Parliamentary question: when will Scottish Government consult on grouse moor licensing?

In November 2020, the Scottish Government announced it’s long-awaited, and some would argue long-overdue, decision to introduce a licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting, in response to the Werritty Review and in response to the grouse-shooting industry’s utter failure to self-regulate and stop the illegal persecution of birds of prey on driven grouse moors (see here).

Mairi Gougeon, who was the Environment Minister at that time, said in her statement:

If re-elected, this Government will bring forward the necessary legislation in the next Parliament to license grouse moor management and to strengthen the existing legislation on muirburn, including a range of appropriate penalties that could be applied in cases of non-compliance. Any new legislation will of course be preceded by full consultation in the normal way


I look forward to discussing these measures with members of this parliament and key stakeholders over the coming months“. 

Six months on from making that commitment, Mark Ruskell MSP (Environment spokesperson for Scottish Greens) is not wasting any time in getting down to business in this new Parliament and is already applying the pressure.

He lodged the following Parliamentary Question on 14th May 2021:

S6W-00039To ask the Scottish Government when it will consult on the licensing of grouse moors.

This question was answered on 26th May 2021 by Graeme Dey:

ANSWER: The Scottish Government remains committed to implementing the licensing of driven grouse shooting and is currently developing proposals for a full public and stakeholder consultation with the aim of bringing forward legislation during this parliamentary term.

The timing of the consultation will depend on the legislative programme for the Parliament, which will be set out in due course.

Hmm. The first thing that struck me about this response was who it was from. Graeme Dey is the Transport Minister – his portfolio does not cover grouse shooting as far as I can tell. How very odd that it wasn’t answered by either the Environment Minister (Mairi McAllan) or either of the two Cabinet Secretaries with responsibilities in this area (Mairi Gougeon and Michael Matheson).

The second thing that struck me was the Government’s continued use of language that aims to demonstrate action but actually delivers nothing more than a holding statement. Yes, it’s a standard tactic but it’s oh so bloody tedious. I guess it’s just all part of the pantomime.

Well done Mark Ruskell MSP. Please keep pushing on this – there’s absolutely no reason why the public and stakeholder consultation on grouse moor licensing can’t be started now. Sure, the drafting and processing of new legislation will have to fit into the Government’s programme but there’s an awful lot of work to do before we get to that stage and there’s no legitimate excuse to delay that.

What the Government can be sure about, is that we won’t let it get away with the shambolic lack of urgency it has demonstrated on the parallel subject of increased powers for the SSPCA – a topic it has dragged its feet on since 2011 under a succession of now eight (yes, eight!) Environment Ministers (see here).

18 Responses to “Parliamentary question: when will Scottish Government consult on grouse moor licensing?”

  1. 1 Stuart MacKay
    June 1, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Wildlife crime on grouse moors as an issue is deader than a sea eagle. The Climate Emergency is so much more important in portraying the correct image for the government and the people involved.

    The only chance now is to literally hold their feet to the fire and make muirburn the impossible to ignore issue.

  2. 2 Simon Tucker
    June 1, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Just like the Hunting with Hounds Act in England & Wales: delay after delay to produce legislation with more loopholes than 1,000 snares.

  3. 3 The Undeluded One
    June 1, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    What do you expect for a Goverment that’s been in power for 14 years and has done nothing tangible to protect raptors, whilst allowing the ecological degrationtion of the uplands to continue at pace.More crime revelations on grouse moors are imminent.

    • 4 Fight for Fairness
      June 1, 2021 at 7:35 pm

      The Scottish government has done significantly more than the rest of the UK to protect raptors and other animals plagued by the mass extinction of competing species on grouse moors. They have increased the penalties for wildlife crime. They have listed mountain hares so they have year round protection. They have introduced vicarious liability. You may claim this is not enough, and I would agree, but give some credit where it is due.

      • 5 The Undeluded One
        June 1, 2021 at 9:29 pm

        Totally ineffective measures that’s why the harriers, kites, eagle continue to be killed by blatant criminals. As for mountain hare protection, let’s see how easy they issue licenses for the most spurious of reasons

        • 6 Fight for Fairness
          June 2, 2021 at 6:19 am

          There has been some progress, but I agree not enough yet. For example, increased penalties mean that covert surveillance is allowable and evidence gathered will be admissible in court. This will get rid of the farce that video of someone shooting out a nest could not be presented. The eradication of mountain hares just because they may be guilty of carrying tics has been stopped. If you wish to call what the Scottish government “ineffective” then that is your perogative, but perhaps you could direct the venom to the Westminster government that have so far done absolutely nothing!

          • 7 The Undeluded One
            June 2, 2021 at 7:26 am

            The difference between Holyrood & Westminster is that the former admit there’s a problem but on either side of the border persecution on driven grouse moors is equally relentless. we know how easy licenses are issued by the SG for killing ravens & beavers; will mountain hares be any different. I don’t have venom for Holyrood, venom what’s used regularly on grouse moors against our wildlife. . I do have mistrust for the SG for their broken promises and lack of effective progress.

          • 8 Jill Mordaunt
            June 2, 2021 at 6:14 pm

            I’m afraid that this blog describesthe SNP strategy on many things. Say all the right things. while doing b****r all! Very sad.

  4. 9 George M
    June 1, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    It comes as little surprise to me that Graeme Dey, MSP, as opposed to any Minister or Civil Servant currently associated with these types of issues. Graeme has a background in journalism with D. C. Thompson & Co., which thus equipped him for the various political and negotiating roles he has occupied since being elected in 2011.
    Straight from his elcetion to Holyrood Graeme occupied both powerful and sensitive roles in areas of the environment, rural affairs, climate change and the environment. He was he Depute Convenor of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee in the last Parliament (2011-2016) and was the Convenor of the Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee from 2016 to 2018.
    Indeed, many saw him more as a representative of landed interests as far a legislation concerning grouse and other forms of shooting were concerned. Incidents such as him hosting a reception at Holyrood on 23rd November 2015 for a report prepared by the Gift of Grouse Campaign/Scottish Moorland Group raised more that a few eyes.
    Given it was Mr. Dey who offered the statement some are inclined to beleive that he has been tasked by those he served so well earlier in his career to re-enter the fray to bat their wicket.
    It looks as if the Big Beasts of the Hegemonic Stables have been released behind the scenes and are doing as much as they possibly can to water down the new responses to the wave of criminality sweeping and the senseless killing/culling of many of our native animals and birds.
    Now, more than at any other time, we will have to keep a close eye on events as Graeme was a close colleague of Marie Gougeon MSP, who was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands earlier this year. Given his previous political appointments in similar fields earlier in his career he will have close relationships with the background staff, both political and bureaucratic, still working in these areas.
    This will certainly be a test of the Government’s independance from the large land land owners who have often been thought of a malign influence in the future of Scotlands environment and ecological health as they pursue their own minority interests.
    Definately worth keeping an eye on.

    • 10 Les Wallace
      June 1, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      I thought you’d have something to say about this George! I’ve never known your forensic insight to be wrong. Thank god we have Mark Ruskell and some of the other Greens at least, mind you there’s still a warm glow from Fergus getting the boot.

      • 11 George M
        June 1, 2021 at 5:12 pm

        Marie Gougeon is crucial to this. What happens is down to her. Given her own background she knows the Fergus Ewing contingent and their views very, very well. This makes her a dangerous character to cross if she sides with the environment and the ecology and will play a key role.

  5. 12 Pip.
    June 1, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    So we’re being screwed again – did you really expect anything else?

  6. 13 AnMac
    June 1, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    Just as expected, more talk, dither and delay in getting the grouse licensing scheme up and running. Talking with stakeholders really makes me laugh, when did the police ever sit down around the table and discuss crime with offenders. Please tell us when you are going to commit crime so that we can come and catch you at it. What a joke….

  7. 14 Dougie
    June 1, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Fight for fairness wrote :-

    “They have increased the penalties for wildlife crime. They have listed mountain hares so they have year round protection. They have introduced vicarious liability.”

    Mountain hare legislation has not been tested.
    Increased penalties do nothing (other that deceive some people) when there is almost no chance of being caught. (A common scenario with many crimes that plague society.)

    VL is failed legislation.

    Perhaps the most incriminating evidence is that for 10 years the SG has interdicted attempts to increase SSPCA powers. That has been a wilful action by a government who plainly refuses to take the decisive step required to pull down the wildlife criminals. The government is on the side of the malfeasants.

  8. June 2, 2021 at 9:14 am

    “ANSWER: The Scottish Government remains committed to implementing the licensing of driven grouse shooting and is currently developing proposals for a full public and stakeholder consultation with the aim of bringing forward legislation during this parliamentary term.

    The timing of the consultation will depend on the legislative programme for the Parliament, which will be set out in due course.”

    So the next question is….who is working on it ?

    • 17 Dougie
      June 2, 2021 at 9:41 am

      “So the next question is….who is working on it ?”
      And that instinctively begs the question … who is working against it ?

  9. 18 AnMac
    June 2, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    As far as I am aware, NatureScot will get the task, but with little staff resource generally, who is going to press the ‘Go’ button.
    Questions should be made perhaps to them by all and sundry..

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