THE National Trust for Scotland has criticised Scottish Government plans to lift a ban on lead shot for the Commonwealth Games clay pigeon shooting events.
Ministers intend to relax temporarily the ban, which was first imposed in the 1990s to protect wildfowl and waterbirds from killing themselves by eating the poisonous pellets.
The Scottish Government wants to ease the restrictions on the use of lead shot for the shooting competition to be held on military land at Barry Buddon, by Carnoustie, Angus.
Normally, the ban forbids the use of lead ammunition when shooting on wetlands such as those on Barry Links, which is designated as a site of special scientific interest for its dune habitats, vascular plants, mosses, invertebrates and breeding birds.
Many species of wintering waders and sea duck rely on the sand flats for feeding grounds, including internationally important numbers of sanderling and eider.
When it comes to competitive clay pigeon shooting, the Munich-based International Shooting Sport Federation, which governs shooting events at the Commonwealth Games, insists on the use of lead shot. Non-lead alternatives such as steel shot are not permitted because they perform differently in the air and could affect competitors’ performances.
Clay target shooting will take place at Barry Buddon over five days in July. But it is proposed to lift the ban for the entire month to give competitors time to practise, test shotguns and test launchers.
A document lodged by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue raises its concerns about the proposal. “Whilst wholly supportive of Scotland’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the National Trust for Scotland have concerns regarding this proposal to allow the use of lead shot over wetland at Barry Buddon throughout July 2014,” the NTS said.
An environmental impact assessment carried out by the Commonwealth Games organising committee admits lead shot is likely to fall into adjacent woodland but concludes that the impact will not be “significant”.
The Scottish Government suggests using a permeable membrane at Barry Buddon, which is on Ministry of Defence land, to collect the majority of discharged shot. Water and air will be able to pass through the membrane to minimise any impact on the flora beneath.
The NTS document complains that there has not been enough detail issued on how the membrane would work. The organisation also believes that more work should have been done to build up a “picture of the breeding and fledgling birds in situ as well as their grazing patterns”.
The document said: “Without far greater detail on the type of covering and a better understanding of the risks of habitat loss or effectiveness in protecting against water contamination in laying and removing this covering, it is not possible for us to give a reasoned answer as to why this event should be allowed to take place over a wetland.”
It added: “A further risk lies in the ingestion of lead pellets during the period the membrane is in situ. The pellet is easily mistaken for grain or grit.”
The NTS called for more information on how the risk of birds eating pellets would be eliminated and how the habitat underneath the membrane would be restored once the event is over.
The document said: “The shooting venue has been advertised under the tagline ‘rugged coastline steeped in history, wildlife sanctuary’. Whilst we accept that disturbance to the local birds and other species will be commonplace given it is a military base, we are concerned that the government has allowed a short term benefit of a more convenient event venue to potentially have a long term negative legacy on an environmentally sensitive area.”
It added: “We would urge the Scottish Government in future to ensure that one of the legacies of hosting a major event is that it does not override our environmental protection laws and risk the sanctuary of the habitats in its footprint.”
The Scottish Government has taken advice from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Strict measures are in place to ensure the clay target event at Barry Buddon will not put wildlife within the conservation area at risk. Measures include the use of a permeable membrane to recover the bulk of the lead shot, to prevent lead shot entering any wetland area.”