‘Wildlife crime cannot be tolerated in modern day Scotland’, says Environment Minister

Aileen McLeod MSP3Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod has written an article on wildlife crime that has been published in the Holyrood magazine:


In the past year, between April 2014 and February 2015, almost 250 wildlife crimes were recorded by Police Scotland.

That’s 250 too many.

The crimes included persecuting badgers, poisoning birds of prey and trading in some of the world’s most endangered species.

There is no room for complacency – last year saw one of the worst ever bird of prey poisoning cases, with the discovery of 12 dead red kites and four buzzards in Ross-shire, which were confirmed by SASA as having been poisoned.

I want to make it abundantly clear that the illegal poisoning of wildlife cannot – and will not – be tolerated in a modern Scotland.

This is one of our priorities which the Scottish Government is continuing to tackle head-on. I recently launched a scheme, with the support of PAW Scotland partners, to get rid of illegal pesticides which could be used to poison wildlife.

The scheme allows those who know, or suspect, they are in possession of certain pesticides which are illegal, to dispose of them safely and confidentially. Arrangements are also in place for SNH to restrict the use of general licences where there is evidence of wildlife crime.

Here in Scotland we have the strongest wildlife legislation in the UK, and in the last few months we have seen the first ever custodial sentence for the killing of birds of prey and the first conviction of a land owner under the vicarious liability provisions, for crimes committed in 2012.

I believe this sends out a clear message to those who continue to illegally target Scotland’s wildlife that their actions will not be tolerated.

Recently I helped Police Scotland launch its new awareness campaign to tackle wildlife crime in Scottish cities, towns and rural areas.

Figures reported by Police Scotland indicated that the detection rate for wildlife crime has increased from the previous year by almost 13 per cent to a 77 per cent detection rate and I’m pleased to see that more is being done to catch those offenders.

As the Chair of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland I am delighted to support this campaign. In Scotland we have long recognised the value of our wildlife and the importance of protecting it.

Police Scotland’s campaign will play a key role in raising awareness about wildlife crime and what people should do if they encounter it.

Investigations into wildlife crime can be difficult so it is essential that we work closely with our partners to get the message out there and raise public awareness to help us prevent it from happening in the first place.

Last year, the Scottish Government’s second annual wildlife crime report was published in a bid to develop the bigger picture of what offences are occurring in Scotland. Figures in the report showed that the largest volume of wildlife crime in Scotland is poaching related – fish, deer and coursing offences.

While poaching is the most commonly recorded offence, crimes against our rare birds of prey and vulnerable freshwater pearl mussel populations are of most serious concern in terms of damage to Scotland’s ecosystems and our reputation.

We must continue to work with stakeholders to raise awareness and therefore ensure prevention, so that these crimes decrease and stop. We are not there yet but with the help of the PAW Scotland partners and the actions of the public I am confident that we are moving in the right direction.

Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform


It’s good to hear from the Environment Minister on this issue. Five months in to her tenure as Environment Minister, she’s been relatively quiet. Perhaps that’s a bit unfair, as we’re comparing her perceived (public) involvement on this issue with that of her predecessor, Paul Wheelhouse, who clearly was very engaged with the subject. She also has a wider portfolio of responsibilities than Wheelhouse had, so of course her time is going to be squeezed. Nevertheless, we haven’t yet seen much evidence that Dr McLeod is coming in with all guns blazing.

Whilst the above article, and sentiment, is to be welcomed, what does it actually amount to? Not very much, to be honest. It’s the same old rhetoric that we’ve been fed for years: ‘it’s a priority’; ‘it won’t be tolerated’; ‘there’s no room for complacency’, yada yada.

Meanwhile, raptor persecution continues and Police Scotland are doing their level best to keep the details from the public domain. We’re aware of several crimes against raptors that have taken place within the last 12 months that still have not been publicised – and we probably don’t know the half of it. It’s interesting to compare this policy of secrecy with the policy of openness being displayed by North Wales Police. One of their wildlife crime officers, Sgt. Rob Taylor, is frequently telling his Twitter followers what wildlife crimes he’s currently investigating. More power to him. His openness doesn’t seem to be affecting the investigation of those offences so what’s the real reason for Police Scotland hiding the facts about the crimes they’re supposedly investigating?

There have been a couple of big success stories in Scotland – the first vicarious liability conviction of a landowner and the first custodial sentence for a raptor-killing gamekeeper. These were both excellent results, there’s no doubt about that, but they were both a long, long time coming and, so far, have proved the exception rather than the rule.

How about the Environment Minister telling us whether the SSPCA will be granted increased investigatory powers? The public consultation closed almost 8 months ago! What’s the decision?

How about the Environment Minister giving us an update on the Govt-commissioned report from Professor Poustie on his review of wildlife crime penalties? That was due ‘early in the New Year’. Where is it?

How about the Environment Minister telling us why SNH haven’t yet publicised any General Licence Restriction Orders for estates where raptor persecution is believed to be taking place? They’ve had the power to enforce such restriction orders since September 2014, for incidents that have taken place since 1st January 2014. What have they been doing for the last seven months? Have they imposed any restriction orders or not? If not, why not?

And please, Minister, will you stop implying that the Ross-shire Massacre only claimed 16 victims. Twenty two raptors were found dead in that one incident. Sure, only 16 have been confirmed as victims of poisoning but the remaining six birds did not all just die of natural causes at the same time, in the same fields where the confirmed poisoned corpses were found. And by the way, can you tell us why Police Scotland has not yet released the name of the poison(s) used to kill those protected species?

8 Responses to “‘Wildlife crime cannot be tolerated in modern day Scotland’, says Environment Minister”

  1. 1 Chris Roberts
    April 28, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    All good questions RPS, let’s hope we get the answers. We the public, tax payers and voters deserve to be told what is happening. I detest all the secrecy from Police Scotland – we are not as yet a police state. While I certainly agree with the Minister that Hollyrood is far better than Westminster with regard to tacking wildlife crime, we still need to see far more action and success in this regard.

  2. April 28, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Well, she sounds positive but she is up against the conspiracy of silent police and shooting fraternity denials. A big shake up and serious penalties including closures of the estates involved are, I feel, necessary.

    The shooters are clearly not bothered about repercussions at the moment and are sitting confidently that they will not be caught.

  3. 3 Bill Jackson
    April 28, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    It may well take this woman to help sort these problem keepers and estates out, lets face it…she seems quite determined…good for her. Any estate with an enthusiastic keeper these days is a potential threat to our fully protected wildlife and therefore tourism, why isn’t this area of Argyll richly populated with wildlife such as Mull…Exactly, so called keepers and especially vermin control operatives that live in the dark ages make sure nothing of interest survives that’s lit up with the lamp!!! (and regularily shot from public roads)

    There is no wildlife vermin in the Scottish countryside only those that take pleasure in killing animals because they drive a Landrover, are dressed to look the part. Real Dinasaurs allowed to make money out of killing wildlife and this in 2015.

    Every so called spoting estate should read this post and be ashamed…I say ashamed because they know and condone what there employees get up to…why else to they kick up about deer numbers being controlled…how else do there poor keepers make a few bob mainly in the dark??? Its not the Northern lights around here at night… its the deer scavengers.

    all the best, Bill

    • 4 George M
      April 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

      Well said, Bill. The same situation exists here in the Angus Glens/Aberdeenshire area. It’s good you raised the deer issue and the fact that the main poachers are gamekeepers … another example of the duplicity they engage in while presenting an entirely different story to the public.

  4. 5 Marian
    April 29, 2015 at 6:29 am

    Hello, the Raptor Persecution Scotland Team,

    Do you know anything about this:


    And – No mention of this on the web site of the Red Squirrel group:


    Marian Hussenbux.

    Animal Interfaith Alliance


    Faiths Working Together for Animals

  5. 6 steve macsweeney
    April 29, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Totally agree, but give the lady every encouragement.We would die for someone like her in power in England.Having said that your needs are greater than ours, the Scottish feudal system is alive and well!.Jail the landowners, that would sort it out.

  6. 7 Dougie
    April 29, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Dr. Aileen states:-

    “Figures reported by Police Scotland indicated that the detection rate for wildlife crime has increased from the previous year by almost 13 per cent to a 77 per cent detection rate and I’m pleased to see that more is being done to catch those offenders.”

    Just what does “detection rate” mean. I can only find a definition relating to England & Wales:-

    “According to the official definition: ‘A sanctioned detection occurs when (1) a notifiable offence (crime) has been committed and recorded; (2) a suspect has been identified and is aware of the detection; (3) the CPS evidential test is satisfied; (4) the victim has been informed that the offence has been detected, and; (5) the suspect has been charged, reported for summons, or cautioned, been issued With a penalty notice for disorder or the offence has been taken into consideration when an offender is sentenced.’”

    Seems to me that what the police cannot hide they seek to wrap up in confusion.

    Put simply, how many offences are known to have been reported and how many of those resulted in conviction. I am damned sure it was nowhere near 77%.

  7. 8 Merlin
    May 5, 2015 at 12:07 am

    she talks of modern Scotland, she needs to realise Scotland and northern England are third world countries when it comes to tackling wildlife crime, they are on a level with Malta and Cyprus, many African countries spend more and are more successful at tackling wildlife crime. its action we need not words, we got words when Wheelhouse came in

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 6,522,232 hits


Our recent blog visitors