Archive for December, 2019



19
Dec
19

Werritty Review: response from OneKind

Further to the publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management this morning (here), animal welfare charity OneKind has issued a press statement:

Leading Scottish animal welfare campaigns charity OneKind has welcomed one of the recommendations in the newly-published Werritty Group report that users of traps should be legally required to undertake training, including refresher courses, and attach individual operator identification numbers to their traps.

The report makes a number of recommendations for improving the sustainability of grouse moors in Scotland including:

Recommendation 25

That new legislation should be introduced to make it a legal requirement that it becomes an offence to set or operate a trap without an operator having successfully completed a course run by an approved and accredited body and dealing with the relevant category of trap (cage and/or spring).  A trap operator who has successfully completed a relevant trap training course should apply to their local police station for a unique identification number which must be attached to all traps that are set.

Recommendation 26

That any operator dealing with the relevant category of trap (cage and/or spring) should undergo refresher training at least once every ten years.

OneKind Director Bob Elliot said: “Untold suffering is caused to thousands of animals each year due to trapping and killing on grouse moors. While we would prefer to see the Scottish countryside free of animal traps, we recognise that the Werritty Group recommendations for proper training in their use should become a legal requirement  We have seen far too many cases of target and non-target animals suffering in cage traps and spring traps, from magpies used as decoys in corvid traps, to small mammals struggling and slowly dying in supposedly lethal spring traps.

We see these recommendations as a step in the right direction and we urge the Scottish Government to adopt and develop them.  It will be essential for training to include independent veterinary input on animal welfare, and for further requirements on trap inspection to be introduced.  Above all, we welcome the prospect of all traps carrying an individual identification number so that the specific operators of traps are accountable for their use”.

OneKind has lodged a Public Petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for an independent expert review of the welfare issues surrounding traps and snares, and has also recently published a report on trapping and killing, with the League Against Cruel Sports, as part of the Revive coalition.

Bob continued: “The main message OneKInd would send the Scottish Government following publication of the Werritty Group report is that it should proceed to license grouse moor businesses without further delay.  Welfare was not part of the Group’s remit and we have to accept that its reach is limited in that respect.  However, it has opened a door on further regulation of trapping and we will continue to pursue those issues.”

ENDS

19
Dec
19

Werritty Review: Scottish Raptor Study Group responds

Further to the publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management this morning (here), the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) has issued a statement:

The Scottish Raptor Study Group is pleased with the Scottish Government’s Independent Grouse Moor Review Group’s report and in particular the recommendation to introduce a licensing framework but the steps proposed are too timid and too slow. The proposals for regulations on muir burn are very welcome especially in these times of concern around climate change. We also warmly support the greater protection of mountain hares.

The strong-arm tactics of the grouse lobby were once again laid bare in the Chair’s Preface clearly demonstrating their sense of entitlement over the wider public interest and we trust the Scottish Government will not be cowed. Even when the review group were considering their findings the killings and ‘suspicious disappearances’ of birds of prey across some driven grouse moors continued unabated, clearly demonstrating that the grouse lobby feel that the law does not apply to them.

We are keen to hear how the Scottish Government might resource such a licensing framework to ensure the regulator has the necessary powers for both pro-active compliance and effective enforcement. Without the fear of detection and subsequent investigation there is little incentive to comply with any new licensing regime, which is the situation we see today with bird of prey crimes.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group calls upon the Scottish Government to immediately implement the licensing of driven grouse moors to finally and decisively crack down on this sector for the benefit of Scotland’s birds of prey, our environment and the wider public interest. Over many years Ministers have stated their revulsion at the illegal persecution of birds of prey and had pledged to take decisive action, well now is the time.

ENDS

19
Dec
19

Werritty Review: Revive Coalition responds

Further to the publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management this morning (here), the Revive Coalition for grouse moor reform has published a statement:

WERRITTY REVIEW HAS BEEN A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform has voiced its disappointment over what it is calling “a missed opportunity” to improve management practices on grouse moors.

The Scottish Government commissioned Grouse Moor Management Group published its report today (Thursday) led by Professor Alan Werritty. A review of grouse moor management practices was ordered by the Scottish Government in 2017 with a view to introducing a licensing scheme for game-shooting estates. The group was tasked to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.

Campaign Manager for Revive Max Wiszniewski said: “We are deeply concerned that the Werritty Commission has failed to recognise the severity of the damaging problems with grouse moor management in its current form, and has missed the single biggest opportunity in our generation to take significant action to reform Scotland’s grouse moors for the benefit of our economy, our people, our environment and our wildlife.

Huge swathes of Scotland are grouse moors which, under intense management programmes result in barren landscapes devoid of the majority of naturally occurring flora and fauna. These moors instead are surrounded by a circle of destruction intended to wipe out anything which pose a threat to red grouse, which are effectively farmed to be shot for entertainment.

The report has recommended that a licensing scheme be introduced for the shooting of grouse, within five years from the Scottish Government publishing this report, but only if there is no marked improvement in the ecological sustainability of grouse moor management, as evidenced by the populations of breeding Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers and Peregrines on or within the vicinity of grouse moors being in a favourable condition. On muirburn, mountain hare culling and the use of medicated grit the report recommends increased regulation of these activities.

Max Wiszniewski added: “We are now looking to the Scottish Government to take these recommendations and strengthen them, as currently while there are some positives within the report, overall it is a missed opportunity and a disappointing conclusion to an important and lengthy process.”

ENDS

19
Dec
19

Werritty Review: grouse shooting industry predicts ‘rural Armageddon’

Further to the publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management this morning (here), a joint statement has been published by the usual suspects in the grouse shooting industry.

It’s pretty clear that they recognise the game’s finally up – they simply haven’t done enough to clean up their industry, despite years and years of warnings and opportunities.

We’ll be taking apart the details of this statement in due course but for now, just enjoy what Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland) has amusingly described as ‘the wailing, gnashing of teeth and warnings of rural Armageddon’.

[Armageddon poster by DeviantArt]

Joint press statement from Scottish Gamekeepers Association, BASC, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates (19 Dec 2019):

Grouse shooting review will mean ‘seismic’ change for moors in Scotland

Rural organisations said today that the recommendations of a government-commissioned review of grouse moor management will mean a ‘seismic’ change for grouse moors across Scotland.

Following publication of the review group’s report, a joint statement was issued by: British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates.

“The recommendations of the Werritty Review will mean a seismic change for grouse moors across Scotland.

“This report has recommended a barrage of measures that will leave the grouse shooting sector engulfed by legislation and red tape. On top of that, penalties for wildlife crime in Scotland are about to get much tougher.

“The sector has already willingly embraced change and improvements in how it operates.  We believe further enhanced training and codes of practice covering muirburn, mountain hare management and medicated grit are the best solution rather than onerous licensing provisions and we will be seeking an urgent meeting with government to discuss these key areas.

“The review group has recognised that there is no case for the banning of driven grouse shooting. They also accepted that licensing of grouse moors in general is hugely contentious, complex and unnecessary at this time. Nor is there scientific evidence to justify such a measure. Should it be introduced in the future, it would push an important rural business sector beyond breaking point.

“Grouse shooting plays a vital role in helping to sustain communities and delivers multiple social, economic and environmental benefits. It would be a tragedy if the massive private investment that underpins these benefits is put at risk by a package of regulatory measures that will herald fundamental change.

“Scotland already has the most stringent laws to deal with raptor persecution in the UK and they’re about to get even tougher with proposed jail sentences of up to five years and wide-ranging new financial penalties – which we support. There has been huge progress in recent years to combat raptor persecution and incidents are now at historically low levels. We are committed to playing our part to help eradicate the problem but are deeply concerned that law-abiding rural businesses will be buried under an avalanche of regulation and added costs as a result of this review. That may well force people out of business and put families’ livelihoods at risk.

“At a time when climate change and the environment is of paramount importance, we take great pride in the environmental and conservation contribution made by grouse moors through carbon capture and the careful management of Scotland’s much-loved heather clad landscape. Inflicting an even greater burden on moorland managers would jeopardise this.

“We welcome the fact that the review recommends greater transparency and independence around the satellite-tagging of birds of prey. However, its proposals do not go far enough in seeking to create an open and accountable system.”

ENDS

19
Dec
19

Werritty Review: response from RSPB Scotland

Press release from RSPB Scotland (19 December 2019) in response to today’s publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management in Scotland.

Independent grouse moor review does not go far or fast enough to tackle raptor crimes

We support the recommendations relating to regulation of muirburn and better safeguards for mountain hare populations, however regret that panel behind the report has not been bold enough to recommend the immediate licensing of driven grouse moors.

Previously Scottish Government Ministers have publicly stated that driven grouse moor owners are ‘in the last chance saloon’, and we now expect these commitments to be honoured.

Given the overwhelming evidence of serious organised crimes perpetrated against our birds of prey, as well as the harm caused to upland habitats and species by grouse moor management practices, we will be asking the Cabinet Secretary to consider the ‘wider societal views’ mentioned by Professor Werritty and make the necessary ‘step change’ to grouse moor licensing, conditional on legal and sustainable practices, and to ensure that this is done as soon as possible. A licensing framework would in our view set a new direction for the legal and sustainable management for large areas of our upland landscapes, as well as providing a meaningful deterrent to wildlife crime.

[Photo: satellite-tagged hen harrier Rannoch was found on a Perthshire grouse moor earlier this year – her leg had been caught in an illegally-set spring trap so she’ll have suffered an horrendous death. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We commend Professor Werritty and his panel for pulling together such a significant volume of scientific evidence and stakeholder testimony which we will consider in detail. However, we are concerned that more urgency is now needed to address the criminality and poor land management practices on Scottish grouse moors that have been highlighted for decades.

It is very important to remember that the background to this review was the overwhelming evidence base of the link between serious organised wildlife crime and grouse moor management; the ever-intensifying management of this land to produce excessive grouse bags leading to the killing of protected wildlife; as well as public concerns about huge culls of mountain hares; and burning of heather on deep peatland soils. Addressing these issues is now even more essential to combat both the climate emergency and nature crisis, which were confirmed as priorities by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this year.

Duncan added: “The illegal killing of Scotland’s birds of prey simply has to stop. Those perpetrating these criminal acts have shown no willingness over decades to change their criminal behaviours. Letting this issue languish for another half decade will not help, and we fully expect more prevarication. Even whilst this review has been underway serious and well-publicised wildlife crimes have continued unabated, and delay fails to acknowledge the most urgent circumstances which led to its commission. The Scottish public have had enough. It is now vital that the next steps by Scottish Government are sufficient to bring closure to these appalling incidents, which blight Scotland’s international reputation.”

ENDS

Notes:

  1. It is now 20 years since Scotland’s first First Minister, Donald Dewar, described raptor persecution as a “national disgrace”. Subsequently successive Environment Ministers have promised to take firm action if illegal behaviours on grouse moors are not stopped.
  2. The formation of the Werritty Grouse Moor Review Group was announced by the Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, in May 2017, following the publication of a Government-commissioned report examining the fates of satellite-tagged golden eagles. This report showed that of 131 birds tracked between 2004-16, 41 disappeared in ‘suspicious circumstances’, primarily on land managed as driven grouse moors. This was the latest in a succession of scientific reports that have conclusively demonstrated the harm that grouse moor management is causing to various bird of prey species and to mountain hare populations. Scientific reports have also confirmed the damage caused by muirburn (burning of heather on open moor) to Scotland’s peat soils – which act as vital carbon stores and are critical to combating climate change.
  3. RSPB Scotland has made the case to the Review Group that grouse moors should be licensed with the sanction to remove licences to operate where raptor and other wildlife crime is occurring to the satisfaction of the public authorities. This action would act as a genuine deterrent to wildlife crime.
  4. RSPB Scotland has also called for the cessation of large-scale mountain hare culls and muirburn on peatland soils. RSPB Scotland believes that licensing of grouse moors should also put in place a framework involving all stakeholders to protect these important public interests in the way our upland landscapes are managed in the future.
19
Dec
19

Werritty Review: encouraging response from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham

Further to the publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management this morning (here), Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has made an encouraging statement in a Scot Gov press release, as follows:

GROUSE MOOR MANAGEMENT: LICENSING OPTION UNDER CONSIDERATION

A review into grouse moor management has recommended the introduction of a shooting licensing scheme if breeding populations of raptors show no marked improvement.

The review, which was chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, Professor Emeritus of Physical Geography at University of Dundee, was asked to examine how we can ensure that grouse moor management continues to contribute to the rural economy while being environmentally sustainable.

As well as the recommendation that a licensing scheme is introduced for the shooting of grouse if there is no marked improvement in the ecological sustainability of grouse moor management, the report also makes a number of other recommendations relating to common grouse moor practices, such as the use of medicated grit and muirburn.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

I would like to thank Professor Werritty and the other members of the Grouse Moor Management Group for undertaking this important review and for their extensive work over the last two years.

As well as the issue of raptor persecution, the review was asked to look at grouse moor management practices including muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and also to examine regulatory options including possible licensing of grouse shooting businesses.

It is important that we give careful consideration to the recommendations, alongside other evidence, before issuing a response. An important part of this will involve meeting key stakeholders to discuss the findings of the review, and we will publish a full response to the report in due course. At this early stage, however. I believe the option of a licensing scheme will need to be considered and – if required – implemented earlier than the five-year timeframe suggested by the review group.”

[Photo insert by RPUK – in 2018 after the suspicious disappearance of golden eagle Fred in the Pentland Hills Roseanna Cunningham told Chris Packham in an interview that grouse shoot licensing had been talked about by the Scottish Government since 2009. It’s ten years on – time for action now, not in another five years. Photo by Ruth Peacey].

Professor Werritty said:

When I accepted the invitation from the Scottish Government to lead an expert review on grouse shooting, I had not fully appreciated the complexity of the issues involved, the passion with which contrasting views were held, or the length of time the review would require.

Our remit invited us to make recommendations to reduce the illegal killing of raptors but at the same time to give due regard to the socio-economic contribution that grouse shooting makes to Scotland’s rural economy. Both topics have proved complex and problematic.

In order to have a unanimous recommendation on this key issue with the authority that implies, the Group proposes a five year probationary period for specified raptors on or near grouse shooting estates to recover to a favourable conservation status. Should this target fail to be achieved, licensing should be introduced immediately. We all agree that it is the only way forward in that situation“.

Background

The Grouse Moor Management Group was established in November 2017. It was commissioned by the Scottish Government in response to a report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which showed that around one third of tagged golden eagles had disappeared on or around driven grouse moors.

The group’s report can be found on the Scottish Government website.

ENDS

 

19
Dec
19

Werritty Review published: unanimously recommends grouse moor licensing but wants 5 year delay

The Scottish Government has this morning published the long-awaited Werritty Review on grouse moor management.

You can download it here: Werritty Review_Nov2019

The key recommendation is that the panel unanimously recommends a licensing scheme for shooting grouse in Scotland but inexplicably suggests a five-year moratorium of this measure to allow the grouse shooting industry to get its act together – a last chance saloon, if you like. Industry figures will be familiar with this saloon – they’ve been quaffing free champagne in there for decades.

On a first skim of the executive summary, this proposed delay has no justification other than to appease the grouse-shooting reps on the supposedly ‘independent’ panel.

As far as we’re concerned another five-year delay is totally unacceptable. If the panel has accepted the need for reform, which it has, unanimously, then reform needs to begin now.

So far, the Scottish Government has not published its response to Werritty’s report. [See update at foot of blog]

Much more analysis on this to come….

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: encouraging response from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Eagles at risk after landowning lobby delays licensing of grouse shooting (article in The Ferret, here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: response from RSPB Scotland (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: grouse shooting industry predicts ‘rural Armageddon’ (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Raptor slaughter will continue following “washout” grouse shooting report (article in Third Force News here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Scottish grouse moor owners face mandatory licensing (article in Guardian here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Revive Coalition responds (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Scottish Raptor Study Group responds (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: response from OneKind (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Scottish Greens slam it as a ‘weak washout’ (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Scottish Wildlife Trust urges action ‘without unnecessary delay’ (here)

UPDATE 20 Dec 2019: Werritty – a long wait for not very much (Mark Avery’s blog here)

UPDATE 20 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says early licensing is ‘a serious consideration’ (here)

UPDATE 21 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: a surprising response from GWCT (here)

UPDATE 21 Dec 2019: BBC interviews Professor Alan Werritty (here)

UPDATE 2 Jan 2020: No, Magnus, the Werritty Review does not threaten gamekeepers’ jobs, wildlife crime does (here)

UPDATE 19 Jan 2020: Professor Werritty to give evidence to Environment Committee on grouse moor reform (here)

UPDATE 12 Feb 2020: How much did the Werritty review cost & why is it so difficult to find out? (here)

UPDATE 19 May 2020: Full cost of Werritty Review finally revealed (here)

UPDATE 14 August 2020: Cross-party political pressure on Scottish Government to respond to Werritty Review on grouse moor licensing (here)

UPDATE 18 November 2020: Werritty Review – one year on & still waiting for Scottish Government response (here)

19
Dec
19

Werritty review expected today

The Scottish Government is expected to publish the long-awaited Werritty Review on grouse moor management today.

Rumours have been rife for the last 24 hours, journalists have been in touch, and the late submission (yesterday) of what could be seen as a ‘soft’ (Government-initiated) Parliamentary question (see below) suggests this will be the trigger for publication today:

S5W-26768: Gail Ross, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2019

To ask the Scottish Government when it will publish Professor Werrity’s report on grouse moor management.

More later….

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.

18
Dec
19

Gamekeepers caught with banned poisons should receive mandatory jail sentence

Yesterday 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.

We’ll come back to the wider evidence session in another blog because there were some interesting and important discussions but one point raised deserves an immediate reaction:

Possession of banned poisons.

Here’s the mini transcript:

ECCLR Committee Member Rachael Hamilton MSP: I will go back to the categorisation of wildlife offences and the different tiers of the penalty system. We heard evidence that perhaps possession of illegal pesticides should be categorised as a tier 1 offence, because they are currently illegal anyway. Do you have any comments on that point and do you have any plans to have an amnesty on illegal pesticides prior to the bill being passed? People should not possess illegal pesticides anyway, so using them in connection with animal crimes should attract the highest and severest category of penalty.

Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon: That has been the feeling behind that issue. As you said, possession of such pesticides is already illegal and there are offences in place to deal with that individual issue separately. Using such pesticides as part of another offence would attract the higher penalty. As they are already illegal and there are offences attached to them, using them in relation to any other offences could well attract severe penalties.

In relation to your amnesty point, I would be happy to consider looking at the matter.

Scottish Government Wildlife Management Team leader Leia Fitzgerald: Just to clarify, there was a previous amnesty, which was quite successful and resulted in a lot of pesticides being handed in. We could speak to stakeholders about whether that is something that could be done again. We would hope that we got all of what we needed after the last amnesty, but we can look at the matter.

Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon: I will happily get back to the committee and let you know how we get on with that.

ENDS

Is the Scottish Government seriously considering yet another amnesty for banned poisons, which would be the third amnesty in the 15 years since it became an offence to even possess these deadly toxins, let alone use them? (The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005).

The first amnesty took place in 2011 (see here), six years after the ban was first introduced. The second amnesty came four years later in 2015 (see here).

Since then poisoning crimes have certainly dropped in Scotland, probably thanks to the increase in satellite-tagged raptors, whose tags lead researchers to the poisoned corpses that would otherwise remain undetected, and also due to the introduction of vicarious liability legislation in 2012 which made it possible for landowners to be prosecuted for raptor persecution crimes committed by their gamekeeper employees. However, these poisoning crimes haven’t been totally eradicated and we’re still reading reports about illegally-poisoned birds (and some dogs) that have died after ingesting banned poisons in Scotland including some that were killed this year, and some even inside the Cairngorms National Park (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

[An illegally-poisoned buzzard found on the boundary of a sporting estate in Perthshire. Contributed photo]

How many more chances is the Scottish Government planning on giving to these criminals? How many more get-out-of-jail-free cards will be dished out?

Why can’t the Scottish Government, 15 years on, implement a zero tolerance policy on this vile and primitive crime that not only risks the lives of wildlife and domestic animals but puts humans at risk as well? In the most recent criminal case, a Scottish gamekeeper was found with two cartons containing the banned poison Carbofuran. He was carrying one of these containers in his bum bag – presumably he wasn’t just taking the container out for company every day – and yet 180 schoolchildren were put at risk when they attended the grouse shooting estate on an officially-sanctioned school trip. Can you believe that? The gamekeeper was convicted for possession (along with a litany of other wildlife offences) and received a community payback order. No fine, no jail sentence, no deterrent whatsoever. Compare and contrast to how illegal poisoners are dealt with in Spain (see here, here and here).

The criminals who persist with such reckless activity in Scotland deserve a mandatory custodial sentence – there can be no more excuses, no more discussion and certainly no more amnesties.

Enough.




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 7,631,423 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors