The Scottish Government will be consulted before any permission is granted for the introduction of lynx in Kielder Forest in neighbouring Northumberland, MSPs have been told.
That assurance was given to Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton after she raised concerns about the potential impact of the roaming wildcats on livestock this side of the border.
Mrs Hamilton was reflecting disquiet expressed at last month’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council.
As reported here, it was revealed at the meeting that the council had not been consulted over the application by the Lynx UK Trust for a licence to release four females and two males of the species in England’s largest forest plantation.
That bid, submitted in July, is in the gift of England’s natural environment agency, Natural England.
In a written question to Scottish environment minister Roseanna Cunningham, Mrs Hamilton asked: “What consideration has been given to the cross-border implications for livestock farmers in the Scottish Borders from the proposal to introduce lynx into Kielder Forest?”
She was told by Mrs Cunningham that the application was currently under consideration by Natural England.
“The Scottish Government has agreed with Natural England that Scottish Government views will be taken into account in considering the application, given the cross-border implications of any decision to release lynx at this location,” said Ms Cunningham.
“The likely impacts on livestock will form a key part of the views submitted by the Scottish Government.”
It is understood that council officers have already made their concerns known to Scottish Natural Heritage, which will advise the Scottish Government on its response to Natural England.
This week, the trust announced that an agreement has been reached with a specialist division of Lloyds of London, Lloyds Syndicate Ark Speciality Programs, to insure the entire UK sheep population against lynx attacks throughout the period of a trial if it goes ahead.
The cover also extends to attacks on pets and humans.
“Some farmers have suggested it will be impossible to fund a compensation program, even though in reality such funds rarely cost more than 1000 euros a year on the continent.” Comments Dr Paul O’Donoghue, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Trust, “This will hopefully give them a great deal of confidence if the largest insurance market in the world is offering to cover any kind of attacks on livestock by lynx during a trial.”