13
Mar
12

RSPB criticised over link to Hopetoun Estate for Scottish Bird Fair

An article in today’s Scotsman has criticised the RSPB’s decision to hold the first-ever Scottish Bird Fair at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh in May.

The event, to celebrate Scottish birdlife and expected to attract 5,000 visitors, is to be held at the stately home of the Earl of Hopetoun, whose family also reportedly own Leadhills Estate (also known as Hopetoun Estate) in South Lanarkshire. Leadhills is a well-known grouse moor that has been at the centre of numerous police investigations over the years for allegations of raptor persecution. Many of these investigations did not result in a subsequent prosecution, but several did. The most recent one was the conviction of a 20-year old gamekeeper (in November 2010) who was found guilty of laying a rabbit bait laced with the banned pesticide Carbofuran.

The RSPB has defended its decision to link with Hopetoun:

We understand that there is a clear separation between land managed in hand by Hopetoun Estate in West Lothian, and the Leadhills Estate, which is let on a long lease to American tenants. It is the American sporting tenants on Leadhills Estate, through a UK sporting agent, who employ and manage the land and the employees at this site, and who are therefore ultimately responsible with ensuring that birds of prey are protected on this land. We accept that Hopetoun Estate do not condone any illegal practices on their land.”

Hang on a minute. Doesn’t ‘ultimate responsibility’ lie with the landowner? Isn’t that the message from the new law on vicarious liability? Apparently not!

The Scotsman reports that attempts to contact the Earl of Hopetoun were unsuccessful. However, an article on the Deadline News website has a statement that has reportedly come from the Earl’s spokesman:

The Earl of Hopetoun’s position on wildlife crime is unequivocal. He has constantly condemned any such activity. More importantly, Hopetoun Estate has no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate. Leadhills Estate is run on a sporting lease completely separately and there is no connection between Hopetoun Estate and the sporting management of Leadhills“.

Surely that lease would contain a clause that says if any unlawful activity is shown to have taken place then the lease becomes null and void and the tenants can be removed? Apparently not!

Full article in The Scotsman here

Article on Deadline News website here

RSPB’s Scottish Birdfair website here

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7 Responses to “RSPB criticised over link to Hopetoun Estate for Scottish Bird Fair”


  1. March 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    For Kit Davidson –

    Thanks for your comment. Please can you provide links to support each of those statements? We can’t publish the statements without evidence to back them up. Cheers.

  2. March 14, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I just received this statement from the RSPB, in response to my questions on their facebook page!

    “RSPB Scotland is committed to working with the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime and responsible landowners to tackle crime against birds of prey and other wildlife. We recognise that crimes such as illegal poisoning, trapping and nest destruction are having a serious impact on the populations of some of our most vulnerable species, including golden eagles, hen harriers and red kites. We will not take issue with management of land for the shooting of red grouse (or other gamebird hunting), provided such activity is undertaken legally, and in accordance with recognised sustainable land use practices.

    We are holding the first Scottish Bird Fair on 19-20 May 2012 at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh. We are aware that Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire is in the same family ownership as Hopetoun Estate, and have not sought to hide this widely known connection, as suggested in the letter received by The Scotsman.

    We have met with the Earl of Hopetoun to discuss bird of prey protection at Leadhills Estate, and sought clarification of the ownership arrangements that are in place. We understand that there is a clear separation between land managed in hand by Hopetoun Estate in West Lothian, and the Leadhills Estate, which is let on a long sporting lease. It is the sporting tenants on Leadhills Estate, through a UK sporting agent, who employ and manage the land and the employees at this site, and who are therefore ultimately responsible with ensuring that birds of prey are protected on this land. We accept that Hopetoun Estate do not condone any illegal practices on their land.”

  3. March 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    They followed their statement up with this comment:

    “Here is a link that may be useful. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2011/6/contents/enacted

    Click on the section that outlines Liability in relation to certain offences by others in section 24. This is part of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 and shows that it is the “sporting agent” or as defined by the Act “the employee or agent of a person” who is liable for certain offences. It will not, therefore, be Hopetoun Estate or the Earl of Hopetoun, who is liable.

    It’s also worth noting that the Scottish Birdfair will be held at Hopetoun House, not with Hopetoun Estate. Hopetoun House is owned and managed by a charitable trust, which is entirely separate from the business of Hopetoun Estate.

    Hope this information helps.

    Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk

    Latest Available (revised):The latest available updated version of the legislation incorporating changes made by subsequent legislation and applied by our editorial team. Changes we have not yet applied to the text, can be found in the ‘Changes to Legislation’ area.”

  4. 4 Peter Mchugh
    March 15, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I think some people have a short memory on this Estate, known as Hopetoun [Leadhills, not Hopetoun House] I think they have been killing raptors for a long time [at Leadhills, not Hopetoun House], so all of a sudden they have become whiter than white i dont think so and if that is the case which i doubt very much why on earth are they not revoking the lease held by this company. I cant believe that they haven’t a clause in the lease to say, right we have had enough we will terminate the Contract for bad practice. Give me a break………………..

  5. 5 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    October 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I am appalled at the naivete of the RSPB in allowing a Birdfayre on Hopetoun Leadhills Estate. I have a friend who has a cottage in Leadhills and he has related stories of birds of prey being killed there over the 40 years he has lived there. I am a member of the RSPB and support some of their first class projects in saving birdlife, but I am very critical of their association with such a concern as Hopetoun. My friends and I own various areas of land in Scotland, and we do so to conserve the wildlife found thereon, e.g. hen harriers, peregrine, buzzard, 20 species of butterfly, pine marten, red squirrel, otter. This matter reflects the long overdue review of what is allowable on the landscape of Scotland. An increasing number of people are uneasy about the landownership of this country and its stranglehold it has had in our history and continuing to present day. Did not Donald Trump own part of the Cairngorms and was bought out by a group lead by Chris Brasher, so that it could become a conserved part of our heritage? [Ed: sentences deleted as potentially libellous]. The way forward is to redesign who owns the land of Scotland and strict laws that will be enforced to bring back our wildlife heritage. No one should be allowed to make a pile of cash and be able to buy land and decide what can live and die on it.

  6. 6 Alix Hill
    May 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I think there is some confusion here.

    The RSPB Birdfair is not being held on the Hopetoun Leadhills Estate as indicated in the above post from Mr.Hart, but on the grounds of Hopetoun House.

    Hopetoun House and grounds are not owned by the Hopetoun family (who own Hopetoun Leadhills Estate). Hopetoun House and grounds were taken on by a charitable trust in 1974. It is run for preservation and conservation of the House and grounds, and education for the public.


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