After J. B. Handelsman, The New Yorker

What has defamation got to do with conservation? I hear you say. Well “not a lot”, of course, but I take an interest in an eclectic range of topics and for the last few days I have been reading Professor Kenneth Norrie’s fascinating book, “Defamation and related actions in Scots law”.

The right to protection of reputation is recognised as being guaranteed by
Article 8 ECHR. In Scotland there are two routes by which one can protect
reputation against false statements that cause damage: defamation and verbal

The delict (that simply means wrongdoing) of defamation in Scotland is interesting. In general terms, it takes place when a person communicates an untrue and damaging imputation against another person. Prof Norrie sets out the following “peculiar” features:

  • it is an intentional delict in which the intent to injure is usually irrebuttably presumed“;
  • it is a delict only if the statement or communication upon which it is based is false, but with which falsity is rebuttably presumed…”;
  • “the pursuer does…always have the onus of proving that the statement or communication complained about is “defamatory” and that it has been “communicated”

Essentially, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is defamatory,  the onus will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court. In other words, if you make the claim, you’ve got to prove it!prove-it

Defamation has long been defined as something that “tends to lower the plaintiff (pursuer in Scotland) in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally“, and whether something is defamatory is up to the court to decide. True words can be defamatory but in order to found an action in defamation a defamatory statement must also be false. However, interestingly, if found to be defamatory, it is not up to the pursuer to show that the material is false. The defender bears the onus of showing that his statements are true.  In order to found an action in defamation a statement must also be made with malice (it must be intended to cause injury). However it is a presumption that anyone publishing false and defamatory statements, does so with malice.

So, how can the defender who made the defamatory allegations avoid being held liable for defamation? The available defenses fall into several broad categories.

  • justification; i.e. the material as published is true
  • fair comment; this protects statements of opinions or comment on matters of public interest
  • privilege, absolute  or qualified;  this guarantees immunity from liability in certain situations e.g. in parliamentary and court proceedings

Fair Comment

Lord M’Laren has described the Fair Comment defense as follows: “The expression of an opinion as to a state of facts truly set forth is not actionable, even when that opinion is couched in vituperative or contumelious language.”   The defender must prove that the words complained of were comments, not offered as facts and the facts upon which the comments are based should be stated. and that these facts should be true. Finally the comments must be on a matter of public interest.

Anyone who repeats allegations can also be sued. Seeing something written somewhere else doesn’t mean it is true and does not make it safe to repeat. Also, Scots law provides no special protection to website publishers.

The defamatory statement must be communicated. As well as traditional forms of publication, this may now include blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Trip Advisor and similar.

Scots Law will compensate the injured party for hurt feelings, reputation and/or honour. The greater the circulation by the original defamer the greater the sum of damages is likely to be. It may not only be the originator of the statement who is possibly liable, but also those who repeat the statement. We all know how fast a Facebook thread can spread. If the post contains a defamatory statement then each time it is shared its audience increases as does the number of potential defamers and the size of the liability.

The ease with which actions for defamation can be launched in Scotland has got some people worried. For a discussion of this, see ScotsLawBlog and the Discussion Paper on Defamation published in 2106 by the Scottish Law Commission.

The law as it stands in Scotland appears to have only one feature that stands in the way of Justice and that is the cost of using it. Not only does this mean that many people and businesses cannot afford to defend their reputation, but that anyone who is “without substance”, who for example is unemployed, does not own property, has no savings, etc, is essentially impossible to sue as even when the case is won, the costs cannot be recovered.

I suggest that the Scottish parliament would do well to consider a small claims service dealing with defamation, able to require apologies and the removal of material when this is found to be false. They should have powers to award modest awards. In return, access would be inexpensive. No barristers. Simple court processes and a fast consideration of the facts, perhaps by written submissions.

In addition, I would make it easier to take action against Internet Service Providers (ISP), or blog hosts. Blog sites such as Google and WordPress are currently the Wild West for hosting defamatory sites. They should take far more care about establishing the identity of the content providers and the accuracy of the content. Imagine that I wished to defame or bully someone and offered to pay a national newspaper for the space to advertise. The paper would read the content with care before publishing it. The same cannot be said about, who will publish anything, however outrageous and then cannot be compelled to remove it without a court order. This situation cannot be permitted to continue.

Scottish Trees

When I started Highland Titles in 2006, it was with a view to fund the planting of Scottish trees in Scotland. Years of government grants have expanded the number of exotic trees at the expense of native trees. Unfortunately most softwoods, planted at the densities desired by commercial forestry, provide nothing of value to any other animals or plants. A Sitka plantation is a sterile desert as far as Scottish wildlife is concerned.

But what to plant and where? The first question that we faced was what trees to plant and by that I mean not just what species, but where did the seeds come from?

It is important to use local stock for planting native species. Genetic adaptation to environmental factors has developed over time making it important to plant trees grown from locally sourced seeds.  Even more important is to avoid imported trees, which are often available at a discount, but which can bring into the region pests and diseases that have no resistance in the local tree stock. An example of this is Ash Dieback – also known as  Chalara dieback of ash. This is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. (The fungus was previously called Chalara fraxinea, hence the name of the disease.

Since we planted our first trees in 2007, we have relied upon the professionalism of a local tree nursery, Taynuilt Trees. They are a small family-run nursery in Taynuilt, Argyll just a few miles from our Duror nature reserve.  Taynuilt Trees specialise in tree species native to North Argyll.  All their stock is traditionally grown in the open ground from seed they collect ourselves in the surrounding woods using a traditional rotational growing system. We will doubtless continue to make use of Taynuilt Trees, but this year we plan to create our own tree nursery to supplement Taynuilt stock – using seeds collected in our own woods at Duror and where we can get permission, surrounding native woods. We plan to collect seeds from at least 20-30 well dispersed parent trees.

More news later.



Know your Customer

Here at Highland Titles, weekend leave has been cancelled. We came into the office on Wednesday morning to find twice as many orders as usual; unusually these extra orders were mainly from the UK. Odd. August is usually a quiet month. We encourage staff to take their main holiday in August. Yesterday sales continued to be up and this morning again, we have a bumper bundle of orders. We have no advertising starting this week, no special offers, no affiliates advertising us.

The penny dropped when we compared the start time with the publication of a blog which was far from complimentary about us. We had to smile. The blog was being advertised far and wide by social media, to a new and untapped market. A percentage of all advertising converts to sales. We love all publicity, good or bad and we seem to be getting better at persuading people to get the message out there. A Highland Titles pack makes a great gift, even if sent tongue in cheek.

The main barrier to sales of souvenir plots of land is simply that most people have no idea that they can purchase a tiny bit of land, for themselves or as a gift. When they discover this simple fact many people simply file the information away. Some rabid nationalists may be outraged that foreigners are able to buy a bit of “their” country. Others are offended by the idea of private enterprise doing things that they believe should be in the public arena. Some love the idea of gifting land, supporting conservation, becoming part of a community. But the odd thing is that any and all of these people are potential customers. When we track where our sales come from, we get sales from hate-sites as well as from sites that love what we do.

At the end of the day, we are pleased to make a sale to anyone, whether they love us or loath us. Nature does not care.

Souvenir Plots and the Law

Our new website, now available in beta and only days now from a full roll-out, seeks to address a defect in The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012, which came into force on 8 December 2014. The new site will include a Land Registry that will be a public record of souvenir plots which we have sold.

The 2012 Act created a new scheme of land registration. The act repealed much of the old land registration statute: the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979, and the Land Registration (Scotland) Rules 2006 made under that act. It also realigned the law of land registration with property law. It also put on a statutory footing many of the policies and practices the keeper had developed since the introduction of the Land Register in 1981. What it singularly failed to address, despite my drawing the matter to their attention during the public consultation process, was the right to register souvenir plots of land.

Highland Titles owns land which it wishes to sell in small plots. The purchasers wish to register their purchase, as is normal for land purchases. Yet the 1979 act and the recent 2012 act specifically forbid landowners from registering their land. It would be a simply matter for the area of land being sold as souvenir plots to be defined in the register and for all purchasers to be recorded. It could easily become a source of income for the Registers of Scotland. Yet the law prevents them from doing so. I think that may be in direct violation of A1P1 of the ECHR.

The right to property is enshrined in article 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR. It is known to be the most frequently violated Convention right, after the right to speedy trial and the right to a fair trial. As of 1 January 2010, 15% of all judgment in which the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of the ECHR concerned the right to property.

The text of the article is straightforward:

Protection of property

(1) Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

(2) The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.

Over the years the European Court of Human Rights has boiled this down to the following three rules:

  1. “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions”
  2. “No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
  3. “The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties”

The Court has judged that these three rules should be considered to form one concept of property protection: The enjoyment of possessions is guaranteed, but this guarantee is not without limits. However, when it comes to restricting the right to property it needs to be borne in mind that property is in principle protected under article 1 of protocol 1 and rule 2 and 3 have to be construed in light of this principle (Beyeler v Italy)

The Court has found that any interference with the right to property has to pursue a legitimate aim. According to the second sentence of article 1 of protocol 1 deprivations of property are only allowed if they are in the public interest and the second paragraph provides that the control of use of property has to be in accordance with the general interest. The Court reads these provisions together as establishing one principle that interferences with the right to property have to serve a legitimate aim. It has also inferred the principle of a legitimate aim from article 18 ECHR, which provides that limitations on rights foreseen in the Convention may only be used to the ends for which they are prescribed (Beyeler v Italy, para 111).

Yet what could be more patently in the public interest than that a charity with conservation as its core objective be permitted to purchase land for the purpose of creating a nature reserve which, by being put into community ownership in small plots, becomes impossible to ever develop. The government creates nature reserves, but chooses to legislate to hinder us from achieving a similar objective.

As with the other qualified rights, most of the disputes in Article 1 Protocol 1 claims turn on the test of proportionality since the right to enjoyment of property is subject to many provisos and exceptions “in the public interest”.  The Court has judged that there should be a fair balance between the interests of the individual affected by measure interfering with the right to property and the interests of the general public. The interference must not impose an excessive or disproportionate burden on the individual (Valkov v Bulgaria).

Yet this ban on registering souvenir plots seeks to interfere with our use of our property without any benefit to the public. In fact – quite the opposite.

Of course, I am but a humble zoologist, and have no training in the law. To me, it seems clear-cut that the right to register souvenir plots of land is in the public interest. But what do you think?

Big Butterfly Count 2016

Click to visit the Butterfly Conservation website

The Big Butterfly Count is over for another year. Organised by registered charity, Butterfly Conservation, and promoted by Sir David Attenborough, The Big Butterfly Count asks the public to take part in the world’s largest butterfly survey and in so doing, help reverse butterfly declines. Sir David Attenborough, President of Butterfly Conservation, Alan Titchmarsh MBE, Mike Dilger and Nick Baker, Vice Presidents of Butterfly Conservation and the actress Joanna Lumley OBE all support the project.

The Big Butterfly Count encourages people to spot and record common species of butterflies and day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer. This year it was between 15 July – 7 August.  Please watch the video, published by Butterfly Conservation, to help you recognise the common species.

To help you put a name to the butterflies you see, you will need to download the chart. Different charts are available, depending on where you live. The chart for Scotland contains 17 species – England has 20 species (below). Click the chart to download your own.


To make it even easier, there is now an option to download a handy free app for iOS and Android to identify and record the butterflies you spot. Full instructions are available here (

Our Web Sites

betaCaptureEarly vendors of souvenir plots were restricted to small adverts in printed media, such as Exchange and Mart and Private Eye. The internet transformed to process by which we are able to advertise our project.

What Laura noticed in 2006 was that eBay created a new opportunity to place this unusual offering in front of millions of potential customers. eBay was our number one platform for several years, until we withdrew from selling there in 2010.  The reasons for stopping selling on eBay were simply that it proved impossible to explain who we were and why we were selling land, within the constraints of eBay. eBay constantly battled against the risks of sales taking place off their site, which cost them their commission.  Increasingly we wanted to encourage our customers to contact us.  Increasingly, our website proved to be a better way of engaging with our customers.

Laura built our first website in 2006. I built our second website a few months later. Neither were much of an improvement on eBay, in that they contained simple brochure content and a very simple “shop” linked to PayPal. We recognised that we needed a professional site and we approached Solar Storm Design who created our first site, at in 2007.

At the end of 2009 we realised that we needed to create a new site for our new land offering. We planned to sell a range of sizes of plot from Glencoe Wood, and needed a domain that people could immediately recognise, type into a browser, remember and pronounce. Highland Titles became our new brand. To build that brand we approached Hotscot, the largest web design agency in the Highlands and within easy reach of Glencoe Wood. Hotscot have worked with us now on several versions of, plus several other websites, such as and

The first Highland Titles site was a year in development and was launched in the second half of 2010. Its first test was following an appearance on Sunrise television with Lady Julia Morris.

The hosting took quite a pounding, because of the huge surge in interest, and we subsequently contracted all hosting issues to Solar Storm, who have ensured that subsequent peaks in demand following television appearances have caused us no problems.

In 2013 Hotscot rebuilt the database that keeps track of all orders, which is easier said than done, but by late 2014 it was clear that WordPress, which had served us well since 2010, was no longer powerful enough to take us forward and cope with the huge increases in sales that have taken place over the ten years that we have been trading.

So, in 2015, Hotscot presented a radical revision of the Highland Titles site, that would permit valuable flexibility in the way that we sell. Only now, 18 months later, is the beta version of that massive upgrade becoming available. Already, all sales on mobile devices are making use of the new site, and customer landing on our desktop site are given the opportunity to try the new site.

The new site will, once complete, be available in 12 languages. It will display correctly in all screen sizes, from mobile phones to massive desktops. It will integrate seamlessly with our new production processes and be available for use by our customer support team and by our nature reserve volunteer team, who often need to have plot co-ordinates at their fingertips, when visitors forget to bring their documents or want to download the App at the reserve.

The new site will include elements of the App and most importantly will provide an opportunity for customers to register their land on our Highland Titles Land Registry.

At the end of this huge undertaking, we hope and expect that the new site will not require another upgrade for many years to come. we are grateful to Hotscot for such an exceptional achievement and hope that you, our customers, find the new site a pleasure to use. I would welcome your feedback.

Update, October 2016. Our new website is now operational at Many thanks to everyone at Hotscot (now Strutt Digital), to Attacat and to all our beta testers. The new website is performing well and is enhancing our customers’ experience, making it even easier and better to support our work. Thank You Everyone.


Social Media

oscarWWhen Highland Titles began in 2006, social media was in its infancy. Even eBay and Amazon were new and valuable ways of getting the word out about how to become a laird or lady.  Since those early days, various platforms have been launched to inform and motivate our supporters. The main difficulty now is that there are too many ways of creating communities and tempting the public to support our movement. We have had to choose what to use, what to ignore and what to use sparingly.

The main contenders that we have included in our marketing plan are Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest. Strategies for these may differ, but overall is our core vision to build a Community rather than maximise the number of followers. This led to us create two Facebook groups, one of which has a general interest in Scotland and things Scottish. The other is interested more in our conservation and all things to do with nature.

Our big break with Facebook was to secure the services of Stewart, a Scot living in Ballachulish and a volunteer on the Nature reserve at Duror, as our Facebook Admin. He was able to insert personality, humour, and local knowledge into our Facebook pages. After all, social media has the word “social” in it for a reason. More often than not social media works to entertain and kill time.  The education has to be worked in carefully. Our messages need to adjust according to our audience and we publish new content every day. Our followers can experience what we are doing in their name. They learn who is visiting, what the wildlife is doing and can actually see them in photographs and media clips. Most of our customers will never be able to visit in person. Multimedia and Facebook bridges that gap.

The massive amount of interactions and shares not only establishes the authority of the Highland Titles brand, but also drastically increases chances of this post showing up on a friend’s newsfeed (therefore gaining brand awareness, followers, leads, and customers).

Also vital, is that we converse directly with our followers: Literally we converse with them, and comment on their posts,. They directly interact with our content and any questions can be quickly addressed.

We want our audience to stay engaged, and so we engage them in two additional ways. Firstly we have a huge mailing list and inform our supporters with monthly mailings, but more importantly, we ask their advice on matters of importance. Everyone with a plot gets a voice within the community. Not just on social media, but directly. Our attention to customer support, with a great head office team that responds instantly to the telephone, emails and live chat, is also a vital tool. And finally, we have our very own blog site ( with rich content for those with the greatest interest in our operation.

Our Pinterest is an evolving platform ( which has yet to prove its value. With less than 100 followers it is not able to serve any valuable purpose. We have created a number of boards and time will tell how best to develop it.

Which brings us to Twitter, which has some interesting limitations. All tweets are 140 characters.
It is possible to add a photo, a video, a poll, or a gif, and hashtags can be used for adding to a larger conversation. For several years we had no success, in part because it is so difficult to include serious content within the limitations of a Tweet.  At the start of 2015 we still had only about 100 followers and it seemed impossible to create a community or interest in the platform. Three months later, thanks to an enthusiastic campaign by several “Twits” with large Twitter followings (and a legal bent), we had increased our following to thousands and Twitter was finally starting to make sales. It is now worth our while to use Twitter sparingly to create some content and with only occasional prodding, our enthusiastic “partners” continue to drive new followers to our Twitter account ( and our website.

Oscar Wilde was certainly right.


From the House Magazine

Peter-BevisSo, Dr Bevis, can you please tell us something about yourself?

I am Director and Chief Executive of Highland Titles. I was born in Yorkshire, but raised first in Scotland and later in Kent. My first job was a paper round that I took over from my big sister, who had developed an inability to get up early enough. When I was 16 I took a part time job as a forecourt attendant, back in the days before self-service pumps. After university, I spent ten years in research and academia before joining the pharmaceutical industry.

What inspires you?

I am inspired to leave the world better than it might have been.  I have added to our collective knowledge and worked on some fantastic medicines and medical devises. But rewilding is more urgent and relevant.

Best thing about your job?

Being able to take decisions without having to go through a series of committees. In my former life working for large pharmaceutical companies, nobody was able to take a decision. Being the boss is very liberating.

Who was your first employee?

Our first “employee” was my wife, Helen, who was head packer for almost a year. Once we moved out into offices we employed two people to do everything; Fran and Jenny. Jenny is now the General Manager.

Why Scotland?

Why not? I grew up there. It is “God’s Own Country”. I spent a summer climbing and walking in Glencoe aged 8 and never forgot it. Fortunately Glencoe itself is owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland.  But all around is land once forested and species rich, now reduced to bare land by sheep and deer, or worse, smothered in sterile commercial forestry.

Would you do anything different another time?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Knowing now, how successful we have become, I would be more proactive in explaining my plans at the beginneing. In the first years I had nagging doubts that Highland Titles would be able to grow as large as I wanted it to and conserve as well as it has been able to. Another time I would risk the possible accusations of hubris and call public meetings at the time we bought the land. Not going public left some people wondering what our plans were? One local, now a firm supporter, feared we planned to use the land to run quad bike tours, simply because we used a quad bike to help with our early tree planting.

What makes you angry?

Life is too short to get angry. However, government grants that encourage only habitat destruction and jobs for the boys are a provocation

To what do you attribute the success of Highland Titles?

Highland Titles has been a success in part because we have always done what we said we would do. Honesty in all things is the best policy. Always.  Never make a promise you can’t keep is good advice for anyone in business.  But more than that, we have risen above all our imitators who have simply tried to make a quick buck, or who need to fund the repair of their house by being welcoming. Inviting people to the nature reserve from day 1 and finding local volunteers to show them around when they visit has been key to our success. Sharing ownership of the land is beneficial in itself. But we have worked hard to conserve what is good and restore what is not. The wider community has also benefited greatly and we have always relied on local support.

Paradoxically those who have been openly skeptical, even hostile, to our business model have helped us the most. They have worked very hard to raise our profile. To quote Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about“.  Recently we have had a great boost from several well connected Scottish lawyers, who have driven a lot of traffic to our websites and the increased sales in 2015 are largely thanks to their hard work.  Social media has played a very large part in our success. In fact I doubt that Highland Titles could have succeeded without Twitter and Facebook.

What do you do in your leisure time?

Once I spent every spare weekend walking, but I am no longer able to walk as far as I once did. I am fortunate to have family close by. Lovely children and grandchildren. And I ring church bells and hand bells whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Have you plans to retire?

I almost feel I have retired, because I love what I do. I hope to fade away gradually rather than actually stop work. I hope to be still involved in my 90s.


Thank you Dr Bevis for talking to me. Congratulations on all you have achieved.


 Beaver hats were made from the barbed-fibrous under fur of the beaver pelt. This fur was chemically treated, mashed, pounded, rolled, and turned into felt. Mercury was used in this process. Breathing mercury fumes led to the expression “Mad as a Hatter”. By the late 1600’s, the French were importing felt beaver hats from England.
Beaver hats were made from the under fur of the beaver pelt. This fur was removed from the skin, mashed, pounded, rolled, and turned into felt. By the late 1600’s, the French were importing felt beaver hats from England.

Beavers are a native British species which were hunted to extinction for their meat, pelts and scent glands. The beaver pelt was valued for the quality of the fur. The fur pelts were used in three ways. The full pelt (fur and skin), leather or suede (the skin with all fur removed), and felts (removing the fur from the pelt, and processing it with heat and pressure to  form a piece of pliable material).  Due to the strength and  malleability of beaver felt, it has long been used to make hats.  The beaver was extinct in England and Wales by the 12th Century, but populations in Scotland held on until the 16th Century.

Not unreasonably, we wish to see them back living in their former range. Beaver are a ‘key-stone’ species that are fundamental to an ecosystem.  Beavers are one of the few animals that actually modify the environment (humans are another) to suit their own purposes.  In the process, they create standing water and marsh that benefits many other species.  They also create coppice and clearings in woodland thus providing a habitat for many other animals and plants.

Wetland areas and coppice must currently be maintained artificially, at a cost to the public. Beaver damming activity has also been observed to filter pollutants out of the water.  Wetlands are not only one of the more valuable and fragile ecosystems, but they can also act to reduce flooding, a very topical subject in Britain today. After heavy rainfall, wetland areas and flood plains act as a sponge, releasing excess water slowly, preventing sudden rises in river levels. They are part of our natural heritage, and we have an ethical and moral responsibility to restore them to their natural range as soon as we can.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Over the last decade, two populations of beavers have been introduced into Scotland. The official one is the Knapdale beaver trial in Argyll where 16 were released between 2009 and 2011 under license by the Scottish Government. The project is run in partnership between the Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and hosts Forestry Commission Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) coordinate the independent scientific monitoring being carried out. The trial is now complete and the project has gone quiet. Nothing has been published on their website since 2015.  The unofficial reintroduction is on the River Tay and is not part of any official reintroduction. this population of beavers, due to unauthorised releases or escapes from local collections, appears to be thriving and has grown to around 150 to 200 individuals.

Alan Watson Featherstone, director of Trees for Life’s (which is supported by Highland Titles), has said: “The beaver deserves to be welcomed back to Scotland with open arms. These remarkable ecosystem engineers can transform the health of our rivers and forest ecosystems, and could benefit communities through an estimated £2m tourism revenue annually. Reintroducing beavers to Scotland would be the right thing to do and a historic leap forwards for rewilding – the restoration of our damaged ecosystems.”  I agree with him.

Now that wild beavers are once more residents of Scotland, it is vital that they are given the status of resident, native Scottish mammals, to protect them from landowners who are currently free to kill them.

The then Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Aileen McLeod told BBC Scotland: “The minister will be taking time to consider the issue carefully and listen to the views of stakeholders before making a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland”. That is politician-speak for “We don’t really care and have no plans to do anything about it”.  Aileen McLeod has been replaced  now by Roseanna Cunningham, who previously held the post in 2010/11 and is remembered for having authorised the trapping of a young beaver on the River Ericht. This beaver subsequently died in Edinburgh zoo, apparently from the stress of capture. It is well known that beavers do not react well to trapping or to being separated from their family units.  The return of Roseanna Cunningham to the politician with the power of life and death over our beavers is not reassuring.

The SNH report to Scottish Ministers can be viewed here:

Other information:

Scottish Wild Beaver Group                          Website:

Save the Free Beavers of the Tay                 Facebook:

Eurasian lynx creeps closer to UK release

ScreenHunter_127 Jun. 22 08.28The re-introduction of the lynx to Britain creeps slowly closer.  This nice piece in the Geogrphical quotes Dr Paul O’Donoghue, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Lynx conservation Trust and good friend, announces that there are two sites  shortlisted for a pilot release of ten individuals in Aberdeenshire and Northumberland. The actual site to be used may be revealed as soon as July. ‘That’s when it gets really exciting,’ he says . ‘We will get to talk with the people who would actually be living alongside these amazing animals.’

More memorable is the quote from the Scottish Crofting Federation chair, Fiona Mandeville, who says ‘the most threatened species in the Highlands is the hill sheep and any threat to their viability must be resisted.’  I have rarely heard a statement less true.  The removal of the feather-bedded hill sheep from our uplands is long overdue.