Raptor-killing restrictions on suspected wildlife criminals

Alex Hogg: Measures could have 'serious unintended consequences'
Alex Hogg: Measures could have 'serious unintended consequences'

Land where there is evidence that wildlife crime against birds has taken place will not be issued with licences to trap or shoot wild birds, the Scottish Government announced earlier this month.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will take the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decisions based on a civil standard of proof, rather than the criminal standard and on evidence provided by Police Scotland.

Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse, of Ayton, Berwickshire, said: “The illegal persecution of raptors is totally unacceptable and barbaric given that birds typically suffer greatly when they are illegally killed. It is roundly condemned by all responsible land managers and those in the conservation community.

“I am both angry and very frustrated that a criminal minority continues to kill and persecute these magnificent birds for their own selfish ends.”

General licences allow landowners or land managers to control certain types of birds for conservation purposes or to protect crops or livestock, actions which would otherwise be illegal.

The measures, developed with Police Scotland and others, will be backdated to evidence from January 1, 2014, onwards and the restriction will apply for three years, increasing if more wrongdoing emerges.

Mr Wheelhouse continued: “It is too often the case that there is clear evidence that a crime has been committed, but the perpetrator is able to hide behind a wall of silence among those who really should be cooperating with the police.”

But Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association chairman Alex Hogg, a Peeblesshire gamekeeper, described the measures as “ill-judged”, warning they could have “serious unintended consequences”.

He continued: “Individuals, if found guilty in court, can already have their general licence removed. This new clause, however, applies to both individuals and land. Therefore, a law-abiding gamekeeper going about his or her job properly could lose their livelihood and family home because the estate upon which they are working is ‘suspected’ of a wildlife crime.”