New beginnings in Scotland’s upland deer sector

Organisations and individuals across the Highlands have come together to form The Common Ground Forum (CGF).  Initiated by the Association of Deer Management Groups and Scottish Environment LINK with the aim of setting aside long entrenched disagreements over some areas relating to deer management, the Forum includes deer stalkers, foresters, farmers, landowners, community representatives, nature conservationists and many others. 

This coming together represents a commitment to work together while respecting different viewpoints, and already a number of joint initiatives are planned.  Particular emphasis is put on what the coming changes will mean for those directly involved in managing deer and in providing support and reassurance in the face of the changes associated with the climate and biodiversity crises, for which an increasing level of deer cull has been identified as a required action by Scottish Government agency NatureScot.

Launched today is ‘Our Common Ground Accord’ which sets out seven commitments including identifying a common purpose, respecting others’ objectives, and working for mutually beneficial solutions.  The Accord has so far been signed by more than 25 of the key organisations with an interest in wild deer management. Those organisations that have signed up can be seen on the new website

The Scottish Government is developing draft deer legislation, based on the 2019 Deer Working Group report and recommendations, for introduction in 2024, to be preceded by a consultation later this year.  While there will inevitably be a range of views on what may be proposed, the Accord is intended to ensure that areas of agreement can be identified and jointly supported while remaining differences can be debated and represented respectfully.

Tom Turnbull, Chairman, The Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) said:

“Whilst it is clear that there are still significant differences in approach to deer management there are also areas on which we can all agree. The Forum will endeavour to come together to discuss some of the divisive topics within deer management and find solutions where possible. Key to the process will be the deer managers tasked with delivering challenging Scottish Government targets for climate and biodiversity. Having been involved in collaborative deer management for many years this process and the creation of the Common Ground Forum has been a breath of fresh air in an often heated debate over deer management objectives.”

Representing Scottish Environment LINK’s Deer Group, Duncan Orr-Ewing said:

“Everyone in the deer sector is aware that significant change is coming as we look to respond to the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss and the associated need to reduce deer populations in some areas.  We accept that these changes will be hard for many and could create further divisions between the people involved, so the Common Ground Forum offers a long overdue channel for navigating change with empathy and building positive relationships that focus on solutions.”

Lea McNally representing the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) on the Common Ground Forum said:

“The SGA is pleased to be a part of The Common Ground Forum after participating in the successful Finding the Common Ground project. We now need to address some of the different approaches identified by the original project. It’s refreshing to see the momentum going forward as it is obvious there are still significant issues to address as we try to achieve the Government’s aims for sustainable upland deer management.”

Issued on behalf of ADMG and Scottish Environment LINK by:
Morag Wells
Communications Officer, Scottish Environment LINK
Tel: 07394033548

Dick Playfair (for ADMG)
Playfair Walker
Tel: 0131 445 5570

Editor’s notes

  • More information about The Common Ground Forum at:
  • Our Common Ground Accord has been signed by 28 organisations so far, which are listed on the website.
  • We are grateful for the generosity of the following organisations for supporting the next stage of the Common Ground Forum work: Association of Deer Management Groups, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry and Land Scotland, John Muir Trust, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, NatureScot, Scottish Environment LINK, Scourie Estate and Trees for Life.