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Murdo Fraser MSP launches campaign to protect the red squirrel

Red_squirrelHighlights from a speech by Murdo Fraser MSP, Deputy Scottish Tory leader, in his Members’ Debate on Action to Protect the Red Squirrel:

The red squirrel faces extinction: "Presiding Officer, tonight we are debating a serious subject matter.  Since I first raised this issue in the Scottish Parliament in June 2006, some people still react to it with some amusement.  However, we are talking about protecting the red squirrel from eventual extinction in the United Kingdom.  As Scotland is the last stronghold for the red squirrel in United Kingdom, we have to play the leading role in saving the reds and longer we leave it, the harder it will be to reverse the decline of the red squirrel."

Grey and red squirrels cannot coexist: "Red and grey squirrels cannot co-exist together and red squirrels eventually disappear from an area that has both reds and greys.  The reason for this is that grey squirrels out-compete the reds for food and shelter.  Since the first introduction of the grey squirrels to the UK from America in 1876, grey squirrels have been continuously encroaching on red squirrel territory. To make matters worse, grey squirrels carry the squirrel pox virus which is harmless to greys but fatal to reds.  In Summer 2007 we had the first confirmation of a red squirrel in Scotland dying from squirrel pox, showing that the disease has entered Scotland."

We must stop grey squirrels breeding: "As set out in my motion, I want the Scottish Government to consider long term strategies, such as research into and the possibility of immunocontraception for grey squirrels to stop them breeding."

We need to protect red squirrels' habitat: "As well as the possibility of immunocontraception, plans need to be implemented that will help and improve red squirrel habitat across Scotland, such as planting trees that are red squirrel friendly such as a mix of broad-leaved and coniferous trees.  I hope that this debate acts as a catalyst for ideas and strategies to help protect the red squirrel, which the Scottish Government can use and build on."

This is Mr Fraser's motion:

"That the Parliament is concerned at the continuing encroachment of the non-native grey squirrel in Scotland on native red squirrel territory, including parts of Mid-Scotland and Fife; notes that Scotland is the last stronghold in the United Kingdom for red squirrels and is home to approximately 120,000 reds, which accounts for 75% of the UK red squirrel population; observes that red and grey squirrels are unable to co-exist together in the same territory and that red squirrels eventually disappear due to competition for food and the carrying of the squirrel pox virus by grey squirrels which is harmless to them but fatal to reds; is alarmed to learn that the first grey squirrel was officially reported in the Highlands near Inverness in April 2008 and that the first red squirrel in Scotland contracted squirrel pox in the South of Scotland in May 2007, underlining the growing threat to red squirrels in Scotland, and believes that urgent action is required to protect the red squirrel, including research into immunocontraception for grey squirrels."

And some of the press publicity: Independent, BBC Scotland and Press and Journal.


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