Return of lynx to Scotland to be discussed by MSPs


Proposals for the reintroduction of Eurasian Lynx to Scotland are to be discussed by MSPs at Holyrood.

The mammal is native to Britain, but was driven to extinction between 500 and 1,000 years ago. A group of conservation organisations believe bringing back lynx would benefit ecotourism and help control Roe Deer where they damage woodland, but farmers' union NFU Scotland said any proposals to reintroduce lynx were unacceptable to farmers and crofters.

Eurasian Lynx may be reintroduced to Scotland (Aconcagua via Wikimedia).

Ariane Burgess, Scottish Greens MSP for the Highland and Islands, will help to lead the discussion during the Lynx to Scotland event at the Scottish parliament later. MSPs, senior advisors and rural groups are set to attend.

Rewilding charities Scotland: The Big Picture, Trees for Life and The Lifescape Project have organised the event. They said research suggested the Highlands could support about 400 wild Eurasian Lynx.

Peter Cairns, executive director of Scotland: The Big Picture, said: "It's good news that politicians and policy makers are now seriously discussing the return of lynx, which would have strong public support. Scotland is one of the poorest places on Earth for nature, and if we are serious about tackling the nature and climate emergencies, these conversations really matter."

The potential for reintroducing lynx was debated in Holyrood last week, after a parliamentary motion by SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson received cross-party support. The motion noted calls on the Scottish government to rectify lynx extinction in Scotland by a managed reintroduction, following appropriate assessments.

NFU Scotland said there were concerns about the impact of lynx on livestock. A spokesperson said: "The past few years have seen a long line of brazen and presumptuous claims from organisations about the imminent reintroduction of predators to the UK.

"The only application to date, to reintroduce lynx to Kielder in the north of England, was rejected."

Last year, the first detailed social feasibility study into a trial reintroduction of lynx to Scotland found divided opinions. The Lynx to Scotland project commissioned the research in the Cairngorms National Park and Argyll. The study found opposition among rural residents and workers.

The benefits included ecotourism and lynx helping to control Roe Deer numbers in areas where they damage woodland, but there were concerns that lynx could prey on livestock.