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Grouse moor reforms urged after release of delayed report

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Campaigners have called for urgent reform of Scotland’s grouse moors as a long-delayed report is finally due to be published within days.

Charities and animal rights campaigners hope the report by professor Alan Werritty will call for measures aimed at curbing shooting estates.

The delayed report will detail the findings of a review of whether a licensing system should be introduced for practices such as hare culls and heather burning. Sources told The Sunday Post the report – originally due last spring – will be published this week ahead of Scottish ministers’ Christmas break.

Last week the RSPB revealed that a post mortem had shown that a protected hen harrier found dead in June near Wanlockhead in the Southern Uplands had been killed by “penetrating trauma”, probably a gunshot wound.

The charity wants to see a licensing system as they believe prosecutions for wildlife crimes are so rare that they do not act as a deterrent.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations at the charity, said the deliberate killing of protected birds on grouse moors constitutes “organised criminality”.

He added: “We have a system now where game bird shooting is virtually unregulated.

“What I want is there to be absolutely no suggestion that birds of prey will be killed on that land because a) it’s illegal and b) it’s desirable to have them there as part of the natural ecosystem, of which legitimate hunting should be a sustainable part.

“What we envisage is a scheme where if a land holding is proven with a civil burden of proof to have been engaged in criminality then they lose their right to shoot grouse.”

The Grouse Moor Management Group, chaired by professor Werritty, was established by the Scottish Government in 2017.

Robbie Marsland, director of League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “We hope that when the government responds to the report they agree with us that this is not a time for timid steps.”

The Scottish Government said: “The report will be published before the end of the year.”