THE SCOTTISH Government has demonstrated its commitment to the management of white-tailed eagles in a recent visit to a monitor farm near Oban.

Appin hill farmer David Colthart, who chairs the Argyll and Lochaber Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group, invited Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, to meet with local farmers as part of a drive by the union to ensure eagle management is taken seriously.

The minister met with Donald and Morag McCorquodale, along with Morag’s father Archie Buchanan, at their family farm at Achnaba, North Connel, to hear an update on the work that is being undertaken to mitigate damage by the WTE population on local sheep flocks.

This visit was also an attempt to keep up the momentum around this important issue which is having a severe impact on the livelihoods of farmers in the area, with monitor farm Achnaba alone suffering losses of 181 lambs over a seven-year period.

David Coltart welcomed the engagement with the Scottish Government: "We had a very constructive meeting with the minister – she was well briefed on the situation and understood the issues we are facing with the WTE's and took it all on board.

"Moving forward she has asked to be kept abreast of our discussions with the national stakeholder group. Since we published the findings from our monitor farm pilot last month we are no longer wasting time trying to trying to prove that there is an issue of predation on our sheep, so can move forward with meaningful conversations and try and come up with solutions to the problem."

After years of denial, the recent report from Scottish Natural Heritage finally acknowledged that WTEs can prey on live lambs and that there have been significant losses to sheep flocks in the absence of alternative prey.

With breeding pairs predicted to increase to as many as 900 by 2040, the union wants to ensure that issues around WTEs are understood and taken seriously.

Chairman of the NFUS Environment and Land Use committee, Angus MacFadyen said: "We thank the cabinet secretary for visiting Achnaba and hearing first-hand the experience of the Buchanan and McCorquodale families as one of the WTE monitor farms.

"For some of our farming and crofting members on the west coast of Scotland and Skye, predation by WTEs of healthy lambs and, in some cases, adult sheep, is an unwelcome threat to their future viability. Not only is there an economic impact, but hill flocks in these areas are vital to managing the landscape and preserving biodiversity and destocking or removal of flocks would see land quickly revert to an ungrazed environment," he stressed.

Asked to comment on the meeting, a ScotGov spokesman said: "We are aware that, in some locations, predation of lambs by sea eagles can have an impact on farm businesses. The National WTE Action Plan, which was developed with partners including NFUS, aims to ensure the sustainable co-existence between sea eagles and sheep farming to benefit the biodiversity, economic and social interests of Scotland."