Pexels, David Selbert.

By David Bavin, Jenny Macpherson, Sarah Crowley, and Robbie McDonald.

This Plain Language Summary is published ahead of the article discussed; check back soon for a link to the full paper.

There has been a heated public debate on whether lynx, a large predator that has been absent from Britain for hundreds of years, should be returned to Scotland. We explored how the people most likely to be affected by a lynx reintroduction felt about the idea. We undertook a survey of a broad range of people who have a stake in how the environment is managed in Scotland. We found that there was a range of views towards the prospect of the lynx’s return. This did not reflect the simple ‘for and against’ narrative typically portrayed by popular media. People’s views were captured by five perspectives.

Lynx for Change strongly supported lynx reintroduction, believing that top predators like lynx are important for the healthy functioning of ecosystems. Lynx for Economy were also supportive, feeling that increased tourism associated with having lynx in the landscape would benefit local economies. Scotland is not Ready were broadly supportive, but felt that the people and the landscape in Scotland were not ready for lynx. We are not Convinced were open to further discussing the idea, but were not convinced that the case for returning lynx  was currently strong enough. No to Lynx strongly opposed bringing back the lynx, feeling that lynx have been absent for too long, and that people have replaced them as a top predator.

There were key differences in people’s views over the potential impact of lynx on sheep farming and rural livelihoods; potential impacts on protected wildlife; and the degree to which humans should, or should not, manage the environment. Everyone felt that there was a lack of trust between groups in Scotland. However, they agreed that if the idea continues to be explored, people with different interests should work together and all have a voice in the discussion. This is a key step for building trust. We support this, and recommend that in order to avoid conflict between people, and between people and wildlife, the concerns of people affected by conservation projects should be weighted equally with objectives to restore nature.