Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Question time, part 4

Having published the initial replies to my stoat questions, I emailed a link to the blogpost to all the candidates, including a reminder for those who had yet to reply. As you can see, I am trying to present as level a playing field as possible and keeping everyone in the loop.

That action prompted another reply, this time from the SNP candidate, again reproduced in full below:

Hello, Graeme
Thank you for your questions and apologies again that the email landed in my Spam folder!

As you may know, part of my job as Director of the UHI Centre for Nordic Studies involves training STGA Green Badge Tourist Guides for both Orkney and North Highlands so I am very aware of the importance of tourism to the economy here. Having written papers on cultural and environmental tourism, I can certainly agree with the significance you place on wildlife for tourists. People do not come to Orkney to lie on beaches - they come for the unique history, archaeology, cultural heritage (tangible and intangible) and fascinating wildlife which has in many cases evolved in an unusual way. You are the wildlife expert so please do keep me right but I cannot think of any other archipelago that has island specific mouse varieties, for example!

We have a finely balanced and unusual ecosystem which susbstantially lacks mammalian predators and the introduction of stoats, who do not really have natural predators here and who are noted for their voracity and productivity, is clearly a serious issue which should be resolved as soon as possible. The consumption of bird's eggs and fledglings, if not halted, will be a major threat to the continuation of many bird species, and the depredations on the Orkney Vole will affect the food chain and cause severe problems for predators such as hen harriers and owls. The stoats are becoming very widespread, as numerous sightings confirm - I saw one cross the road in Costa while campaigning last week - which indicates a large population. I am in no doubt that this is a serious issue that will adversely affect Orkney's tourism product and thus the economy.
I would like to see up to date research done now on the actual effects the stoats are having on the ecosystem so that a clear case for funding can be made to the Scottish Government as soon as possible. It may even be possible to access the Community Empowerment Fund for the eradication programme. It is always good to identify a pot of funding in order to speed up the funding process. What you need is an SNP MSP making a strong case for this and working directly with the Scottish Government to bring this about!

I hopw this answers your questions and do not hesitate to contact me with any further queries.
Best wishes

So, four opinions in the bag, one to go...

If there are no more replies by the weekend, I'll wind down the thread with a summary of the comments as I see them, and allow a bit of time for cogitation before Polling Day (5th May).

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