Venison subsidy for Scotland announced

We are very pleased to share the news that the Scottish Government has announced plans to develop a national venison subsidy scheme. This is a great result arising from collaborative action through the Common Ground Forum between organisations that previously hadn’t done joint advocacy, and this has helped turn the heads of politicians.  

Venison subsidy for Scotland – joint statement from the Association of Deer Management Groups, Scottish Environment LINK and Scottish Venison (

The three organisations that last year set the concept of a venison subsidy in motion have welcomed yesterday’s announcement by Mairi McAllan Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy that work on venison is included in a set of measures for climate change action.

In the measures announced yesterday it was proposed that: “We will build on the current Cairngorms Deer Pilot to develop a national scheme which incentivises increased management and investment in the venison supply chain.”

In a joint statement the Association of Deer Management Groups, Scottish Environment LINK, and Scottish Venison, who jointly developed this initiative under the auspices of the ground-breaking Common Ground Forum of which they are founding members, said:

“The proposal announced yesterday for the development of a national scheme, further to the imminent pilot project in the Cairngorms, is a real-time result of wider collaboration across the deer sector.  Having jointly made the case for a venison subsidy, we are delighted that by working together – and being seen to work together – Government has now announced a move in this direction.

“This is recognition of the key importance of deer management to the climate and nature crisis. It has the potential to make supplying venison a break-even activity for the first time and will help to support jobs across the deer sector as a whole.  This in turn opens up the opportunity for investing in the business development of the venison sector, with scope for development of local enterprises that can allow more people to enjoy this healthy, eco-friendly and high-quality meat.“We are also hopeful that funding support can be made available for the development of venison processing and whilst details of this and the wider scheme have yet to be confirmed this is all positive news for the sector.”

A venison subsidy is a positive and unifying issue for deer management in Scotland

Tom Turnbull is Chair of the Association of Deer Management Groups, Duncan Orr-Ewing is Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Deer Group and Richard Cooke is Chair of Scottish Venison.  They are all members of the Common Ground Forum.

Scottish venison is bringing people from all sides of the deer debate together.  Of all the qualities that deer management brings to Scotland, be it quality tourism or the skilled craft of our deer stalkers, Scottish venison is right up there as one of the most valuable products to come from our hills and forests.  At a time when differences of opinion on deer management are coming to the surface once more, this seems a good moment to write jointly about an issue, and an opportunity, which we each passionately believe in. 

Venison is a healthy meat, low in fat, high in flavour and has featured in Scottish cuisine, both lofty and humble, for centuries.  Most of our venison comes from wild, rather than farmed, deer populations that have been part of our landscapes for millennia.  While it may have a reputation for being expensive in some quarters, it sits in roughly the same price bracket as Scotch beef and lamb.  In short, we have a great product that is distinctively Scottish and highly marketable.

The clear direction of government policy is that deer populations in Scotland need to be reduced to help enable nature’s recovery and mitigate climate change across more of our landscapes.  A greater amount of work will be needed to implement this, with increased costs.  Venison sales are often the only income to offset these costs, but current prices fall a long way short of reflecting the true value of this high-quality product.  Research has indicated that it does not even cover the costs of hunting, let alone bringing venison to the market. 

And it is here that we see a clear opportunity for Scotland.  We have written jointly to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Islands to ask her to consider allocating a small proportion of the public funding for land management to a venison subsidy.  We argue that doing so will directly support the additional deer management needed to allow our woodlands and peatlands to regenerate, while helping at the same time to secure the basis of a sustainable venison market that Scotland can be proud of for years to come. 

The investment required is estimated at £3-5 million per year, a comparatively minor part of Scotland’s annual ~£650 million land management budget.  This will contribute to the costs of deer management in delivering a range of vital outcomes everyone will benefit from – for nature, climate change, jobs in deer management and allowing deer, one of our finest national assets, to shine.  For all these reasons, we hope that the government will also see this as too good an opportunity to miss.

The discussions that us led to identifying this opportunity and to jointly write to the Cabinet Secretary took place under the Common Ground Forum, an initiative that brings together all those in the Scottish deer sector interested in a more collaborative approach to deer management, based on mutual respect and consensus building, can contribute to a vision of a greener, healthier and economically vibrant future.

Tom Turnbull, Duncan Orr-Ewing and Richard Cooke

Discussion on the ‘Managing Deer for Nature and Climate’ consultation

The Common Ground Forum invites you to an online discussion about the current government consultation on Managing Deer for Nature and Climate. The meeting will be online from 2pm to 3.30pm on the 23rd February. Please register your interest by emailing

Recent discussions between ADMG and Scottish Environment LINK confirmed that there are significant areas of agreement on the issues.  This has already led to a joint letter to the Cabinet Secretary regarding incentives for deer management. 

The purpose of the meeting is to explore this further with a wider group of Forum members, discuss the issues constructively and identify where there may be room for further shared action.  The proposals for Deer Management Nature Restoration Orders, female close seasons and deer welfare are each key issues to discuss.  While there will be differing views on aspects of the proposals, there are also likely to be areas of common ground – and thus scope to work together to grow the sector’s influence on what happens next.