THE predation of our ‘national bird’, the golden eagle, by sea eagles was not hard to predict. Indeed, this column did so more than four years ago at about the same time as a Scottish Government poll declared the goldie to be our nation’s iconic bird.

But what is pretty hard to take about sea eagles is that they are still defended to the hilt and despite some mealy-mouthed words in talking shops about the issue, everyone seems unable/scared/unwilling (you choose) to address this serious problem which is, for the moment, centred around the West Coast of Scotland and the Outer and Inner Hebrides.

But, make no mistake, these birds can cover ground at an astonishing rate and in many ways there was no need for government to spend any more cash taking them to other areas. Just like the beavers in Perthshire, they are capable of spreading far and wide on their own without an expensive helping hand thank you very much.

At a time when ScotGov is making great issue about farmers having to be more productive and efficient, it seems a bit absurd that sea eagle predation on lambs – and, increasingly, older sheep – remains the biggest single reason for sheep losses on many West Coast farms. You cannot condemn ‘inefficiency’ when the main reason for it is outwith your control and highly protected by law. You cannot have it both ways.

So, are our hills farms in such areas to be treated merely as ‘feeding stations’ for these giant birds? If they are, then there should be some form of compensation for the losses incurred and at the least, for those that can use them, the building of lambing sheds should be a special case for grant aid. Because, that might be the only way to protect sheep flocks, given that we can only surmise that public opinion will stick with favouring the rights of sea eagles over the rights of lambs, their mothers and the people who keep them?

For a livestock farmer, most of us can only imagine the feeling of utter helplessness that they must feel each morning when they count the lambs that were there the day before and knowing that some are missing to the air, plus the ones that were patently obviously born during the night and simply not there, as a bleating mother scarts around looking for them.

The iniquity of the argument for compensation is: Who is going to stand up for the rights of the golden eagles; who will compensate them? The answer, it would seem, is no one. The sea eagle is, apparently, being allowed to proliferate and impact on our iconic bird, as well as businesses.

They're coming to a glen near you ... sooner than you think.

The good news ...

THERE IS some good news around and it’s that other thing that farmers cannot control – the weather.

The countryside abounds with new life, born into the best of times (?), oblivious to Brexit and if there have been better seedbeds made across all of Scotland, then few have seen them.

Long may it continue ...