Vicarious liability one step closer

Congratulations to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs & Environment Committee for its continued support of the proposed introduction of vicarious liability to the WANE Bill. Their latest deliberations took place at Holyrood on Wednesday 12 January 2011 during Stage 2 of the Bill and all bar one of the committee members were very much in support of Roseanna Cunningham’s ammendment on this issue.

No surprise to learn that the only person who opposed it was John Scott MSP, who tried to suggest that the issue had been sprung on landowners out of the blue and that the neccesary consultation was inadequate. Roseanna Cunningham bit back with some welcome feistiness and told him his suggestions were nonsense – she had warned over a year ago that unless raptor persecution levels showed a significant drop, then vicarious liability was going to be “inevitable”. She had wanted to give the shooting industry an opportunity to get their house in order on a voluntary basis but after the appalling incidents at Skibo Estate, Moy Estate, and others throughout 2010, it was blatantly obvious that the industry was incapable of self-regulation and thus further legislation was neccessary. The rest of the RAE Committee agreed with her and John Scott MSP was out-voted 7 – 1 for the ammendment to continue to Stage 3.

John Scott also used the Stage 2 meeting to try and bring an ammendment that would allow more flexibility for the issue of licences to kill protected species (presumably starting with buzzards) under the European Birds Directive. That was also given short shrift by the Environment Minister who told him that the flexibility offered by the Directive was inapplicable to sport shooting.

There was no mention of the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework during the 3 hour meeting – presumably because most of the Committee have not yet been given the opportunity to read it. Hopefully it will be available to them before the concluding Stage 2 meeting at the end of January.

Wednesday’s meeting can be viewed on Holyrood TV: http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?iPid=3&section=102&title=Rural+Affairs+and+Environment+Committee

3 Responses to “Vicarious liability one step closer”

  1. January 14, 2011 at 10:24 am

    This is really uplifting news and firm proof that the parliamentary process can be utterly responsible and independent of vested influence and pressure. As for John Scott, all he now seems to be doing is illustrate the insistent and entrenched view of some of the Tory landowners and estates who appear intent on retaining their age old ways and of ignoring the will of the majority in the meantime!! In itself that is a sound indication that any “solution” based on self regulation would never work as the erring minority would continue to abuse the privilege and cause criticism to be directed at owners with a more positive attitude and approach.

    I do so hope this goes through as it will provide such a way forward to what should be happening in other parts of the UK.

    John Armitage.
    Isle of Islay

  2. 2 Dave Dick
    January 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Agree with John that if this goes through it will be to the great credit of the Scottish Parliament….however…!!

    As I am continually saying in this forum and others….the real problem now, is the inability of the justice system to enforce wildlife legislation, no matter how well drafted or how well meaning…

    The 1981 Act, Nature Conservation Scotland Act, Animal Welfare Act etc…are already amongst the best wildlife legislation in the world, on paper. So why dont we have a steady stream of offenders going through Courts, to match the steady stream of reported offences [as seen on this site?

    Because of the politics of the landowning/shooting lobby and their undue influence on senior police and the Courts.Apathetic and downright obstructive policeman at the level of initial investigation [dont let RSPB or SSPCA get involved either…god forbid knowledgeable experts should help]…through Fiscals afraid of the Crown Office and prosecution QCs…right up to Sheriff’s who either have shooting interests or are friendly with those who have.

    We havent moved on from the 19th century [in the countryside] in this regard..

    I watch parliamentary debates about such matters as single witness evidence with despair….you might get a Fiscal to accept a case based on single witness – if hes a poacher, with the local solicitor defending; but if hes a keeper with a top QC?…it wont even make Court. Thats the reality of Scotland in 2011….To be fair [I always try!] a single witness case can always be made to stick [in Common Law or Statute]- if theres plenty of corroborating evidence around too [forensic or material such as a pile of poison in his landrover]. So all that stuff is pretty much irrelevant – would be good to see it removed from the present Game Acts though, just as a signal that landowners legal rights are no higher than anyone elses…thats why they got away with an apparent breach of one of the main tenets of Scots Law way back then.


  3. 3 Alister Clunas
    January 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I thought that the following response to an e mail to Roseanna Cunningham on vicarious responsibility may be of interest:

    Thank you for your email of December 17th to Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, regarding the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill. I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Scottish Government.

    You may be aware that the bill originally contained no provisions aimed at tackling the problem of bird persecution but, as the level of bird persecution does not appear to be diminishing, the Minister felt that now was the time to act to strengthen the law in this area.

    The Scottish Government feels that the proposed vicarious liability amendment is the proportionate response to the current problem and I would like to thank you for your support in this matter.

    Kind regards

    Catherine Murdoch

    Here’s hoping it goes through.

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