Embargoed to 0001 Monday April 3

Urgent changes need to be made to the way in which wild deer are managed, monitored and culled in Scotland, a Holyrood committee has said.

Scottish Natural Heritage, the organisation charged with protecting Scotland's natural environment, is "failing to provide leadership" in managing the damaging impact of deer, according to a report by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

Convener Graeme Dey said habitats damaged by deer take a long time to recover and better management is needed in order to achieve government biodiversity strategy targets.

The committee found that current legislation which aims to protect the natural environment from deer is not fit for purpose and that 50% of deer management groups are not delivering an "effective plan on the ground".

Mr Dey said: "The committee welcomes the fact that some progress has been made but it's clear that some deer management groups and Scottish Natural Heritage need to raise their game to deliver the step-change needed.

"Habitats damaged by deer take a long time to recover. We simply can't go on like this if we're to achieve the Scottish biodiversity strategy targets.

"That's why we've outlined recommendations for Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Government to act to protect and hopefully restore these habitats as a matter of urgency."