“The question,” says vice president of NFU Scotland,  Alasdair Macnab, “is what is the political appetite for introducing new predators in the UK? And there isn’t any.”

In 2018, Fergus Ewing, then Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy said reintroduction of large predators would happen “over my dead body”.

“He was very clear," Macnab says, " that he would never support such a reintroduction. We expect the Scottish Government to stand by that pledge. There have been a number of attempts to get a consensus, but no one has actually got a local or political consensus to start considering a release. It just hasn’t happened.”

Though there are currently no plans for wolf-reintroduction in Scotland,  rewilding charity, Scotland: The Big Picture is campaigning for a mandate for a trial reintroduction of lynx. 

Macnab describes any such proposals to introduce predators “such as lynx, wolves and bear” as “unacceptable” to the NFUS membership of farmers and crofters.

“NFU Scotland remains crystal clear," he says, "that any proposals to reintroduce predators such as lynx, wolves or bears are wholly unacceptable to Scottish farmers and crofters, and it calls on the Scottish Government to make a clear statement rejecting such proposals permanently.

“There has,” he says, “been a lot of noise about wanting predators reintroduced. It has caused a lot of stress to our members – and bear in mind our members are already dealing with the White-tailed eagle (sea eagle), which is predating heavily on sheep despite efforts to reverse it. We are aiming to gather evidence now on that and demonstrate that they are a real problem and it’s putting farmers out of business. Introducing yet another predator into the system would be the final straw for a lot of people”


Six years ago Norwegian farmers addressed NFU Scotland’s AGM on the impact of large predators after NFUS had sent a delegation to Norway to look at the losses farmers were incurring.

“The year that we were out there," he observes, "Norwegian authorities paid out compensation on 20,000 sheep lost to predators (on UK current values sheep will average around £100 to £135; a payout of £2m to £2.7m). This does not cover the loss of genetic value of sheep being kept for breeding and the genetic potential that is lost.  Of the sheep killed by predation in Norway, wolverine accounted for around 34 percent of losses with the lynx, bear and wolf accounting for 21 percent, 15 percent and nine percent respectively."

Macnab says: “The Norwegians told us that to reintroduce any predators into our country would be an absolute catastrophe.”

He notes that a European Parliament report titled ‘The revival of wolves and other large predators and its impact on farmers and their livelihood in rural regions of Europe’, states that, in Norway, farmers lose 16 sheep for every lynx.

The report, however, also notes that Norway is unique in Europe in having such high levels of predation.

It states:  “The very high losses that we see in Norway (and partially France and Switzerland) are the result of husbandry systems where sheep graze freely in forest and mountain habitats without fencing, shepherds or dogs to protect them. The fact that neighbouring Sweden and Finland have per capita losses of sheep that are between one hundredth and one thousandth of that in Norway shows the dramatic effect of simply removing livestock from natural habitats and keeping them on fields or other fenced pastures close to farms.”

Alasdair MacnabAlasdair Macnab (Image: web)

What is happening in the European Union is also being watched closely by NFUS. Over the past half decade, the wolf has been ‘strictly protected’ – and its numbers across the bloc have risen by 1,800% from near extirpation by the 1960s, to 20,300.

But last year the European Commission put forward a proposal that would allow them to change the EU protection status from ‘strictly protected’ to ‘protected’. This, it was said, would allow greater flexibility for control to address the ‘challenges being posed by increasing wolf numbers’.

The move came in the wake of the killing of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s pony in September 2022. Its killer, a mature male wolf, was found, through DNA tests, to have been involved in the deaths of about 70 sheep, horses, cattle and goats.

Last year, the then UK Secretary of State for the Environment Therese Coffey assured English farmers that the UK Government would not support the reintroduction of predators. 

“Scottish farmers and crofters,” says Macnab, “deserve similar assurances. Despite the media speculation, we remind our members that nothing yet equates to an application for release in Scotland.  Were that to ever happen, the process for securing permission for the trial release of any predator is long and complex and any application will be subject to considerable analysis and debate.

 “In our opinion, despite numerous attempts, no local consensus nor political consensus has ever been secured for such a release Farmers and crofters in Scotland can be confident that the Union, as a member of the Scottish National Species Reintroduction Forum, will take all necessary steps to ensure their interests are protected were a formal application ever to be made.”