Wildlife management: consultation

We are consulting on proposals relating to: introducing a licensing scheme for grouse shooting; increased regulation for muirburn (the burning of vegetation to maintain moorland); banning the use of glue traps; and increased regulation of other wildlife traps.


This consultation is seeking views on a range of topics related to wildlife management. It is set out in 3 parts. Parts 1 and 2 cover grouse moor licensing and muirburn. Part 3 addresses matters relating to the use of traps and snares.

You can complete all the sections in the consultation or only those sections which are of interest/relevance to you.


The purpose of our proposals is to address raptor persecution and ensure that the management of grouse moors and related activities are undertaken in an environmentally sustainable and welfare-conscious manner.

The Bill will do this by implementing the recommendations of the independent review of grouse moor management ("the Werritty Report") and introducing licensing for grouse moors.

As well as introducing a licensing regime for grouse moor management the Bill will also:

  • Introduce licensing and further restrictions on muirburn on non-peatland
  • Further restrict muirburn on peatland
  • Ban the use of glue traps
  • Introduce requirements for the use of wildlife traps
  • Implement the recommendations of the recent statutory snaring review

Powers of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

In its 2021/2022 Programme for Government the Scottish Government contained the following commitment:

"Through an independent taskforce, [the Scottish Government will] consider whether the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) should be given extra legislative powers to investigate wildlife crime. This group will report before the end of 2022."

The Scottish Government/Scottish Green Party Shared Policy Programme set out the following:

"The independent taskforce to consider whether the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) should be given extra powers to investigate wildlife crime will be asked to report back by in a timeframe that will allow any changes to the Scottish SPCA powers to be delivered by legislation implementing changes to grouse and other wildlife management in the course of this parliamentary session."

The taskforce's report is expected to be published later this year. Depending upon the recommendations of the review we may include provisions relating to the powers of Scottish SPCA in the Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill, in which case a separate consultation with interested parties will be undertaken.

Background – The Werritty Report

A report from NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) in May 2017 found that around a third of satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland disappeared in suspicious circumstances, on or around grouse moors.

In response to this report, Roseanna Cunningham, the then Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, commissioned an independent group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management (the Grouse Moor Management Group - GMMG).

Alongside this review, the Scottish Government commissioned separate research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland's economy and biodiversity.

The GMMG's remit was to examine the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls, and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses. In doing so the group were asked to have due regard to the socio-economic impacts of grouse moor management so that they might continue to contribute to the rural economy, while being environmentally sustainable and compliant with the law.

The GMMG report ("the Werritty report") made over 40 recommendations relating to grouse moor management including recommendations on licensing, muirburn and the use of traps.

On 29 November 2020 the Scottish Government set out its response to the recommendations in "The Scottish Government Response to the Report from the Grouse Moor Management Group". This forms the basis of our proposals.

Raptor Persecution

Birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, kites, buzzards, harriers, falcons and owls are protected species in the UK. It is illegal to cause them harm, whether through poisoning, shooting, trapping, habitat destruction or nest disturbance. Birds of prey are also known as raptors and criminal activity against them is called raptor persecution.

Raptor persecution is a serious problem in some parts of Scotland. The most recent annual Wildlife Crime Report recorded 25 raptor persecution offences in 2019-20, with one offence linked to an incident involving six buzzards. This is an increase from 17 in the previous year (2018-19), with buzzards being the most commonly affected bird.

In 2018, we also saw eight satellite-tagged raptors disappearing in suspicious circumstances: two golden eagles and six hen harriers. In all cases, their tags were functioning as expected, then stopped suddenly with no indications of technical malfunction. These circumstances strongly suggest that many of these incidents may be the result of illegal killing of these birds.

Grouse Moor Management Licensing

The major predators of grouse (eggs, chicks or adults), namely foxes, stoats, weasels and crows, are routinely killed on grouse moors. The majority of this predator control is undertaken in accordance with the law. This leaves birds of prey as the principal remaining predators.

The fact that raptor persecution continues despite all the measures the Scottish Government has introduced suggests that, while regulation from within the grouse shooting industry can be a key factor in driving behavioural change, self-regulation alone will not be enough to end the illegal killing of raptors, and further intervention is now required. We are therefore proposing that a licence is 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.

The Werritty report stated:

"A framework Code of Practice on grouse shooting could be introduced providing advice on best management practices and on regulatory requirements".

It is our intention that this Code of Practice will ensure that a minimum standard of management and environmental protection is adhered to by those managing grouse for sporting purposes.

When developing the details of the licensing scheme and the Code of Practice, we will work closely with key stakeholders and others representing those involved in grouse shooting, land management, animal welfare and conservation.


Muirburn is the burning of vegetation in moorland areas, usually in a controlled manner, in order to maintain open moorland. It is a complex issue and the research to-date suggests that it can have both beneficial and adverse effects.

If it is undertaken without due consideration of all the possible consequences, it has the potential to have a serious negative impact on wildlife, soil quality, carbon sequestration, and the wider environment.

However, it can also bring positive benefits in some cases, for example by helping to reduce fuel loads and thereby reduce the risk of wildfires.

The impacts of burning on carbon release and sequestration on moorland are disputed and there is conflicting scientific evidence. However, given the importance of peatland to Scotland's net zero target, we have taken the view that a precautionary approach is required until there is more consensus on the impacts of muirburn.

Wildlife Traps

The control of mammal predators is regulated by the laws on animal cruelty and controls on the sort of traps and snares that can be used, with new regulations on certain forms of traps in the course of being implemented in accordance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (affecting traps for stoats). The protected status of some predatory species (e.g. badgers) must also be taken into account. Increased regulation on the use of snares was introduced a few years ago and provides a model for other activities. For both cage traps and spring traps, further measures are recommended in addition to the existing rules applying to each type of trap.

The lawful use of traps to catch corvids (members of the crow family) can result in the capture of, and on occasion, injury to, raptors and other traps can also cause unintended harm to wildlife. It is for this reason that we are proposing to introduce new legislation to mitigate the risk of this occurring.

Glue Traps

There has been significant and ongoing concern regarding the welfare implications of the use of rodent glue traps. They can result in prolonged suffering and are indiscriminate in nature, meaning that non-target species can easily be caught. They are only one in a number of pest control methods available and glue traps are often cited as being used as a last resort.

In response to a recent report from the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC), the Scottish Government has committed to ban the use of glue traps in this parliamentary term. We are also proposing a ban on the sale of glue traps in Scotland, provided that this can be achieved under the terms of the Internal Market Act 2020.


The Scottish Government recognises that there is the potential for snares to cause significant injury, prolonged suffering and death to wildlife. There is also a risk that non-target wildlife species and pet animals such as cats and dogs can be caught in them.

However, snares can be a useful tool needed for the control of some species, such as rabbits and foxes in order to protect livestock and agriculture.

In view of this balance, Scotland already has the most robust rules and regulations on the use of snaring.

However, in reflection of the importance of this discussion, the Scottish Government is required to undertake a review of snaring every 5 years. The latest statutory review of snaring was undertaken in 2021/2022 and its recommendations were published on the Scottish Government website on 1 April 2022. We are proposing to implement these recommendations. There is also a further review of the impacts of snaring on land management and on animal welfare under way. The remit of the review includes consideration of whether a ban on the use of snares should be introduced. Depending on the outcome, there may be further proposals to be brought forward for this Bill at a later stage.


Email: wildlifemanagementconsultation2022@gov.scot

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