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Conservationists appeal for bird shooting licensing scheme in Scotland

Red grouse (Getty Images)
Red grouse (Getty Images)


CONSERVATIONISTS are calling for game bird hunting groups to work with them to create a licensing scheme for shooting birds such as grouse.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG), the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland want licences brought in to help protect rare birds of prey.

The RSPB said illegal killing of birds of prey remained a “stain” on Scotland’s reputation while a body representing gamekeepers said any decision taken which could lead to businesses ending and loss of jobs should be based on proof, not “suspicion”.

The call to work together to set up a licensing scheme comes after Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee agreed to keep open SRSG’s petition on creating the new regulations earlier this week.

Committee convener Graeme Dey has written to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham asking her to “give consideration to implementing a licensing system for shooting businesses based on civil law”.

The letter notes a “clear divide” between the various groups who gave evidence on the best approach to tackling raptor persecution and adds that although the recorded incidences of the crime are falling, it remains a “concern” in certain areas.

Logan Steele of the SRSG welcomed the move.

He said: “The Scottish Raptor Study Group accepts that many within the shooting industry are law-abiding and are as keen as we are to bear down on the criminal element within their ranks.

“A Government-sponsored inquiry, into how a licensing regime might work, presents an opportunity to work in partnership with forward-looking representatives from the industry, and other stakeholders, towards creating a sustainable upland environment where our birds of prey can thrive alongside legitimate shoot management.”

RSPB director Stuart Housden said the “illegal killing of our birds of prey has been a constant stain on the reputation of our country” for more than two decades and there was an increasing recognition that self-regulation had “failed”.

A Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) spokesman said it and others in the game industry had put forward proposals to the Scottish Government aimed at ending wildlife crime.

He added: “The SGA will not defend wrongdoing and has taken strong action when its position on wildlife crime has been breached by its members.

“We also believe honest working people – in the overwhelming majority in our profession – deserve to have their rights to employment protected.

“Any decision which could ultimately see a business – in any field – ended, with resultant loss of employment, ought to be taken on the appropriate, substantive standard of proof rather than on the basis of suspicion.

“This, in our view, is a fundamental right.”