Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill: Shooting lobbying group and Scottish Government meet in the middle on grouse licensing proposal

The Bill has drawn more than 170 amendments with some critics saying it goes to far, while others say it doesn’t go far enough.

Grouse shooting will continue “unhampered” after recent amendments were made to Scotland’s Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, a shooting lobbying group has said.

The Bill, which was introduced last year, aims to reform the management of some grouse moors, ban some types of animal traps and better control the use of others. The legislation extends controls on the practice of muirburn. It also aims to tackle the illegal shooting of birds of prey in Scotland.

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The Scottish Parliament’s rural affairs and islands committee has since been addressing more than 170 proposed amendments since hearing evidence on the provisions of the Bill. These come from ministers, MSPs, committee members, animal rights groups, including Revive Coalition, and various representatives of rural groups, including Scottish Land & Estates and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

Ministers have agreed to extend the proposed license of one year for grouse shoots to five (pic: Jeff J Mitchell)Ministers have agreed to extend the proposed license of one year for grouse shoots to five (pic: Jeff J Mitchell)
Ministers have agreed to extend the proposed license of one year for grouse shoots to five (pic: Jeff J Mitchell)

On Wednesday, ministers agreed to extend grouse shoot licences to five years from just one year, which had been written into the draft proposals.

BASC Scotland welcomed the decision to meet in the middle, having initially pushed for the license to be ten years minimum due to the need for time for investment and planning. They said the change puts the legislation in a more “workable position”.

BASC Scotland had also lodged an amendment to remove the power of the Scottish Government to add other birds that would require a license to shoot, but this was rejected.

Earlier, an amendment also led to removing the provision that would have enabled NatureScot representatives to suspend wildlife trap licences, muirburn and grouse shoots without them being satisfied of a relevant offence having been committed.

BASC Scotland’s director Peter Clark said: “It is evident that our lobbying and hard work engaging with MSPs and ministers throughout this Bill’s progress has removed a fundamental flaw in the Bill.

“The power to suspend grouse shoot, muirburn and trap licences, even when NatureScot was not satisfied of any wrongdoing, was simply absurd, and we are glad our political pressure has seen this removal. Inconsistent and disproportionate legislation could jeopardise the viability of moorland management, placing jobs, investments, and our capacity to safeguard upland biodiversity and carbon stores at risk.”

It comes after an outright ban on using snares in Scotland made one step closer to being written in law earlier this month during a previous committee meeting.

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This includes humane cable restraints (HCR), which some conservation groups have cited as a more modern and more humane method to use compared to standard snares to carry out essential conservation work.

Environment minister Gillian Martin said while the Government recognises control of predators is necessary to protect vulnerable species, “the Scottish Parliament can no longer ignore the weight of evidence that snares lead to unacceptable levels of suffering”.



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