08
Sep
16

Tackling raptor persecution features in Scot Gov’s work plan 2016-17

scotgov-logoThe Scottish Government has published its work plan for 2016-2017 (see here).

We are pleased to see that tackling wildlife crime, and specifically raptor persecution, is a feature (see page 56).

We must protect the environment from those who seek to damage it for personal gain. We will increase the penalties for wildlife crime and consider the creation of new sentencing guidelines in line with the recommendations from the Wildlife Crimes Penalties Review Group“.

Good. Penalties for wildlife crimes have generally been at the lower end of the scale and penalties issued for similar crimes have been inconsistently applied. We fully support the recommendations of the Wildlife Crimes Penalties Review Group, published in November last year (see here) and we look forward to the Scottish Government getting on with implementing them.

However, increasing the tariffs available to the judiciary will count for little if the problems of early-stage enforcement (e.g. Police under-resourcing, the slow pace of gathering evidence and poor follow-up investigations – see here) are also not addressed. Regardless of the punitive value of a sentence, the deterrent effect will be limited if an offender knows that the chances of being caught and receiving the punishment are minimal.

It seems that the Scottish Government has recognised this in the work plan:

Police Scotland will create a new Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit to support the existing network of wildlife crime officers in complex investigations“.

We tentatively welcome this news, although of course much will depend on the details of how this new unit will function. It’s all very well being able to say you’ve got a special wildlife crime unit, but if it’s as semi-dysfunctional as the current National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU – very effective at dealing with the international trade in endangered species but wholly ineffective at dealing with raptor persecution) then there’s little point to its existence.

It’s also a little bit worrying that there is no mention of increased investigatory powers for the SSPCA to help Police Scotland tackle wildlife crime. Is that a sign of the Government’s direction on this issue? Time will tell.

Also included in the work plan is this:

In order to safeguard vulnerable species from illegal persecution, we will carry out a review of prevention measures including the operation of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime [PAW Scotland] and supporting Police Scotland in their work to target wildlife crime hotspots. We are prepared to introduce legislation where necessary“.

We very much welcome a review of how PAW Scotland operates. We have been highly critical of this so-called ‘partnership’, particularly the PAW Raptor sub-group, which is dominated by land management groups, some of whom are tainted (indirectly, by association) with raptor persecution. Some of these groups consistently misrepresent raptor crime data and refuse to accept that persecution is an on-going problem. As a result, the PAW Raptor group has achieved very little in terms of tangible results and we hope this review will recognise the group’s failings and act accordingly.

We would welcome the Government’s claim that it is ‘prepared to introduce legislation where necessary‘ but we’ve heard it so many times before that it’s now just seen as empty rhetoric. If they’d just get on with it we’d be 100% supportive.

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9 Responses to “Tackling raptor persecution features in Scot Gov’s work plan 2016-17”


  1. 1 S TUCKER
    September 8, 2016 at 10:53 am

    As my mother always said to me: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

    Let’s hope this is more than that.

  2. 2 George M
    September 8, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Such a pity new powers for the SSPCA to investigate crime were not mentioned. We need some agency outwith those tainted by historical inertia to be introduced in a pro-active role

  3. September 8, 2016 at 11:45 am

    There’s an old Gaelic proverb ‘Beul a labhras, ach gniomh a dhearbhas’ – the mouth speaks but the deed proves. Let’s hope the deed matches the words.

  4. 4 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    September 8, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    A sop to Cerberus! The Gordian Knot has not been cut, and our “Alexander”, in the form of SRP, should be allowed to write and implement the script, then we would be assured of success. A large army of frustrated animal welfare and conservationists have been waiting for years, to be let loose on the old boy network that thinks it can dominate our countryside. The problem is that the Scottish people, and their counterparts in England and Wales, are too respectful of authority, even when it is a corrupt and self-seeking one, as we have with those who are part of the whole disgraceful and anachronistic blood sports activities here. We have not had progressive governments in the UK, and if we had experienced such a power, then this dross would have been told to scoot, and a new, innovative and humane generation of young people installed, to restore our countryside, and in creating a new economic justification for their revolutionary changes. The whole situation is one big constipation and it needs a purgative.

  5. September 8, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    No change there then…same old, same old…this government appears to be in the establishment’s pocket as all the previous ones..how very sad.

  6. 6 Dylanben
    September 8, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Let’s hope that the proposed Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit will incorporate the expertise of the SSPCA, rather than it prove to be the reason why that organisation is not to be granted investigatory powers.

  7. 7 crypticmirror
    September 8, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Do we know what rank of officer will lead this new Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit? Hopefully it will be a Superintendent whose sole role will be leadership of this unit, for reason that anything less than a Super will not have enough clout and that all Super’s want to make Chief Super and they cannot do that without a solid record of obtaining actual convictions. If they wanted to make Chief Super then it is impossible for them to brush things under the carpet for their mates. I expect that they’ll target poaching and inner city kids using an air rifle to target cats primarily, but the increasingly high media profile on raptor crime (and beaver crime, no sniggering on the back row please) means they will be forced to score a few convictions on it if they want promotion.

  8. September 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    The plan also has the proposals for the wind up of the forestry commission and the creation of Scotland land. This seems to be a bit of a Trojan horse for absorbing all of our national nature reserves and turning them into revenue raising opportunities. SNP’s shortsighted approach to our natural environment is never far from view.

  9. 9 Greengrass
    September 9, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I would have thought giving the SSPCA the necessary powers would have been a given. On past record I can’t say I’m confident anything effective will come of this. Not much chance of any meaningful land reforms if they can’t prevent the estates from their illegal activities.


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