Stur­geon at head of pack in wolf de­bate

Chil­dren write letters in favour of an­i­mal

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY CALUM ROSS

Ni­cola Stur­geon has been tak­ing time out of her busy sched­ule to re­spond to letters from chil­dren ea­ger to see wolves rein­tro­duced to the High­lands.

Doc­u­ments show how the first min­is­ter wrote back to the young­sters af­ter they drew car­toons for her in hand-writ­ten letters.

Ms Stur­geon re­sponded to the most re­cent let­ter in June, as she was prepar­ing to or­der her big­gest Cab­i­net reshuf­fle since be­com­ing SNP leader.

The young­ster had at­tached pho­to­graphs of wolves to the let­ter – which is marked “FM will re­ply” by civil ser­vants – and wrote: “Dear First Min­is­ter.

“P l e a s e c a n y o u in­tro­duce Euro­pean grey wolves to our conu­try (sic). Wolves are in­ter­est­ing and they keep the deer lev­els down.

“The wolves were here long be­fore we were and have a right to live here. We need 2m-high walls for farm­ers to pro­tect the sheep and lambs in the farm­lands.”

Ms Stur­geon re­sponded, thank­ing the child for the let­ter, and added: “Although this idea may sound quite ex­cit­ing, any plans to rein­tro­duce wolves would have to be given care­ful thought. As you can imag­ine, farm­ers would be wor­ried about the im­pact the wolves would have on their farm an­i­mals, es­pe­cially the young; even the larger ones such as cows and horses would be at risk if the wolves were hun­gry and farm­ers would have to keep a con­stant eye on their live­stock as 2 me­tre high fences would be too ex­pen­sive to build.”

She added: “I hope you find this to be help­ful and are look­ing for­ward to your sum­mer hol­i­days.”

The doc­u­ments show it was not the first time Ms Stur­geon had re­sponded to such a let­ter.

In July last year she wrote back to an­other child who had drawn a wolf and a car­toon of her “wolf pack”.

The young­ster had writ­ten: “I think wolfs should be re-in­tru­just to Scot­land be­cause they are re­ally nice to there pack and only at­tack if you at­tacked it.” Sev­eral so-called “rewil­d­ing” ini­tia­tives have been pro­posed for the High­lands in re­cent years.

Back­ers say rein­tro­duc­ing species such as lynx, wolves and even bears could de­liver en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits such as re­duc­ing the num­ber of deer and in­creas­ing veg­e­ta­tion, while boost­ing the econ­omy by pro­vid­ing a new tourist at­trac­tion.

But farm­ers and crofters have con­demned the idea be­cause of the threat to their live­stock, and Ru­ral Econ­omy Sec­re­tary Fer­gus Ewing said such species would be rein­tro­duced “over my dead body”.

One scheme has sug­gested cre­at­ing a fenced-off, 50,000-acre re­serve that would be worth £6 mil­lion af­ter a decade, and cre­ate about 37 full-time jobs.

How­ever, Com­mu­nity Land Scot­land, which rep­re­sents the groups be­hind the pub­lic buy-outs of more than 500,000 acres of land, said it would cre­ate a “theme park” that would “ex­clude hu­mans.

It added the idea “smacks of much that has been wrong with the High­lands over the past two cen­turies, with priv­i­leged elites seek­ing to live out their vi­sion of the place”.

Con­cern has also been raised by walking groups and oth­ers about the in­fringe­ment on Scot­land’s right-to-roam laws.

AP­PEAL: The let­ter from the un­named child ask­ing for wolves to be brought back

Some chil­dren want wolves back in the wild

Ni­cola Stur­geon

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