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. 

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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.

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.”

Launched this week, the ‘Our Common Ground Accord’ 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. 

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Confor, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), Knoydart Forest Trust, and Scottish Woodlands are among the forestry-related organisations to sign the accord. 

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." 

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.