We held our second meeting at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 12 April 2018.
We confirmed the Terms of Reference for the Group, and discussed the agendas for the next two meetings. On 9 May we will consider evidence on raptor persecution, and mountain hare conservation and management. On 20 June we will consider the use and impact of medicated grit, and muirburn.
We discussed in detail four topics, two of which were led by Group members.
Environmental law relevant to grouse moors
We received a detailed overview on regulation and licensing relevant to Scotland, the UK and internationally. The range of legislation is immense and regulation relevant to grouse moor management in Scotland highly fragmented. A comprehensive review of the law in other countries on this was published recently by SNH ('A Review of Game Bird Law and Licensing in Selected European Countries'). We noted that countries outwith the UK tend to put more emphasis on licensing the hunter rather than landowners. Single species hunting tends not to be the primary, commercial land-use on private land.
We discussed the existing regulatory framework and issues concerning enforcement over grouse moors. Clearly, if the current law cannot be enforced, we need to look at alternative points of control, and that is what we intend to do.
SEPA licensing systems
We heard about the SEPA and Scottish Government's 'Better Environmental Regulation Programme', as enshrined in the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. As a result of this, SEPA's statutory purpose focuses on achieving environmental, social and economic success, enshrined in its Regulator Strategy 'One Planet Prosperity'. We discussed risk and proportionality in relation to regulation and enforcement activities, ranging from 'general binding rules', through 'notifications' and 'registrations' to 'permits'. We noted how this enables SEPA to focus on achieving key environmental successes.
We discussed the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, noting sections 16 and 17 in particular, and the 'compliance and engagement spectrum' adopted by SEPA.
Codes of practice: Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES)
We received a presentation on a wide range of existing codes of practice relating to moorland management, many available on the Moorland Forum website with the early 'Principles of Moorland Management' publication being developed into detailed guidance.
WES derives from 'Wildlife Estates Europe' formed in 2004, and launched in Scotland in 2010. It was developed by Scottish Land and Estates, and is designed to promote the best game and wildlife management practices. It comprises two levels of participation (level 1 having 155 members, and level 2 with 54 members), and has five yearly accreditation.
We heard about and discussed potential developments of WES in the context of grouse moor management.
National Wildlife Crime Unit
We received a presentation from senior officers of Police Scotland and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and discussed work under the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in combating illegal persecution of raptors. We noted that the number of reported raptor crimes has remained at the same level for many years, despite the overall number of reported wildlife crimes declining (261 wildlife crime reports over the last reporting year (2015/16), including 46 crimes connected with birds of which 25 were associated with raptors). We are very concerned about this sustained level of raptor crime.
Different aspects of policing were detailed especially those relating to prevention and enforcement. We heard in detail the difficulties over investigating raptor crime incidents, most notably in the gathering of evidence and 'intelligence'.
I am very grateful to Group members, specialist advisers, and the other participants at this meeting.
Professor Alan Werritty Chair, Grouse Moor Management Group
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback