We’ve been blogging about the proposed increase of investigatory powers for the SSPCA for six years (since Feb 2011). During this time, five, yes, five Environment ministers have been and gone (Roseanna Cunningham, Stewart Stevenson, Paul Wheelhouse, Aileen McLeod, Roseanna Cunningham [again, but this time as Cabinet Secretary]).
Here’s how the Scottish Government has handled this so far:
February 2011: Increased powers for the SSPCA was first suggested by former MSP Peter Peacock as an amendment during the WANE Bill debates. The then Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham rejected it as an amendment but suggested a public consultation was in order.
September 2011: Seven months later Elaine Murray MSP (Scottish Labour) lodged a parliamentary motion that further powers for the SSPCA should be considered.
November 2011: Elaine Murray MSP (Scottish Labour) formalised the question in a P&Q session and the next Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, then promised that the consultation would happen ‘in the first half of 2012’.
September 2012: Nine months later and nothing had happened so we asked Paul Wheelhouse MSP, as the new Environment Minister, when the consultation would take place. The response, in October 2012, was:
“The consultation has been delayed by resource pressures but will be brought forward in the near future”.
July 2013: Ten months later and still no sign so we asked the Environment Minister (still Paul Wheelhouse) again. In August 2013, this was the response:
“We regret that resource pressures did further delay the public consultation on the extension of SSPCA powers. However, I can confirm that the consultation document will be published later this year”.
September 2013: At a meeting of the PAW Executive Group, Minister Wheelhouse said this:
“The consultation on new powers for the SSPCA will be published in October 2013“.
January 2014: In response to one of our blog readers who wrote to the Minister (still Paul Wheelhouse) to ask why the consultation had not yet been published:
“We very much regret that resource pressures have caused further delays to the consultation to gain views on the extension of SSPCA powers. It will be published in the near future“.
31 March 2014: Public consultation launched.
1 September 2014: Consultation closed.
26 October 2014: We published our analysis of the consultation responses here.
22 January 2015: Analysis of consultation responses published by Scottish Government. 233 responses (although 7,256 responses if online petition included – see here).
We were told a decision would come from the new Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, “in due course”.
1 September 2015: One year after the consultation closed and still nothing.
25 February 2016: In response to a question posed by the Rural Affairs, Climate Change & Environment Committee, Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod said: “I have some further matters to clarify with the SSPCA, however I do hope to be able to report on the Scottish Government’s position on this issue shortly“.
May 2016: Dr Aileen McLeod fails to get re-elected and loses her position as Environment Minister. Roseanna Cunningham is promoted to a newly-created position of Cabinet Secretary for the Environment.
12 May 2016: Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens) submits the following Parliamentary question:
Question S5W-00030 – To ask the Scottish Government when it will announce its decision regarding extending the powers of the Scottish SPCA to tackle wildlife crime.
26 May 2016: Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responds with this:
A decision on whether to extend the investigatory powers of the Scottish SPCA will be announced in due course.
1 September 2016: Two years after the consultation closed and still nothing.
9 January 2017: Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens) submits the following Parliamentary question:
Question S5W-05982 – To ask the Scottish Government by what date it will publish its response to the consultation on the extension of wildlife crime investigative powers for inspectors in the Scottish SPCA.
17 January 2017: Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responds:
A decision on whether to extend the investigatory powers of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will be announced in the first half of 2017.
Given the Government’s appalling track record on dealing with this issue, the Cabinet Secretary will forgive us for thinking this is just yet another holding statement designed to deter further questions, although we’d be delighted if she proved us wrong.
The blame for this fiasco can’t all be placed at her feet – her predecessors have played a blinder at kicking this issue in to the long grass, ably assisted by landowners, gamekeepers and Police Scotland, all of whom are against increased SSPCA powers. So now the Cab Sec has the job of wading through the overgrowth to fetch the ball and bring it back in to play. No more extra time, this decision needs to be made and whatever that decision is, we’ll understand a great deal about how serious this Government is about tackling illegal raptor persecution.
Well done and thanks (again) to Mark Ruskell MSP (Scottish Greens) for holding the Government to account.