19
Dec
19

Scottish Government ‘actively considering’ additional enforcement action on wildlife crime

On Tuesday (17 December 2019) the Scottish Rural Affairs & Environment Minister, Mairi Gougeon, gave evidence to the cross-party Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) committee which is currently considering Stage 1 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

The transcript can be read here (wildlife crime discussed from page 20 onwards): ECCLR report_17December2019

The archived video can be watched here

We’ve already blogged about one aspect of that evidence, where rather than committing to a mandatory custodial sentence for possession of banned deadly poisons, just as there is for those caught in possession of illegal firearms, yet another poisons amnesty was being considered instead (see here).

The rest of the session covered a lot of ground with some well-informed questions posed by some members of the ECCLR committee, especially Mark Ruskell MSP and Claudia Beamish MSP. In addition to an increase in penalties for wildlife crimes, which is part of the core text of the proposed Bill, other topics discussed included the Werritty review (due before the end of the year), the Government’s annual wildlife crime report (apparently due to be published ‘by the end of the year’ and we expect it will show an increase in confirmed raptor persecution crimes), vicarious liability, increasing SSPCA powers to tackle wildlife crime, the ineffectiveness of General Licence restrictions because estates can simply apply for Individual licences instead, covert video surveillance, the failure of the Police Special Constables pilot scheme in the Cairngorms National Park and a question about why the General Licence restriction at Leadhills Estate, imposed after Police Scotland provided ‘clear evidence of wildlife crime’, has been reinstated during the appeals process. Government officials committed to submitting a written response to Claudia Beamish’s question on this legally complicated issue.

The discussion on increasing powers for the SSPCA during Stage 2 of the Bill was quite telling. The Minister said the SSPCA had approached the Government in recent weeks to request additional powers to help tackle wildlife crime but she seemed to go to great lengths to argue that although she is committed to considering options she didn’t forsee anything happening in this particular Bill because the Government ‘needs the chance to fully discuss the issue’ and to ‘assess the ramifications of increasing those powers’.

Yeah, she’s right, so far the Government has only taken six years and five different Environment Ministers to fully discuss the issue and consider the ramifications – see here for a jaw-dropping timeline. And after all that it then concluded that accepting the offer of free resources from an expert and experienced reporting agency like the SSPCA wasn’t the right option for tackling serious organised crime and, inexplicably, chose instead to launch a £28k pilot scheme for five part-time voluntary Police Special Constables to potter around in the Cairngorms National Park and ‘meet stakeholders’; a scheme which, unsurprisingly, has been a complete flop. Even though Mairi Gougeon wasn’t in post as one of those five Environment Ministers during that six-year stalling exercise, her advisors should know all about those shenanigans. Honestly, the extent of the feet dragging is astonishing.

Mark Ruskell MSP again raised the issue of the ineffectiveness of General Licence restrictions and other sanctions, and asked the Minister if other sanctions were available? She responded by saying that she thought it was ‘important that other deterrents are available‘ and “We are actively considering the need for an additional level of enforcement, which would not require referral to the procurator fiscal or involvement of the Scottish courts but would still provide a penalty that would act as a deterrent. We will be happy to consider the evidence and consider whether measures are as effective as they can be“.

When Mark asked her whether she would be interested in discussing with the Westminster Government the withdrawal of a firearms certificate as a potential sanction, she responded,

Absolutely. I know that there were two recommendations around that in the Poustie review, so we will happily engage in discussions with the UK Government. I believe that the matter falls under the justice portfolio, so I would also be happy to raise it with justice colleagues and see how we can get some movement on the recommendations with the UK Government“.

Good, but if this was in the Poustie review on wildlife crime penalties published in 2015, why haven’t those discussions already taken place? That’s not Mairi Gougeon’s fault – she wasn’t in post then – but come on Scottish Government, five years on and discussions haven’t even started? This is like pulling teeth.

It’s not clear what other potential sanctions the Scottish Government is ‘actively considering’ to tackle wildlife crime but the long-awaited Werritty review should have some suggestions.


6 Responses to “Scottish Government ‘actively considering’ additional enforcement action on wildlife crime”


  1. 1 Mairi L
    December 19, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Seems to me all these past discussions, and maybe the awaited ‘before the end of the year’ reports, are buried with a stake of holly in their hearts! SNP should get a Nobel prize for procrastination! ( Seasons Greetings and many thanks to all at RPS! )

  2. 2 Les Wallace
    December 19, 2019 at 8:26 am

    Clearly giving the SSPCA additional powers would be a big step in fighting wildlife crime which is why Scotgov is going out of its way to prevent that happening, to the lengths of funding an always dubious and now frankly ludicrous special constables scheme. If vested interests ( the Rural Mafia) are going to be hurt then pretty sure their pals at Holyrood will do their best to stop it which we are seeing with the beaver in Scotland too. Thanks to its dam building skills potentially a phenomenal catalyst for rewilding as a flood reduction measure – would also mean creation of fire breaks on our flammable moors. However, this isn’t good for the status quo so while public concern at beaver persecution was appeased by giving them official protection on May the 1st, there was already training and a facility in place to allow licenced ‘control’ and there’s a total ban from moving beavers to new territories even where they’d be a definite boon to conservation (e.g Insh Marshes) and helping to keep people’s homes dry. Again and again progressives steps in rural Scotland being smothered by a largely on the leash group of elected ‘representatives’. Thank God for the few good ones like Claudia Beamish, Mark Russell, Andy Wightman and Alison Johnston.

  3. 3 Frances
    December 19, 2019 at 9:25 am

    The vested interests that wield the power are held by the lairds/landed gentry who own the estates in Scotland. The likes of xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx etc stand to gain from killing birds of prey as they make such vast amounts of money from their shooting estates. The influence of Freemasonry will play a part in all of this. Scottish Rite Freemasonry has a huge amount of influence and is a massive corrupting force in Scotland. The Scottish government is rife with this corruption. MSPs don’t have to declare an interest in Freemasonry, so there is no way of telling if this could be a factor.

    Those who live close to xxxxx xxxxx know for a fact that they are killing protected birds unlawfully and have been doing so for years. Local knowledge has it that Red kites are being killed even though they are tagged. Buzzards are frequently shot by gamekeepers. No action has ever been taken despite this being common knowledge in this area.

  4. 4 Dougie
    December 19, 2019 at 10:35 am

    “The Minister said the SSPCA had approached the Government in recent weeks to request additional powers to help tackle wildlife crime but she seemed to go to great lengths to argue that although she is committed to considering options she didn’t forsee anything happening in this particular Bill because the Government ‘needs the chance to fully discuss the issue’ and to ‘assess the ramifications of increasing those powers’.

    Yeah, she’s right, so far the Government has only taken six years and five different Environment Ministers to fully discuss the issue and consider the ramifications”

    Six years – how time flies and many raptors no longer can.
    These people must have very specialised academic qualifications. First class Masters of Procrastination. Perhaps they also have some other “qualities”.

    • 5 Frances.
      December 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

      Look at who stands to gain and the huge amount of corruption that is going on here. The Scottish Government is tugging its cap to the feudal lairds.


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

  • 5,672,885 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors