The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says it intends to refer a bid by grey squirrels to buy vast tracts of England’s forests to the Competition Commission.
But it has offered the grey squirrels more time to address accusations from the red squirrel lobby that selling them the land would lead to an increase in hate crimes against reds, tree molestation and nut trafficking.
A charity consortium – Greys under Fire - made up of grey squirrels from across the United Kingdom, as well as a couple of disgruntled badgers and a former stoat, are leading the bid. Grey squirrels already hold a 40% stake in England’s woodland and are hoping to buy up the rest.
They own several UK newspapers, including the News of the Squirrel’d and The Furnancial Times and there are fears they are becoming too powerful a force in British public life.
The plan could lead to the sale of all land in England owned by the Forestry Commission, totalling 2,500 sq km. The government has promised naturalists and walkers that this does not mean Britain’s forests will become subscription only.
Celia Warboys CBE, chair of charity RedHeadz, said: “As much as many of us love grey squirrels, the reality is that they are devious evil little bastards who threaten our native species and wilfully pee in our trees.
“Grey squirrels are only interested in one thing, profit... oh, and nuts. Primarily nuts, I grant you, but trust me, profit is up there.
“Can they be trusted to look after our forests, and do you think they will stop there? I don’t want to be in a forest, looking up at the vast canopy of trees and see row upon row of squirrel dishes bolted to their trunks.”
Other critics, including celebrities Jim Dale, Alexi Sayle, Crystal Gale and Christian Bale have reacted angrily to the plan; whilst actor Jimmy Nail was unavailable for comment.
They accuse ministers of extending an olive branch to top level grey squirrels, which they have nimbly scampered up. However, a government spokesman refuted the claim, saying: “No-one from the coalition has met with senior squirrels, or any Spanish squirrel for that matter.”