seek a complete ban, both groups are clear that they want action by way of local byelaws.

“I am therefore very interested to hear the outcome of the Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Services Committee when it will be decided how things will proceed.”

Mr Lochhead’s Holyrood colleagues in the region have given differing views on the outcome, with John Finnie MSP calling on a total ban while David Stewart MSP has said that compromise was the way forward through a new permit system being put in place.