Scotland should not be a 'haven for wildlife crime' after 'shocking' reports of a golden eagle's disappearance

Nicola Sturgeon said wildlife crime was high on the list of priorities for Police Scotland.

Persecution of birds of prey, such as golden eagles, was described as a national disgrace.
Persecution of birds of prey, such as golden eagles, was described as a national disgrace.

The “shocking” disappearance of a golden eagle and the poisoning of a sea eagle has led to calls for “greater action” in stopping wildlife crime in Scotland.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone referenced the words of Donald Dewar who described the persecution of birds of prey a “national disgrace” in 1998.

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She said: “In 1998 the late Donald Dewar rightly called the persecution of birds of prey in Scotland a national disgrace. Twenty two years on it remains a national disgrace.

"The grouse shooting begins today and this week we have learned of the disappearance of a golden eagle on a grouse moor, following news of a poisoned sea eagles.

"Such shocking events are far from rare and indeed a senior RSPB conservation officer has said ‘you become a little numb to it, you are almost waiting for the next one’.

"Scotland should be a haven for wildlife, it should not be a haven for wildlife crime.”

Nicola Sturgeon said she understood the seriousness of the issue and the level of upset around wildlife crime.

The First Minister said: “I understand both how serious and issue this is and how understandably and legitimately upset people are at the issues that Alison Johnstone has outlined.

"Wildlife crime is a priority for Police Scotland. The government is in a range of ways reviewing the law and guidance around these issues and I will ask the environment secretary to write to her with an update of the government considerations on these issues as soon as possible.”

After FMQs, Ms Johnstone added: "The First Minister described wildlife crime as a priority for the police, but it’s clear that greater action is required by her government if we are to bring an end raptor persecution in Scotland once and for all.”

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The disappearance of the golden eagle and other wildlife crime was linked to the start of the grouse shooting season by Green MSP John Finnie earlier this week.

The Scottish Greens rural economy spokesperson said: “Up to a fifth of Scotland is given up to this cruel hobby practised by a very small group of people. It is a hobby which tears up and burns our land, it kills all kinds of wildlife, yet the Werrity review couldn’t even recommend licensing.

“What’s worse, the Scottish Government has dragged its heels since. It hasn’t responded to the review, and it hasn’t prevented the mass killing of mountain hares despite parliament and public calling for the species to be protected. Birds of prey, too, continue to disappear, like Tom the Golden Eagle who vanished this week.

“There’s nothing glorious about the 12th of August or about the intensive and damaging killing, burning, and degradation of our landscape that is associated with driven grouse shooting. Scotland’s land needs to be freed up for the economic and social benefit of all of its people and used in ways that contributes to a thriving rural economy and natural environment.

"It’s time for the Scottish Government to get off the fence, come into the 21st century and end this cruel practice.”

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