Annex 2: Account of how the review was conducted
The Review Group met eighteen times for full-day meetings generally at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, but for three of our meetings we were hosted by estates variously located in the Angus Glens, the Scottish Borders and Speyside. Being able to see grouse moors and a conservation charity’s property at first hand and discussing issues with owners and land managers greatly assisted our subsequent deliberations. We are most grateful for the hospitality we received at these estates.
Our initial meetings in 2018 from January through to July were focused on building an initial evidence-base. Group members, assisted by our Specialist Advisers and other experts in key areas, provided a series of presentations summarising key findings on each of the main issues in our remit – environmental law relevant to grouse moors, SEPA’s licensing systems, wildlife crime (within both Scotland and the UK), raptor population trends and illegal persecution, legal predator controls, Mountain Hare management, muirburn and the use of medicated grit. We are most grateful for the contribution made by these outside experts. The Chair also held meetings with a number of organisations, normally with another member of the Group. Alongside receiving oral presentations, we assembled a database of key references. Some of the references were provided from within the Group and others contributed by outside groups and individuals who wished to contribute to our discussions and deliberations. Items in this database are included in our list
of published sources. We decided not to add references generally to the main body of the text but provide the sources which we consulted in an extended list in Annex 1.
Having reviewed all the information and summarised the key findings from our initial trawl for evidence, during the summer (July through September 2018) we issued a questionnaire for key stakeholders. In this questionnaire (sent to 57 organisations and individuals) we sought to explore key issues in greater detail that either remained contested or constituted evidence gaps at this stage in the review. By the end of September we had received responses from 31 organisations and individuals across a wide range of stakeholders: individual estates, organisations variously representing particular interests (conservation NGOs, conservation special interest groups, land-owners and land managers, gamekeepers, sport shooting, groups of estates, trade organisations), firms of chartered surveyors, research scientists, veterinary scientists and public bodies including National Parks. Having analysed responses to our questionnaire, we then identified key areas where we wished to dig deeper into the evidence-base, either to resolve the remaining contested issues or to fill in continuing evidence gaps. Two meetings in November and December were devoted to taking oral evidence from nine experts, who collectively represented a wide range of views on grouse shooting. Again we are most grateful for the care taken by each of these experts in preparing for the meeting and for engaging in lively discussion with Group members. The Specialist Advisers were present at all except one of the meetings throughout 2018.
In 2019 we had six meetings (January, February, May, two in June and one in July). The significant gap between the second and third meetings arose from the Chair’s temporary incapacity due to illness. The first four of these meetings in 2019 involved only Group members and were used to compile our report. The Specialist Advisers were invited back to re-join the Group for our second meeting in June. The Review Group then concluded its work during video-conferencing sessions in July and subsequent discussions from August to November.
Evidence gathered during the inquiry included that retained in the Minutes of meetings; copies of presentations made to the Group; a spreadsheet in which all the questionnaire returns were initially extracted verbatim and then subsequently summarised and commented upon by Group members; and a database of key references used by Group members.