Each year the Scottish Government sets out its legislative plans for the forthcoming parliamentary year in the Programme for Government (PfG).
A Stronger & More Resilient Scotland: The Programme for Government 2022-23 which was published on the 8 September 2022 committed to introducing the following Bill:
"Wildlife Management (Grouse)
The Bill will implement the recommendations of the "Werritty Report" and introduce licensing for grouse moor management to ensure that the management of driven grouse moors and related activities is undertaken in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Bill will also include provisions to ban glue traps."
In response to a report from NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage), published in May 2017, which found that around a third of satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland disappeared in suspicious circumstances, on or around grouse moors, the Scottish Government commissioned an investigation by the Grouse Moor Management Group (the "Werritty report"). While undertaking their review, the group were asked to have due regard to the socio-economic impacts of grouse moor management. In November 2020, the Scottish Government published its response to the recommendations of the Werritty Report.
The Review made over 40 recommendations regarding grouse moor management. The recommendations, which were accepted by the Scottish Government, seek to address raptor persecution and ensure that the management of grouse moors is undertaken in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Over the years, we have introduced a range of measures to tackle wildlife crime, including: restricting the use of General Licences where there is evidence of wildlife crimes; arranging a pesticide disposal scheme; significantly increasing the penalties for wildlife crimes; strengthening the resources available to law enforcement by increasing the deployment of wildlife crime trained police officers; and establishing the specialist wildlife and environmental crime prosecution unit.
The fact that raptor persecution continues despite all the measures the Scottish Government has introduced make it clear that further action is required to tackle wildlife crime and address the environmental impacts of grouse moor management.
While the management of grouse moors for game shooting makes an important contribution to the rural economy and the majority of those tasked with managing land already follow best practice guidance and act in compliance with the law, I recognise that some of the practices associated with grouse moor management, such as muirburn, have the potential to cause serious harm to the environment if the correct procedures are not followed.
I also recognise that raptor persecution and associated wildlife crimes continue to be an issue of concern on grouse moors and, while only a small minority of people are engaging in these illegal activities, this situation must not be allowed to continue.
Therefore, as set out in our 2022-2023 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government is proposing that a licence should be required to shoot grouse, and that if there is compelling evidence of unlawful activity or serious breaches of codes of practice by the licence holder, then their licence could be withdrawn.
I have also committed to putting in place tighter restrictions on muirburn, including the requirement that muirburn can only be undertaken under licence, as recommended by the Werritty report. I am aware that muirburn is a useful tool in land management and there are situations where it is the best option. We are not seeking to restrict its use unnecessarily, only to ensure that it is only used where appropriate and that best practice is followed.
As part of our wider commitment to improve the welfare of wild animals we are also seeking your views on our proposals to strengthen the regulations governing the use of approved wildlife traps and the recommendations of the recent statutory snaring review. We are also seeking your views on our proposals to ban the use and sale of rodent glue traps, in line with recommendations made by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.
This consultation is an opportunity for you to have your say on what we are proposing and to help shape future legislation – I look forward to hearing from you.
Mairi McAllan MSP
Minister for Environment and Land Reform
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