Changes to the way agricultural support is provided could see farmers encouraged to ‘host beavers’.

Green minister Lorna Slater was challenged at portfolio question time at Holyrood by Tory MSP Murdo Fraser who asked what support is available to farmers who have experienced crop damage as result of beaver activity.

Responding, Ms Slater acknowledged that beavers burrowing into flood banks can ‘exacerbate flooding in some areas’ but can also reduce flood risks.

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She said: “Farm viability and livelihoods can go hand in hand with delivering for nature and climate. However, that cannot be at the expense of farm incomes.

NatureScot has mitigation measures available and we are exploring long-term solutions to key issues, such as increasing the resilience of river banks to flooding events.”

Mr Fraser highlighted it was the Scottish Government that decided to reintroduce beavers ‘against the wishes of many in the farming community’ and argued the move puts a moral obligation on the government to fully compensate affected farmers for the losses they suffer’.

However, Ms Slater said that beavers are native to Scotland and their ‘re-establishment will play an important role in restoring Scotland’s natural environment’. She said: “We are looking at how the Scottish Government and NatureScot can further support farmers to host beavers.

“There are opportunities to do that through the upcoming changes to agricultural support. Beaver licences will continue to be available to deal with serious risks where there are no feasible alternatives for beaver management.

“Of course, we also need long-term flood management, which would include things such as natural flood management and the realignment of flood banks, to help mitigate beaver issues. The release of beavers in the Cairngorms National Park represents a key milestone in ensuring that beavers, as an iconic species and as ecosystem engineers, can once again thrive across Scotland.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority has produced a management and mitigation plan that reflects land managers’ primary concerns.”