Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of “passing the buck” after he called for a national response to the growing gull problem in town centres.

The local MSP lodged a written parliamentary question in the Scottish Parliament.

It reads: “To ask the Scottish Government what action it plans to take to tackle the issue of nuisance gulls in town centres in situations where growing gull populations are impacting on the quality of life of residents.”

In response the Scottish Government Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said it was a matter for local councils when it came to council property and for individual owners when it came to private property.

Complaints about the birds have increased in recent months, with concerns raised about the problem across the region. 

Councils currently have no statutory duty or powers to take action against gulls, although some local authorities such as Dumfries and Galloway have used a range of methods such as nest and egg removal and using birds of prey to scare gulls away from problem areas.

In Dumfries the nest and egg removal scheme had to be put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and new restrictions from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) mean that “preventative measures” must be taken as a condition for a licence for egg and nest removal, meaning it has not yet been reintroduced.

Colin Smyth believes the Scottish Government needs to play more of a role including stronger littering laws that make it an offence to feed gulls and direct support to fund gull proofing on buildings.

Colin Smyth said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government are simply passing the buck when it comes to the growing gull problem in our town centres. In 2008, then Environment Minister Mike Russell visited Dumfries promising to be tough on seagulls and tough on the causes of seagulls, but in fact, the Government has strengthened the protection of gulls and now they want nothing to do with tackling the nuisance being caused.

“Dumfries and Galloway Council has tried birds of prey to scare the gulls away and introduced the egg and nest removal scheme, giving people who have nesting gulls on their roof some respite. Obviously, this was halted during the pandemic and new restrictions from Scottish Natural Heritage put extra conditions on a licence for such a scheme, but it’s important it’s fully back up and running again soon and expanded across the region.

“When I speak to Parliamentary colleagues it’s clear that local authorities across Scotland are struggling to find solutions and this is a national problem that needs a national response.

“The Scottish Government must revisit their promise of 13 years ago and bring people together again to come up with a far better response, including stronger littering laws and direct support to fund gull proofing on buildings. It’s clear the current strategy just isn’t working and is far from being tough on anything. Simply saying it’s up to councils and property owners is just not good enough.”

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