SNH reluctant to discuss licensed raven cull in Strathbraan this year

As many of you will know, last year SNH authorised a mass raven cull on the grouse moors of Strathbraan in Highland Perthshire, just ‘to see what happens’.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group took on a legal challenge against SNH and the cull was eventually halted.

[Young ravens in a nest in Stirlingshire, photographed last week under licence by Dave Taylor]

SNH’s Scientific Advisory Committee comprehensively demolished the so-called science behind the cull (study apparently designed by GWCT) with comments such as it’s ‘completely inadequate’, ‘will fail to provide any meaningful scientific evidence’, ‘the methodology cited has not been followed’ and ‘seriously flawed’.

However, the threat of a potential new raven cull licence application has never gone away and for this reason we’ve been keeping tabs on SNH and the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (also known as gamekeepers).

Incredibly, it seems SNH has learned nothing from last year’s fiasco and still isn’t being transparent about what’s going on, even though this statutory nature advisory agency still claims to becommitted to openness and transparency“.

Here’s SNH’s response to one of our recent Freedom of Information requests asking about whether a licence application has been submitted this year and if so, whether SNH has granted another licence to permit the killing of ravens:

Hmm. The potential for SNH to delay responding in full to this FoI request until 28 May was highly unsatisfactory, especially if a licence to kill ravens has already been issued to the gamekeepers. It would mean we wouldn’t find out about that licence until 28 May, and thus any potential legal challenge wouldn’t be lodged until sometime in June, by which time most of the ravens would already have been killed so the legal challenge would become ‘academic’ and could potentially be thrown out of court.

With this in mind, the following email was sent to SNH on 25 April:


Thank you for your response.

Whilst I accept that SNH needs to ensure personal data are redacted, I don’t accept that it should take a further 20 working days to provide the information requested for issues that do not involve redacting personal data.

Namely, questions 2, 4 and 5.

I would be grateful if SNH could respond these by tomorrow’s 20 day deadline please.

For clarity, here are those questions again:

2. Has SNH received a licence application to cull ravens in Strathbraan in 2019? If yes, on what date was the application received?

4. If a licence application for 2019 has been received, has SNH made a decision on the application and if so, what is that decision?

5. If SNH has not yet made a decision on a 2019 licence application, when does SNH anticipate the decision will be made?

Thank you.


SNH responded the following day (26 April) with this:


Thank you for getting in touch.  Although the EIR legislation permits an additional 20 working days extension to the deadline for responding to an information request, in this case we are confident that it won’t take us that long to complete our response to your request.  Your request is a priority, and we are working to get the whole response to you as soon as we can.

I will contact you again next week to give you an update on progress and an indication of when we expect to send the response to you.

Kind regards,


Not good enough. A further email was sent to SNH on 26 April:

Thank you for your email.
I still don’t accept that the answers to questions 2, 4 and 5 cannot be answered today. Please can you send the answers?
SNH hasn’t responded.
Watch this space.
UPDATE 2 May 2019: SNH rejects 2019 licence application for Strathbraan raven cull (here)

17 Responses to “SNH reluctant to discuss licensed raven cull in Strathbraan this year”

  1. 1 Sue
    April 30, 2019 at 6:25 am

    Tell them that you want an internal review on how they are handling the FOI and threaten them with taking the complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office for independent review. They can still stall obviously this time but they need to be stopped from using loopholes inappropriately and illegally.

    I’ve had exactly the same thing from public services who try to hide behind this when attempting to cover up misdemeanours.

    See link https://foi.directory/how-to-complain-about-an-foi-request/

  2. 2 John Martin
    April 30, 2019 at 6:54 am

    I think it’s a perfectly reasonable response from SNH. You’ve asked ten questions, some of them requiring more time to collate answers than others and to reply piecemeal, on demand, is not the best protocol as it has the potential to fragment communications.

    • 3 Boaby
      April 30, 2019 at 7:32 am

      Fragment communications…..sounds good but doesnt make sense.

      SNH appear to be stalling and dragging out having to answer.

      It would be a perfectly reasonable expectation for questions 2,4 and 5 to be answered now.

      SNH are fast losing credibility and trust of the public.

    • 4 Andy Mitchell
      April 30, 2019 at 7:56 am

      John, I think you got up a bit early and failed to spot a clear case of delaying tactics.

    • April 30, 2019 at 8:09 am

      Hi John,

      Well, that’s one view.

      Another view is that most people can cope with multiple emails on one subject (“fragmented communications” – seriously?!!) and, given the time-sensitivity of this particular issue, in addition to SNH’s track record of obstructive behaviour, then this looks like a statutory agency with either something to hide or determined to frustrate the legal process.

      Still, if it gets to court this year it’ll make interesting reading material for the judge when assessing reasonableness and thus costs.

  3. 6 Bill Gilmour
    April 30, 2019 at 8:32 am

    They are being naughty.

  4. 7 Mike Whitehouse
    April 30, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Thank you for keeping on top of this very important issue.

    SNH must be fully aware that they are under severe scrutiny form the public on this issue and should therefore know quite clearly the consequences of not adhering to the law/rules.

    Please keep up the very good work.

  5. April 30, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Thank you very much for the work you do here. And I just love the photo of baby ravens!!

    I wonder if there is some sort of regulatory agency to which complaints could be made against SNH. Is there some equivalent of OFCOM for such institutions?

    You must have a substantial dossier by now containing further evidence of the puerile antics of SNH and its clear bias towards the interests of so called field sports.

    • 9 Doug
      April 30, 2019 at 11:16 am

      The SNH is answerable to the Sc. Gov. (who select the SNH board). I suppose you could try complaining Holyrood if you have some spare time to waste.
      However, given that the Sc. Gov. have dithered and prevaricated for ages over giving powers to the SSPCA to investigate wildlife crime at a time when Police Scotland have achieved precious little in that respect I am far from convinced that the Scot. Gov. have a genuine desire to change very much.

  6. 13 Simon Tucker
    April 30, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Surely all you have to do is whisper “Wild Justice” in their shell-likes and they will immediately rescind all licences and blame you for it!

  7. 14 Oliver Craig
    April 30, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    Its their political masters who are really to blame, the power the SNH has is little more than a shop window to make them (MSPs) appear caring and interested. Always remember the fiasco with Trump`s golf course in Aberdeen ????

  8. 15 Mr Greer Hart
    May 1, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    All I have to say on this issue, is that I wish to praise the determination of those who run RPUK in this matter of the Ravens. For years, there was only the RSPB and the SSPCA doing active work on behalf of bird life, and the latter pursuing those who practised blood sports. Eventually, the League Against Cruel Sports came aboard, and the public joined in on anti-fox hunt demonstrations. A massive area of Scotland had become the hunting zone of shooting estates, and badger baiting, fox hunting, hare coursing were all over the countryside. As awareness grew about the cruelty involved in blood sports, the media and the public reacted against them. We now have Badgers Scotland, a stronger LACS, and One-Kind keeping an eye on the situation. There is a smattering of our politicians who have shown a concern for the plight of wild creatures, but we need more from all parties, to have animal welfare and conservation of plant and animal species, on their List of Interests. The Green Party has stood firmly on these issues, and are to be commended. Animal Concern, Scotland, has acted on behalf of our marine environment, with regard to seals and fish farms. Stalls run by Scotland for Animals has carried the message for better animal welfare throughout the Central Belt. What has struck me is that whilst on some these stall, it was the poorer areas where a greater response was experienced, especially from unemployed or deprived people.

    Anyway, land which my friends and I own, has had the nearby farmer ban hunting of any description on his land, and that elsewhere that he owns. His only complaint is about seagulls attacking his lambs, but no slaughter of Corvids and foxes has taken place. Instead of knee-jerk reaction, he and other farmers I have met, have stated that “nuisance” birds or whatever, can be a localised affair. Too much credence has been given to the gamekeepers of shooting estates on what constitutes a threat, along with daft tradition of killing anything from the Crow family or foxes. We have a huge badger sett on our land, and they have never been involved in any threat to sheep/lambs. I would say the real threat to farming is the bad land management now being broadcast about, and the serious erosion of our soils. The politicians have to stop listening to the blandishments of fish farmers, big landowners, high kill shooting estates, livestock movers, factory farms, badly acting Ministers who allow harmful chemical sprays in forestry areas, and bad practice in certain sectors of the marine resource industry. It is great to see a rise in protest of an ethical and practical nature. Great to see local clamour from communities on our islands and coastal areas, demanding marine protection zones. I can almost hear the Marseillaise being sung, and hopefully a few heads may roll from among those who have held back humane progress in animal welfare and the conservation of species. The Old Regime in Scotland should pack its bags and get out, and our politicians should stop relying on its blandishments about how much they contribute to the Scottish economy. There is a host of new economic activities that could contribute high value, and there is a vibrant class of young people who could make changes to the image of Scotland, and redistribute the wealth in a better way than hitherto.

  9. 16 Iain Gibson
    July 3, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    It’s almost unbelievable that SNH has come to this, apparently cooperating with potential wildlife criminals over a dedicated group of nature conservationists, the latter including many prominent scientists in the field. This conduct should merit an inquiry.

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