THE SNP’s Angus Brendan MacNeil has called for Scotland’s sea-eagle population to be “controlled” after constituents on Barra lost livestock to the giant birds.

The MP, who represents Na h-Eileanan an Iar, told the Herald that on Saturday morning he witnessed a juvenile strip the meat off one of his neighbour’s four-day-old lambs.

They then found a second newborn sheep, stripped to the bone.

Mr MacNeil said there were clearly “too many” of the white-tailed predators.

He said: “The upshot is, these things have been allowed to come into the environment and been given godlike deity status, and I think it's time we question what they're doing, what they're eating, and how many we can have.

"People are saying they're taking lambs and that's just nature well it's not, it's agriculture. Agriculture is something really different to nature.

"Numbers are being artificially sustained by the activities of man and not by nature. It wasn't nature that was feeding that fellow on Saturday anyway. It was definitely the efforts of my neighbour.

"And if these birds are being sustained by activities of man then numbers are artificially high and they also have no apex predator, like the deer, so we have to think of control methods.”

The MP pointed to efforts to control deer and feral goat populations through culls and suggested something similar to deal was necessary to deal with high eagle numbers.

He said: "These things will keep expanding where there's food available whether it's by agriculture or nature.

"Eventually, you could have a scenario where the numbers grow so high that they make agriculture unsustainable, I don't think we're anywhere near that, but if that was the case when agriculture then ended the numbers would crash because the buffet that's provided by crafters and farmers will be gone".

Mr MacNeil said there should at least be compensation for crofters and farmers who lost animals to the eagles. His constituents, he added, were already suffering disproportionately from the cost of living crisis, with fuel poverty impacting the islands far more than it is on the mainland.

A spokesperson from Nature Scot said a cull wasn’t being considered: “Sea eagles were once widespread across Britain, until they were wiped out as a result of persecution in the early 20th century. The reintroduction of these native birds to Scotland has been successful and benefits tourism.

“However, in some locations, sea eagles impact farming and crofting by predating lambs. We understand the concerns of farmers and crofters, and continue to work closely with them, and a range of stakeholders at the local and national level, to offer management support through the Sea Eagle Management Scheme and to trial management techniques which can help reduce these negative impacts. A cull is not being considered."

Scottish Greens Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess said Mr MacNeil's comments were "unhelpful". 

She said: “While I recognise the concerns it’s deeply unhelpful to say that nature and agriculture are separate. We are in a nature emergency and we need to start thinking about how sustainable agriculture and nature recovery go hand in hand. 

"Sea Eagles remain a globally endangered species and Scotland should be proud of our record of successfully reintroducing them. They remain an important lure for tourists too, which is vital for our coastal communities.”

White-tailed eagles, which are the UK’s largest bird of prey, were common across Scotland during the 19th century but were hunted to extinction in Scotland in 1918 when the last native bird was shot on Shetland.

They were reintroduced to Scotland on the Isle of Rum in 1975, then in Wester Ross between 1993 and 1998.

There are now estimated to be more than 150 breeding pairs.