HOLYROOD bosses have been told they must consider abandoning their “no kill” policy if they want to get rid of the pigeons continuing to plague the Scottish Parliament.
Contractors called in to tackle the persistent bird menace said they had successfully reduced the parliament’s pigeon population to “around 15 individuals” – but warned that if the numbers were to be cut further, options including “lethal controls” could be necessary.
The Evening News revealed last week that NBC Bird and Pest Solutions were using laser pens, as well as hawks, to scare the pigeons away from the £414 million Holyrood building. Animal welfare groups criticised the move, saying the hand-held pointers risked blinding the birds.
Monthly reports by the contractors, obtained under Freedom of Information, also show that NBC claimed to have reduced pigeon numbers by 53 per cent to around 15 birds, but added: “Should the parliament wish to reduce the average number further, NBC can consider available options which could include additional falconry visits, renewed trapping or lethal controls.”
Back in 2004, the year the Holyrood building was opened, a “service agreement” document carried instructions for clearing pigeons from part of the MSP block and added: “Shoot pigeons if possible during first visit; if not, a second visit may be required.”
But the parliament vetoed the plan, and insisted it did not sanction the killing of pigeons.
And when hawks were originally brought in five years later to scare the pigeons away, the contractors said they had selected birds with no history of killing.
Parliament bosses had been warned they risked a “PR disaster” if hawks were to eat pigeons alive in front of visiting schoolchildren.
NBC’s reports put pigeon numbers at 11-15 before the hawks fly, falling to between three and seven afterwards, but then returning to the higher level. Today, animal welfare campaigners said those involved should be ashamed for even considering killing pigeons.
Ben Williamson, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said: “How unbelievably reckless, cruel and irresponsible to suggest killing pigeons in order to control their numbers.
“Humane methods of deterring wildlife have long been shown to be more effective than such needless violence.
“After birds have been poisoned or blown out of the sky, more simply move in to fill the void. These fascinating birds should not have their lives snuffed out because of some misguided politicians’ edict. The very least that we can do is leave them in peace.”
Midlothian South SNP MSP Christine Grahame, who has already proposed getting a cat to deal with Holyrood’s growing mouse problem, said her feline plan would also deter the pigeons.
Ms Grahame, convener of the parliament’s cross-party group on animal welfare, said she was opposed to shooting or poisoning. She said: “I’m all for nature being kept under control by nature.”
A parliament spokeswoman refused to discuss NBC’s suggestion of “lethal controls” but said: “There has been no change of policy.”