Estate owners could lose shooting licence when wildlife crimes are committed
Campaigners have welcomed a Scottish Government commitment to bring in a licensing regime for grouse shooting.
Scotland’s shooting industry has been blamed for the widespread killing of raptors to protect grouse stocks.
A licensing regime would mean the burden of proof for wildlife crime shifts to landowners – and could see them losing their license to kill grouse.
The measure was suggested in the Werritty Report into the industry – which many campaigners said did not go far enough.
Then it was suggested that licensing should be brought in after five years – but yesterday the Scottish Government signalled that it will bring the legislation forward in the next parliamentary term.
Unlicensed culling of mountain hares is also being made illegal.
The Revive coalition – which represents charities and activists and campaigns for grouse moor reform– welcomed the move.
However, it added that licensing should just be the start and called on the Scottish Government to go further in addressing serious animal welfare and environmental issues, such as the practice of burning huge swathes of moorland.
Revive campaign manager Max Wiszniewski said: “We are encouraged by some of what we have heard from the Scottish Government and welcome proposals to address the severe damage caused by grouse moor management.
“Scotland’s grouse moors are barren landscapes devoid of the majority of naturally occurring flora and fauna, surrounded by a circle of destruction intended to wipe out anything which pose a threat to red grouse, which are effectively farmed to be shot for entertainment. As the minister said self regulation is not working and further intervention is needed so we are delighted that the first steps are being taken to address this.”
Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, added: “Scotland’s grouse moors are woefully under regulated so we wholeheartedly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to improve management practices.
“We agree with the government that grouse shooting needs licensing and it should be done as soon as possible. We also agree that the problems on grouse moors are far wider than just the vexatious issue of killing birds of prey.
“We look forward to engaging with the government - particularly on the repugnant killing of hundreds of thousands of animals so that there can be more grouse to kill for sport.”
The shooting industry reacted with dismay at the prospect of being licensed and regulated. Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: "Ironically, those who lobbied so hard for licensing have no interest in seeing it being a success. For them, this was always a vehicle to agitate for a full ban. Scottish Parliament legislators should not be naive in thinking otherwise.”