You may recall last summer the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, calling for a state-regulated licensing system for all gamebird hunting in Scotland.
The Petitions Committee took evidence in October 2016 from the SRSG and RSPB Scotland (see here) and then evidence from the Scottish Moorland Group and BASC in December 2016 (see here) before deciding to pass the petition to the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee for further consideration.
It’s interesting to note that since that first evidence session, petitioners Logan Steele, Andrea Hudspeth and Duncan Orr-Ewing (pictured above) from the SRSG have been singled out for some pretty nasty personal abuse on social media. No prizes for guessing who was behind this, or why. We really are dealing with a disgusting sector of society.
On 31 January 2017, the ECCLR Committee considered how to progress the petition and they wrote a letter to Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham asking her (a) when the Government’s review of gamebird licensing in other European countries would be published and (b) what is her opinion of the effectiveness of other measures such as vicarious liability and general licence restrictions and whether the Government had any plans to review the current licensing regime.
Since that meeting, the Government’s gamebird licensing review has been published (see here) and the Cabinet Secretary has written to the ECCLR Committee outlining her thoughts on vicarious liability, general licence restrictions, firearms licensing, and her initial thoughts on the usefulness of introducing a state-regulated licensing system for gamebird hunting (see here).
The final paragraph of the Cabinet Secretary’s letter is worth highlighting here:
‘In conclusion, I would emphasise that our experience in this area is that there is no short cut to securing hard evidence of criminal behaviour. Changes to the law can only go so far, and always will need to be accompanied by effective, professional law enforcement. A licensing scheme may be a useful addition to the toolbox, but it will still depend on someone gathering evidence of wrong-doing in order to justify removal of a licence to operate a business‘.
She’s right to reiterate the importance of, and need for, effective law enforcement – it’s an issue we’ve been banging on about for years – without it, any new legislation would be worthless. But if she’s concerned about the lack of resources to collect evidence of criminality, then surely she need look no further than the current consultation to give increased investigatory powers to the SSPCA (see here).
In light of the publication of the Government’s gamebird licensing review, and the receipt of the Cab Sec’s letter, the ECCLR Committee had a brief discussion about the gamebird licensing petition during their meeting on 28 March 2017 (see page 21 of this transcript: ECCLR official report 28 March 2017 ).
The Committee has agreed to take evidence from the petitioner (the Scottish Raptor Study Group) and then evidence from a panel of stakeholders including RSPB Scotland, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Land & Estates and SNH. We believe this evidence session will take place on Tuesday 18 April and we’ll add a link to the live proceedings nearer the time.