2022 is a year of celebration for the Scottish Wild Beaver Group and Scottish beavers alike, so it’s time for a quick recap of our journey thus far.
2022 AGM Chair Report
In 2010 we started our campaigning efforts in response to the Scottish Government’s then decision to trap and remove the wild population of beavers from the Tay catchment. Our campaign took place on social media, through numerous letters to the minister, the newspapers, education, and eventually our 2 excellent conferences.
In 2012 we got the government to agree, changing the policy to tolerate and monitor our local beavers. Then as 2016 came by the Cabinet Secretary was “minded to protect” the animals. And then, finally, in 2019 the legal protections arrived. All seemed a chance to celebrate, but, with it came the freely given licences to kill. In 2019 alone, 87 beavers were killed under licence. This terrible cost was marked by an art action campaign called 87 beavers carried out by SWBG and Extinction Rebellion. However, it was sadly followed by 115 killings in 2020 and another 87 killings in 2021.
Throughout this process, SWBG representatives attended tedious and frustrating “stakeholder forums” and watched appalled as Nature Scot was lobbied hard by vested interests and the government stuck to back-looking policies. By this time the campaigning that we had begun had been taken up by other organisations, particularly Trees for Life – the Moray-based charity, with SWBG working with them behind the scenes. In 2021, Trees for Life’s Steve Micklewright put in a parliamentary petition that got the most signatures in the history of Scottish parliamentary petitions calling for culling only to be allowed as a last resort, and thus true protection for Scottish Beavers. This was followed by a legal challenge with essentially the same aim. At the same time, Tom Bowser of Argaty was fighting to get beavers moved to his land in Stirlingshire, making this the first translocation of beavers outside their natural range. The first family finally arrived back in 2021.
SWBG also wrote a letter to the relevant politicians and collected 21 prominent and celebrity signatures in support of our message, which was to stop the killing and allow the translocation of beavers in conflict zones to other parts of Scotland. Just after this – partly as a result of work going on behind the scenes over years – between SWBG and the Scottish Green Party, the government (now an SNP/Green coalition) announced a change in the law positively encouraging beavers to be spread to suitable habitats around Scotland by translocation.
Understandably, a consultation process was still needed, thus leading to a new Scottish Beaver strategy. This was a painful process yet again. SWBG trustees participated in this process which is now published and several significant organisations such as RSPB, CNPA, and TfL have all applied to have beavers on their reserves to date- with the RSPB Loch Lomond translocation now approved.
So after over a decade of campaigning – uphill work at times – we have finally arrived at a point when the policy is more or less as we would wish it to be and this is a huge cause for celebration. However, the next stage – for beavers to be spread by translocation around Scotland – is still to come and of course, the job of educating people about beavers is far from over. We are hoping to hold another conference in the not too distant future as the climate and biodiversity crises become all the more evident. This time maybe it should be called something like: “Beavers in a time of Crisis.” We also look forward to the 10th International Beaver Symposium, which is too be held in Scotland in 2025. But we do need people to help us with our work so please do get in touch if you know someone, or are someone who could help out with SWBG’s mission in ensuring beavers thrive across Scotland once more.
We have had some amazing trustees, supporters, volunteers and board members throughout this time, all of which are responsible for how far we have come together. But, we would like to extend a few special mentions. (Surnames are removed in an attempt of privacy, but we all hope you know who you are) James has held the fort at most of the excruciating stakeholder forums over the years and Nonie has stepped in and has guided our focused criticism of the processes with knowledge from her international perspective. Jean has kept all the practicalities up to date and put up with a huge amount of frustration relating to bank accounts with remarkably good humour. Chris Charlton has been consistently brilliant on social media – getting our message out there. Andrew has kept us right on all matters political – and has been behind a whole slew of parliamentary questions asked by Mark Ruskell MSP over years. We also have a wonderful new Treasurer: Phil who is keeping us on track in a whole range of ways. Whilst we have also brought Julia on board, we have all chipped in to replace the mastermind of Elliot over the past few years. But, sadly this year we are losing Nonie and Andrew as trustees and we want to thank them both for a fantastic contribution to SWBG.
Thank you, everyone. It’s now time to keep up the pace and enjoy all the benefits beavers will bring over the next coming decades.
Want to experience your very own wild Scottish beaver encounter? Check out our page on beaver promoted ecotourism and figure out if you want to join an experienced guide, or try your own luck at beaver spotting by staying in one of many fantastic getaways around Scotland.