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Environment Committee meeting this morning

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee will meet this morning to discuss the petition calling for the introduction of licensing for game bird shooting.

The meeting begins at 10.15am and can be watched live on Scottish Parliament TV here

A video archive and a full transcript will be posted later.


Licensing: game shooting industry’s last ditch plea to maintain status quo

As many of you will know, tomorrow the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee will continue to consider the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s petition calling for the introduction of state-regulated licensing for game bird hunting.

The Committee has been advised by the clerk of three potential options it may choose to pursue (see here).

In response to the publication of those options, last Friday representatives from the game-shooting industry wrote a letter to all members of the Environment Committee asking them to consider a different option to those already tabled. Basically, their preferred option is to maintain the status quo. Here’s what they wrote:

Dear Member of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee,

We have seen the papers published for the meeting on Tues 23rd with three possible Options for dealing with the Shoot Licensing Petition. While we believe that existing stringent legislation is being effective, we recognise the Committee’s concern about raptor crime and our sector is equally keen for it to be resolved. We understand public concern about evidence gathering and detection of wildlife crime incidents. That is why we believe the most effective strategy is a potent combination of punishment and prevention. Police Scotland make very clear that prevention is essential in tackling all forms of crime.

Therefore, the shooting sector would ask the committee to consider an option that would build on successful existing legislation and would improve on the non-regulatory measures that have resulted in substantial decline in wildlife crime incidents.

In effect, we are asking that the committee invites the Cabinet Secretary to discuss with stakeholders a range of non-legislative measures that could be agreed with the industry and introduced promptly to address specific areas of concern. These measures would not prevent any consideration of a licensing scheme or a trial scheme and could provide tangible evidence of their effectiveness before any decision is taken on licensing.

Measures the shooting sector supports include:

A more effective PAWS Partnership

The strengthening of regional PAWS groups would provide the more detailed local focus which is what will help prevent raptor crime at “shop floor” level, leaving a revised national PAWS body to cover its other functions. This local approach is working in the Highland region where there is good cooperation and regular meetings run by the police. We understand that the police favour prevention where possible as the most effective way to deal with this issue. Regional PAWS group effort could be focused in geographical such as intensive grouse moors where raptor crime remains a concern.

A new warning sanction for shoots under suspicion

A new partnership protocol could be developed under PAWS quickly where a ‘yellow card’ could be issued to estates where there is suspicion of bad practice but insufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation. Where an estate has been told it is being monitored it has in the past led to changes and improvement in practices and therefore prevention. For example, where RSPB are alerted to a problem which the police are not treating as a crime, a protocol can be developed among organisations which can then take action on the ground and effect change. For example, cases of non-functioning sat tags. In time this would build up a partnership, as has already been developed on national raptor surveys (protocol). There would be a central PAWS role to supervise adherence to the protocol(s).

Adoption by Scottish Government of the Poustie report

Adoption of revised “tariff” for wildlife crime sentences would also help prevent raptor crime by being a deterrent, and we urge that it should be implemented soon.

A “due diligence” package which shoots would be expected to adopt

“Due diligence” encouraged by the WANE Act is an effective preventative measure that many shoots already have in place and more could adopt. BASC are already working on a vicarious liability self-assessment tool for smaller shoots and the SGA have offered a shoot inspection service for some years to help compliance with all aspects of the law. A formal due diligence dossier – which would be agreed as a standard across the industry and signed up to by all organisations – is a reminder of all the regulation, it prevents misunderstandings between employer/owner and employee/agent, it provides for training and legal updating and clarifies employment terms and what parties expect of each other. The pack of documents could be checked by police or an independent assessor and would be available if problems occur.

The above measures would complement both Wildlife Estates Scotland accreditation, and the Code of Good Shooting Practice which has been adopted by the sector for many years and is being updated/relaunched this year. We would respectfully suggest that the very substantial efforts that have been made to tackle wildlife crime are bearing fruit and whichever course of action is chosen the outcome does not undermine the very considerable progress that has been made.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Jane Laing, Director of Policy, Scottish Land & Estates

Colin Shedden, Director Scotland, British Association for Shooting and Conservation

Alex Hogg, Chairman, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association

Tim Baynes, Director, Scottish Moorland Group


What this letter amounts to is nothing more than to ask for the perpetuation of the industry’s voluntary self-regulation; a system that has already patently failed to adequately address raptor persecution.

You’ll notice that there are several references in the letter to the so-called “effectiveness” of current measures to tackle raptor persecution, and even a claim that “substantial efforts are bearing fruit”. Eh? Have these people been locked inside a darkened, sound-proofed cupboard for the last few months? The only ‘fruit’ we’ve seen has been the many examples of ‘rotten apples’ that demonstrate a putrid, rancid industry that can’t clean up its act, despite being given every opportunity to do so.

The game-shooting industry insists on using the ‘body count’ of dead raptors as a measure of wildlife crime, but this is obviously inappropriate given the difficulty of detecting these crimes in remote landscapes. Everybody else recognises that the appropriate measure is the presence of healthy, breeding raptor populations. For example, last month the Environment Committee heard evidence from the Government’s statutory nature conservation advisor, SNH. Robbie Kernahan told them:

Generally, in Scotland, we have quite a positive message about the recovery of raptor populations from those all-time lows. It is certainly a national picture. However, that is not to say that there are not issues. Certainly, some of the concerns about the intensification of moorland management prompted our scientific advisory committee to have a review two years ago. Without wanting to go through that chapter and verse, I can say that there is no doubt that the on-going issue of raptor persecution is inhibiting the recovery of populations in some parts of the country“. [For ‘some parts of the country’ read ‘land intensively managed for driven grouse shooting’].

Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland told the Committee “Over the last 20 years we have identified 779 confirmed incidents on 200 landholdings in Scotland. We think it [raptor persecution] is a widespread problem, although our main concern relates to areas of land that are managed for driven grouse shooting, where the illegal killing of birds of prey seems to be part of the business model for a number of places. We think that the situation is as bad as it has ever been“.

The Environment Cabinet Secretary has also recognised this is an on-going issue. In February 2017 she said:

The illegal killing of our raptors does remain a national disgrace. I run out of words to describe my contempt for the archaic attitudes still at play in some parts of Scotland. We all have to abide by the law, and we do so, most of us, all throughout our lives. All I’m asking is that everybody does the same. Sporting businesses are NO different, and the people who breach the law deserve all the opprobrium and punishment we can mete out. I have no truck with the argument that raptors damage driven grouse shooting interests. Such damage, frankly, is a business risk you have to live with and manage, but within the law. And that is what must be reiterated again, and again, and again“.

We trust the members of the Environment Committee will see straight through the game-shooting industry’s latest desperate attempt to avoid regulation and will instead push onwards towards the introduction of a state-regulated licensing scheme. If the industry is as clean as it claims to be, there should be no fear of licensing.

We don’t need any more voluntary protocols, any more talking shops, any more denials, any more pretend partnerships, any more obfuscation. We need regulatory action and we need it now.

UPDATE 3PM: The Scottish Countryside Alliance has also written to the Environment Committee. The SCA urges the Committee to choose option one (‘Conclude that the current legislation and regulation in this area is working effectively. If cases of raptor persecution are found, these should be dealt with appropriately by Police Scotland and the Crown Office’). The SCA also says it wants to be part of an “ongoing, open and honest dialogue“. For those with short memories, here’s an example of the SCA’s idea of “open and honest dialogue”.

Here’s a copy of the SCA’s letter: ScottishCountrysideAlliance_LetterToECCLR_May2017


Alleged buzzard poisoning Edradynate Estate: Crown rejects police plea to prosecute

In recent weeks the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service) has abandoned three prosecutions for alleged raptor persecution: the shooting of a hen harrier on the Cabrach Estate (here), the setting of a pole trap on the Brewlands Estate (here) and the vicarious liability of a landowner whose gamekeeper was convicted of killing a buzzard on Newlands Estate (here).

The abandonment of all three cases, without a full explanation from the Crown Office, has caused widespread frustration, anger and concern.

Well guess what? Now there’s a fourth case.

In an article in this morning’s Sunday Herald, journalist Rob Edwards reveals that the Crown Office has refused a plea from Police Scotland to bring proceedings against a gamekeeper on Edradynate Estate in Perthshire in relation to the alleged poisoning of three buzzards (photo RPUK).

The details of this case are sparse. We do know that two poisoned buzzards were discovered close to the estate in March 2015 and that both tested positive for poison, according to the Government’s pesticide testing unit, SASA (although the name of the poison has been withheld). We also know that the police later conducted a raid on the estate although we don’t know what evidence was uncovered. Perhaps this was when the third buzzard was found? Presumably though, if Police Scotland has since pleaded with the Crown Office to pursue a prosecution, we can assume that the police believed there to be sufficient evidence to charge somebody. Surprise, surprise, the Crown Office has not provided an explanation for its decision not to proceed.

UPDATE 22 May 2017: Further details about this case have emerged from an article Rob Edwards has published this morning on The Ferret website –

The Procurator Fiscal received a report concerning a 66-year-old man, in relation to alleged incidents between 18 March and 4 June 2015,” said a Crown Office spokesman.

Following full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the available admissible evidence, the Procurator Fiscal decided that there should be no proceedings taken at this time. The Crown reserves the right to proceed in the future should further evidence become available.”

Edradynate Estate has been at the centre of investigations for alleged wildlife crime for a very, very long time. In 2002, the estate’s Head gamekeeper and underkeeper were arrested and charged with nine offences relating to the use of poisoned baits and also bird cruelty, including the use of spring traps. However, on 22 July 2004, two years after the original arrests and 13 court hearings later, the Crown Office dropped the case (sound familiar?). A COPFS spokeswoman later admitted that the time taken to prepare the case had been a major factor in the decision to scrap it (see here).

In July 2010, a poisoned red kite was discovered. An un-named gamekeeper from the estate (who said he was a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association) claimed the bird had been ‘planted’. It also emerged that in addition to the poisoned red kite, over the previous 15 years, 9 buzzards, 2 sparrowhawks, 2 crows, 1 gull, 1 tawny owl, 1 pole cat, and 1 domestic cat, had all been found poisoned in the area. Twelve poisoned baits (Carbofuran, Mevinphos and Alphachloralose) had also been discovered (see here). Nobody was prosecuted for any of this.

In March 2011, two poisoned buzzards, two poisoned crows, and two Carbofuran-laced pheasant baits were discovered. A gamekeeper was taken for questioning but he was later released without charge (here).

In February 2012 an Edradynate Estate gamekeeper was charged with a number of alleged firearms and explosives offences (see here). However, in September 2012 the Crown deserted the case without providing an explanation (see here). Gosh, this is becoming quite a habit, isn’t it?

In March 2014, we revealed that Michael Campbell, the owner of Edradynate Estate, had made a generous donation to the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. We also published some astonishing commentary about the Estate written by the (now former) Tayside Police Wildlife Crime Officer, Alan Stewart (see here). This really is worth a read – it’s quite an eye-opener.

In April 2015, we revealed that Michael Campbell had made another hefty donation to the SGA (see here). Surely the SGA was aware of the long history of allegations made against this estate? Perhaps they didn’t care. As there hadn’t been a single conviction they could conveniently ignore the allegations and continue to accept the donations and continue to sit around the table at PAW meetings claiming to be doing all they could to eradicate raptor persecution.

And so now there’s yet another allegation to add to this catalogue of alleged criminality on Edradynate Estate. Ironically, the most recent alleged buzzard poisonings were discovered just a few weeks after the launch of the Scottish Government’s poison disposal scheme designed to rid Scotland of the poisons that had already been banned over ten years earlier. Yet another example of political pandering to criminal gamekeepers.

According to Rob Edwards’ article, the suspect in the most recent case has since left the estate. Interestingly, early last year we came across this advert for a new Head gamekeeper: Edradynate head keeper advert Check out the bit where it says “Nothing less than 40% returns will be expected”. Clearly there is pressure on the new keeper to deliver lots of game birds for shooting.

Edradynate Estate was recently featured in the Fieldsports magazine, with a detailed description of what happens on a shoot day. The author was there before the new head gamekeeper was employed. At the end of the article is a list of ‘guns’ (other people who were shooting that day). The name Robert Douglas-Miller jumped out at us. Surely not the same Robbie Douglas-Miller (owner of the Hopes Estate in the Lammermuirs) who runs the Wildlife Estates Scotland project for Scottish Land & Estates? What was he doing there given the long history of alleged raptor crimes uncovered on this estate? No, it must be a different Robert Douglas-Miller because a representative of Scottish Land & Estates, another PAW partner, wouldn’t be shooting on an estate that has repeatedly been described as being ‘among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime‘, right?

So, let’s wrap this up. The Crown Office has previously dropped two prosecutions against gamekeepers on Edradynate Estate, and now has refused to begin a third prosecution for reasons that have not been made public.

This is the fourth prosecution for alleged raptor persecution that the Crown Office has dropped in the last month. We can’t seriously be expected to believe there’s nothing here to be concerned about?

Let’s see what response the Crown Office provides to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee, who today have written to the COPFS to find out what the hell is going on.

And let’s hope SNH is paying attention and will be considering this estate for a potential General Licence restriction order.

Photo of Edradynate Estate driveway by RPUK


Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association spits the dummy

According to an article in today’s Sunday Herald, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA) has thrown a hissy fit and is refusing to attend meetings of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) because the SGA ‘doesn’t trust’ wildlife campaigners.

Apparently the SGA hasn’t left PAW, but will not attend any more meetings until methods of partnership working have been reviewed.

An unidentified SGA spokesperson is quoted: “If the trust element is lacking, it makes it hard to sit around the table in a constructive way so hopefully these matters can be resolved“.

Ian Thomson of RSPB Scotland said the RSPB had tried for years to work collaboratively with the SGA to prevent raptor persecution, but “regrettably their approach has been to deny that these crimes are taking place, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary“.

The SGA’s idea of partnership-working to decrease the number of raptor persecution crimes seems to have consisted of slagging off other PAW partners and making wild, unsubstantiated claims about who might be responsible for raptor crimes. In 2012 they suggested that Raptor Study Group members could be laundering eggs and chicks on the lucrative black market (see here). In 2015, SGA committee member Bert Burnett talked about setting fire to a group of peaceful campaigners at a Hen Harrier Day event (see here). Earlier this year, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg accused Raptor Study Group members of “driving [gamekeepers’] wives, children and grandchildren from their homes” (see here) and Bert Burnett accused Raptor Study Group members of causing raptors to desert their nests (see here). Just a couple of weeks ago (2 May 2017), Bert Burnett was on Facebook calling for landowners and gamekeepers to report licensed Raptor Study Group fieldworkers to the police if they hadn’t asked permission to access raptor nests (NB: there is no legal requirement for fieldworkers to ask for landowner’s ‘permission’ to visit open access land):

We would argue that the reason for the SGA’s refusal to attend PAW meetings is probably more to do with the impending publication of the raptor satellite tag review. The findings of this review are expected to be damning, showing that the vast majority of satellite-tagged raptors have either ‘disappeared’ or have been killed on land managed for driven grouse shooting. We suggest that the SGA has run away from its PAW responsibilities because the conversation at the subsequent PAW meeting that will discuss this review would throw up some very awkward questions. Very awkward indeed.

Good riddance to the SGA, as far as we’re concerned. Their only solution to solving human – wildlife conflict seems to be ‘kill it’. We’ve long argued that this particular partnership is nothing more than a sham, used by certain organisations to proclaim to the outside world that progress is being made when actually all that is happening is obfuscation and denial. Perhaps now with the SGA gone the remaining active participants of PAW can get on with making some real headway at these meetings.


Environment Committee seeks clarity from prosecutors on use of video evidence

Following recent decisions by the Crown Office to abandon two prosecution cases for alleged raptor persecution because of so-called ‘inadmissible’ video evidence (see here and here), the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee has today written to the Crown Office to ask for clarity.

Here is the letter from the Environment Committee to the Crown Office:

We applaud the Environment Committee for trying to hold the Crown Office to account. They seem to be the only ones willing to do so – everyone else seems to just shrug their shoulders and say ‘we can’t comment on Crown Office decisions’. As an example, here is the response one of our blog readers received from the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee when they asked about the Crown’s decision to abandon the prosecution for the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate:

Thank you for your email. The convener has noted the contents and asked me to reply on her behalf.

The Justice Committee is a cross-party Parliamentary body comprising members of 5 political parties. It is a scrutiny body whose remit is to consider and report on matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Re your reference to “your justice system”, the Justice Committee does not take any decisions on the criminal process and, in particular, has no power in relation to the prosecution of individual crimes. These decisions are taken under the authority of the Lord Advocate as chief prosecutor and his independence in this role is set out in statute. The Committee is not able to comment on the specific of this case.

However, the Committee may comment on broader policy matters and I am sure that Committee members would agree that wildlife crime is a serious matter that should be tackled with vigour. For information, the Committee recently completed a major report on the COPFS, which included a short section on its handling of wildlife crime and made a recommendation for the COPFS’s consideration (paragraph 167 onwards).

It is my understanding that under some circumstances affected individuals are entitled to request a review of a decision not to prosecute, although I am not clear how that operates in the case of wildlife crime rather than a crime against a person. You may wish to direct your complaint to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and, in so doing, clarify whether there is any scope to formally object to the decision taken in this instance.

You may also with to consider contacting your constituency or regional MSPs to register your disappointment. As already stated, the Lord Advocate is independent in the prosecution of the the crime but there might possibly be other avenues for your MSP(s) to explore if they decide to take up your case.

Yours sincerely,

Peter McGrath, Clerk to the Justice Committee, The Scottish Parliament.

 To be fair to the Justice Committee, we understand that they can’t comment on individual cases. However, they say themselves that they can comment on wider policy issues, so you might think they’d have been interested in addressing the broader issues of video admissibility. But apparently not.
Thankfully, the Environment Committee thinks otherwise and we very much welcome their letter to the Crown Office. It’ll be interesting to see how forthcoming the Crown Office’s response is.
Meanwhile, news has emerged this morning that the Crown Office has dropped yet another prosecution case for alleged raptor persecution – this is the fourth abandoned case in the space of a month. We’ll be blogging about this one shortly….

Game shoot licensing petition: Environment Committee to decide next steps

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss how they wish to proceed with the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s petition calling for state-regulated licensing of game bird shooting.

As you’ll recall, the Committee took evidence from a range of stakeholders last month (see here for our commentary) so now they have to decide what should happen next. The ECCLR Committee clerks have outlined three possible options. Here’s option 1:

Given what’s happened since the Committee discussed this petition last month, i.e. Crown Office inexplicably abandoning three long-running prosecutions – alleged vicarious liability at Newlands Estate; alleged hen harrier shooting at Cabrach Estate; alleged pole-trapping offences at Brewlands Estate, and the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier at Leadhills Estate, the Committee will be hard pressed to justify taking option 1, because it is very clear that the current legislation and regulation is NOT working effectively.

Here are options 2 and 3:

As before, the session will be available to watch live on Scottish Parliament TV (we’ll add a link on Tuesday morning) and the video archive and official transcript will be posted here shortly afterwards.


Dear Cabinet Secretary

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

For many years now, the Scottish Government has acknowledged that illegal raptor persecution is an issue that not only affects the distribution and abundance of several internationally protected raptor species, but that it also casts a long shadow over the environmental credentials of a country that attracts millions of visitors every year who come to see its wildlife.

We acknowledge that in recent years the Scottish Government has taken steps to combat illegal raptor persecution, including taking leadership of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime, instigating two poisons amnesties, the introduction of vicarious liability, the introduction of General Licence restrictions, the publication of annual wildlife crime reports, the commissioning of a review of wildlife crime penalties and an acceptance of the review’s findings, and the commissioning of a review on raptor satellite tag data (which is yet to be published).

We applaud the intention behind these measures, which have been in sharp contrast to the outright denial by the Westminster Government that there’s even a problem, let alone how to address it. Nevertheless, despite these actions, nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing.

Raptor persecution continues, disproportionately taking place on land that is managed for game bird shooting and particularly on driven grouse moors, and as a result certain raptor populations are in a continuing spiral of decline in these areas. Prosecution for these offences is virtually impossible, and even when sufficient evidence is gathered, it is ruled ‘inadmissible’ or ‘not in the public interest’ to proceed.

This morning’s news that an armed, masked man was seen, in broad daylight, blatantly shooting and killing a hen harrier on a grouse moor near Leadhills, is the final straw. Leadhills is the perfect microcosm of what is a country-wide problem. This latest incident is just one of at least 48 reported crimes in this area alone since 2003, and only two of those crimes resulted in a conviction; the vast majority did not even reach the prosecution stage.

What we are witnessing is a theatre of the absurd. We all know what’s going on, where it’s going on, and why it continues to go on.

Over the last five years, several Scottish Government Environment Ministers have promised further action if current measures proved to be ineffective. Here are some examples:

October 2012: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the news of a golden eagle that had been trapped on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens and then moved, overnight, and dumped in a lay by with horrific injuries and left to die:

“The unlawful killing of any raptors has no place in today’s Scotland and we will continue to work hard to eradicate this criminal activity. We believe that the partnership approach with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, is bringing the reduction in bird of prey poisoning that can be seen in the statistics in recent years. However we are not complacent and if there is evidence of a switch to other methods of persecution we will take action to bear down on those methods”.

November 2012: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the news that a hen harrier had been found shot on an Aberdeenshire grouse moor:

We will not tolerate the illegal persecution of protected species such as the hen harrier and, as I have said recently in relation to another shooting [the golden eagle that was found shot and critically wounded on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire], I am prepared to look at further measures to strengthen and assist enforcement if we continue to see this flouting of the law in respect of protected species“.

March 2013: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the poisoning of a buzzard on a pheasant-shooting estate in SW Scotland:

And it does sicken me that unfortunately, once again, a bird has died as a result of Carbofuran poisoning, but I very much hope to see a positive outcome in that particular case. If we do continue to see a downward trend with the poisoning maps, but there is evidence perhaps of other types of persecution taking its place, as I’ve already said on the record, I will have no hesitation nor indeed very little option but to consider what other measures might be necessary”.

February 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in a Channel 4 interview, when asked why he won’t just fully regulate the game shooting industry like other countries:

We want to avoid putting in place something that might be seen as a draconian response, or too restrictive a response. We’re not saying we wouldn’t do this, eventually…

April 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, on twitter, in response to our accusations that the Scottish Government was too interested in the independence referendum to bother with raptor persecution:

It [raptor persecution] stains our reputation and I promise you this is not being ignored by me or Scottish Government


We’re being robust and if new measures don’t improve, will go further

May 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in a Parliamentary debate on raptor persecution:

If and when we judge it necessary, I am committed to taking further action. If that involves licensing certain types of businesses, then we will do so“.

May 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to Parliamentary questions about raptor persecution:

The Scottish Government announced a package of measures in July 2013. These were a review of the penalties for wildlife crime, a restriction on the use of general licences and encouragement for the police to use the full range of investigative techniques at their disposal to deal with wildlife crime. We also introduced the vicarious liability provisions in the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act in 2012. The Scottish Government remains of the view that the measures have the capacity to help prevent, deter and detect wildlife crime. However, the measures must be given time to be fully implemented and for them to have an effect.

Nevertheless, we have been clear that if it becomes apparent that further measures are required we will take whatever action we consider necessary, including examining whether stronger management and regulation of game bird shooting is appropriate“.

October 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to a letter from the Cairngorms National Park Authority asking for help to address raptor persecution:

I have been clear that we will be prepared to go further if it is necessary, including looking at the licensing of certain types of shooting businesses“.

November 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse speaking at the SNP conference:

Listen to the will of the Scottish people and understand that we will not tolerate these crimes any longer. The sand is running out of the hour glass and they [the raptor-killing criminals] really do have to start listening to the messages we’re giving them very strongly. Enough is enough. Obey the law, respect the will of the Scottish people and protect our wildlife.

We must recognise that not all estates are engaged in this activity, there are, unfortunately, several rotten apples in the barrel who are spoiling this for everyone. I hope people do listen to the messages today, we really don’t want to have to go down the route of licensing game-shooting but we have indicated, in Parliament and elsewhere, that if we are forced to do so, that is the direction we will travel. I hope offenders heed the warning, stop spoiling what is a strong industry in the rural economy for Scotland, and make no mistake, as I say, we will not hesitate to act if they do not listen to what we are saying“.

April 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod in an article she wrote for Holyrood magazine:

I want to make it abundantly clear that the illegal poisoning of wildlife cannot – and will not – be tolerated in a modern Scotland“.

August 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod speaking about the possible reintroduction of golden eagles to southern Scotland:

The persecution of raptors will not be tolerated under any circumstances“.

August 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod following the news of a shot buzzard near a grouse moor in the Borders:

“The Scottish Government has already put in place new and strengthened measures to crack down on wildlife crime, including vicarious liability prosecutions and general licence restrictions, for example. But let me be absolutely clear – I will consider taking further action if necessary and the licencing of shooting businesses in Scotland remains an option.

August 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths in the last five years:

The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception. As previously stated, the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary. It will be unfortunate if the activities of a few bring further regulation on the whole sector, but that is the risk those why defy the law and defy public opinion are running“.

August 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Elwood’ had ‘disppeared’ on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths:

The news that a juvenile hen harrier has disappeared in the Monadhliaths, complete with its satellite tag, only weeks after it fledged, strengthens my determination to get to the truth about how, where and why raptors with functioning satellite tags seem to be regularly disappearing. I have asked for a review of all the evidence and I intend to ensure that data from hen harriers and red kites, as well as data from golden eagles will be considered as part of this. We are continuing to collect evidence in relation to raptors in Scotland, which will be a significant factor in deciding the next steps for tackling wildlife crime.”

September 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ had ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park:

I take this issue very seriously and it shows the need to establish whether the disappearance of these birds is indicative of criminal activity. 

It is clearly suspicious, but we must ensure that a robust statistical analysis of all the data from over 200 tagged birds supports any conclusion. 

I will consider what action to take in the light of the full evidence, and I am not ruling out any options.”

February 2017: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham addressing the Scottish Raptor Study Group conference:

The illegal killing of our raptors does remain a national disgrace. I run out of words to describe my contempt for the archaic attitudes still at play in some parts of Scotland. We all have to abide by the law, and we do so, most of us, all throughout our lives. All I’m asking is that everybody does the same. Sporting businesses are NO different, and the people who breach the law deserve all the opprobrium and punishment we can mete out. I have no truck with the argument that raptors damage driven grouse shooting interests. Such damage, frankly, is a business risk you have to live with and manage, but within the law. And that is what must be reiterated again, and again, and again“.

With the imminent publication of the raptor satellite tag review, and the results of the national hen harrier survey, we can predict that you will shortly be faced with yet even more evidence of the continued impact of raptor persecution on the populations of several raptor species.

The SNP has had the support of the conservation community, and the wider general public, for ten years, and the steps taken against raptor persecution in the last few years have been seen as positive in comparison with the non-action of the Westminster government. But that’s not enough. Nowhere near enough. Even you must now acknowledge that these measures have led to no tangible changes in the behaviour of the game bird shooting industry.

As you can see from the above quotes, many fine words have been spoken over the last five years by successive Environment ministers. Hundreds, if not thousands of members of the public, in Scotland and beyond, have listened and waited patiently, but our patience has now run out.

The SNP needs to take meaningful, tangible action NOW.

No more procrastination.

No more second, third, fourth, tenth, hundreth, thousandth chance.


We are relying on you, and the SNP, to keep your promises.

Your sincerely,

Raptor Persecution UK bloggers


We’d encourage blog readers to send a copy of this open letter to the Cabinet Secretary, or even better, send your own message. Please send emails marked for the attention of Roseanna Cunningham to:

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