The European Union is to spend £450,000 combatting the spread of foreign black rats on the privately-owned Shiant Island in northern Scotland. The work is being done to clear the way for the introduction of two new bird species onto the island: European storm petrel and Manx shearwater.
According to the Stornoway Gazette the birds in question are not resident on the Island but the the Shiant Seabird Recovery Project believes they can be introduced with some work. The main stumbling block is the presence of the black rats, which are believed to have been carried to the island by shipwrecks in the 1900s.
In addition combatting the rats the EU taxpayer money will be spend on playing recordings of birds to encourage new colonies, and there will be “active management” of the site.
If taxpayers want to visit Shiant island to see how their money is spent they will have some difficulty, there is only one house and it is occupied by the only residents: Lord Carnock’s son Adam and his family. He and his wife have five children, meaning that the taxpayer subsidy to introduce birds to their island is the equivalent of over £92,000 each.
The Shiant Seabird Recovery Project is a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the family of Lord Carnock, who own the island. The group plan to prepare a “biosecurity plan”to protect other islands from non-native predators.
George Campbell, RSPB Regional Director for North Scotland, said: “We are hugely grateful to the European Commission, SNH and our supporters who will allow us to make these islands a seabird haven once more and contribute to shoring up our threatened seabird populations.”
The project will receive £446,371 from the LIFE+ programme, which is the European Union’s environmental fund. The division of the European Commission boasts on its website that it has spent £2.75bn on environmental projects since 1992. It will also receive another £200,000 of taxpayers’ money from SNH, which is funded by the Scottish government.
Spending this amount of money introducing birds onto an island that they do not currently inhabit will raise questions about waste at the European Union level. However taxpayers are also likely to be left wondering why the European Union is getting involved in such projects at all. Not least because the island is a private property of a wealth aristocratic family.