SIR, – Re another letter from Colin Strang Steel in The SF, May 2. He has campaigned on behalf of wading birds and has put conservation measures into practice over many years on his farm. His experience makes him well worth paying attention to.

As with so many things, the decline in biodiversity is the result of many factors coming into play. Predator control is one of those and somehow we need to reach and influence a wider audience, in particular the policy makers.

I fear the problem is politics since there are no votes in killing things! However, look at the very successful campaign to eradicate the grey squirrel, so allowing the red to expand its range again.

With this the trapping and euthanasia of greys using a subsidy scheme, had been accepted as necessary and not provoked great controversy. Of course, red squirrels are cute and fluffy!

I was a member of the RSPB for many years but in all that time I cannot recall any articles in their magazine that made an attempt to educate their huge membership of the need for control measures over certain species. This is a huge omission on their part.

I cannot believe that it would not be possible for a government scheme to start with the crow, for example. This is a generalist species – varied diet and habitat – that thrives, come what may, but can tip more vulnerable species, such as lapwings, over the edge.

I am not a fan of government conservation schemes, having seen badly designed subsidy schemes waste huge sums of money over the years. The results have been ineffectual and short term. Very often one scheme contradicted what another was trying to achieve and widespread, simple but effective measures could not be put in place because of the restrictions of another.

Indeed, the larger schemes tended to force farmers into doing things, to the detriment of the environment, for fear of penalties. Perhaps the next round will be better!

However, I am not going to let landowners off the hook entirely. There is no getting away from the fact that most land is in private hands and not that of conservation organisations, charities etc. Nature does not respect boundaries and has to thrive on our farms also.

Having a wider view of the function of farmland – not just all about food production – is a rare thing among the farming community. One of the reasons I think for this is that even today’s young farmers have grown up hearing their grandfathers and fathers talking about how they fed the nation during the war and to put food production on top of the pyramid is ingrained.

I am not saying this is wrong and indeed recent experiences show how important local food production is. But it is not a binary choice.

It does not have to be not food production at all costs with no concern for other species on the planet. A number of aims can be brought together by a small change in attitudes.

The Scottish Farmer and other farming press have a role to play in this. When a farm business is featured for their methods and results – excellent stock, top prices, yields etc – how often is it mentioned that all this is achieved along with, for example, having nesting curlews, lapwings or barn owls on the farm? Never, unless tucked away in a conservation feature to be skipped over by most of the readership!

The definition of what makes for a 'good' farmer needs to be brought up to date if we are to hold favour with the general public, our customers.

Lesley Muirden