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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-10293: Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch)

Scottish National Party

Date lodged: 11 July 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to (a) stop the reported decline of Scotland’s red squirrel population, (b) improve conditions for red squirrels and (c) tackle the reported spread of grey squirrels.

Answered by: Roseanna Cunningham 2 August 2017

The Scottish Government’s approach to red squirrel conservation and grey squirrel control is set out in the Scottish Strategy for Red Squirrel Conservation (Scottish Squirrel Group 2015) produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and available at this link http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1465416.pdf.

The strategy aims to maintain populations of red squirrels across their current range; to have well-defended, thriving and expanding red squirrel populations in all parts of the Highlands, Argyll, North-East Scotland, northern Tayside and Stirling where there are currently no grey squirrels; to see red squirrels recover their former range and secured for the long-term by the removal of the isolated population of grey squirrels in North-East Scotland; and to defend priority red squirrel populations from the threats of replacement by grey squirrels and from squirrelpox virus in Central and Southern Scotland where grey squirrels are already established.

The conservation actions to deliver these aims include reducing the competitive effects of grey squirrels on red squirrels by controlling grey squirrel numbers, managing the disease impacts on red squirrels, managing habitats, monitoring, and maintaining public support for red squirrel conservation.

The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) Project has been the principal means of coordinating red squirrel protection in Scotland since 2009 and is aligned with the updated Scottish Strategy for Red Squirrel Conservation. The SSRS Project is supported by SNH funding and by Scottish Rural Development Programme funding of grey squirrel control on private land. A new project phase has just commenced with a particular aim of securing a long-term commitment to red squirrel protection.