Scots grouse shooting estates face tough new licensing regime

Grouse shooting estates in Scotland are to face a tough new licensing regime that could see them closed down amid concerns over bird of prey deaths.
Grouse estates in Scotland face licensing regimeGrouse estates in Scotland face licensing regime
Grouse estates in Scotland face licensing regime

Natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon confirmed today that new measures will be introduced following a review into grouse management that was published almost a year ago.

Estate bosses are angry over the move, claiming tougher new regulations could devastate the industry and lead to job losses.

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The minister warned that estates will in future need a licence to run grouse shoots – and this could be withdrawn in the event of unexplained raptor deaths on the estate.

"Self-regulation alone will not be enough to end the illegal killing of and further intervention is now required,” the minister said.

"A licence will now be required to operate a grouse moor business and if there is strong evidence of unlawful activity of serious breaches of codes of practice by that business, then their licence could be withdrawn.

"I recognise this is a serious sanction.”

The change will bring Scotland closer into line with other countries where “greater regulation of shooting and hunting is the norm” to protect animal welfare.

She pledged the Scottish Government would “work closely” with estates chiefs when developing the licensing regime.

“Despite our many attempts to address this issue, every year birds of prey continue to be killed or disappear in suspicious circumstances on or around grouse moors,” Ms Gougeon said.

“This Government has stated repeatedly that we intend to bring an end to the illegal killing of raptors and to bring in whatever measures are necessary to achieve this.”

The licensing regime will be introduced through legislation which will be brought before Parliament after next May’s Holyrood election, if the SNP is returned to Government.

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A review into grouse moor estates in Scotland, which recommended the licensing regime, was ordered after a report by natural heritage body NatureScot in 2017 into the disappearance of satellite-tagged golden eagles found that one third had disappeared suspiciously on or around grouse moors.

But the proposed scheme was condemned in a joint statement issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates.

“We are dismayed that the Scottish Government has not listened to the voice of some of our most fragile communities, which are at the heart of a world-class rural business sector,” the statement said.

"People involved in grouse shooting have already embraced a huge amount of legislation, regulation and guidance to make sure the highest standards are met. This includes estates embracing many of the recommendations contained within the Werritty report.

“Instead, the Scottish Government has paved the way for a very uncertain future for many rural people by announcing that it intends to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse moors which interferes with legitimate business activities and threatens to engulf the sector in a blizzard of red tape that is unprecedented and out of all proportion.”

The statement added: “We are not reassured that moor managers have ‘nothing to fear’. The minister has herself described the potential withdrawal of a licence as a ‘serious sanction’ – there are real fears this could impact perfectly law-abiding shooting businesses.”

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