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New wildlife management and muirburn Bill brings changes to grouse shooting

By David Porter

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Scotland’s wildlife will see increased protection after a new law passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill includes a range of measures that will help tackle raptor persecution, and ensure that the management of species on grouse moors is done so sustainably and with animal welfare as a priority.

The Bill-

Bans the practice of snaring in Scotland.

Bans the use of glue traps to catch rodents.

Gives greater powers to Scottish SPCA inspectors to tackle wildlife crime.

Introduces a new licensing framework for grouse moors.

Strictly regulates the use of muirburn, the controlled burning of vegetation on peatland.

Jim Fairlie
Jim Fairlie

Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie said: “This Bill is a significant step in our wider journey to ensure Scotland’s environment is managed sustainably.

“People who live and work on our land have shown that it’s possible to manage wildlife. They have shown that muirburn, which is a key approach to helping manage wildfires, can be undertaken responsibly and in a way that protects biodiversity.

“We have struck the right balance between improving animal welfare, supporting rural businesses and reinforcing a zero tolerance approach to raptor persecution and wildlife crime.”

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill was introduced primarily 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. It will do this by implementing the recommendations of the independent review of grouse moor management.

Muirburn is the intentional and controlled burning of moorland vegetation to encourage new growth (either heather or grassland) for the management of moorland game and wildlife or for improving the grazing potential of the moorland for livestock or deer.

Responding Ross Ewing, Director of Moorland at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Licensing of grouse shooting represents a seismic change for rural estates and their employees, including gamekeepers and shepherds.

“The legislation goes far beyond the stated intention of deterring the persecution of raptors by introducing a broad range of relevant offences under which licences can be suspended or revoked. Many of these offences bear no connection to land managed for grouse shooting.

“The use of certain wildlife traps and muirburn – the rotational burning of heather – will also be subject to separate licensing regimes and, with peer-reviewed science demonstrating that these activities are delivering decisive benefits for biodiversity and nature, it is important that the licensing schemes are as light-touch as possible.

“As the Bill has made its way through parliament, the government has, to its credit, adopted several common-sense amendments after representations from Scottish Land & Estates and others. Extending the grouse licence duration from a year to up to five years, and removing the ability for NatureScot to suspend licences without proof of criminality, have given the legislation a greater chance of being workable in the long-term.

“Grouse management is funded completely privately, unlike other comparable land uses, and experts made clear during committee evidence sessions that there is no public interest in Scotland reducing its area of moorland managed for grouse such are the contributions it makes to combatting climate change and reversing biodiversity loss.

“Estates will engage constructively with the new licensing regime but it is also vital that the Scottish Government and its agencies adopt the same approach going forward and recognise the huge social, economic and environmental contribution that grouse moor management makes to Scotland.”

Environmental charity OneKind Director, Bob Elliot, said: "The Scottish public have made it very clear that they want to see snares consigned to the history books and the Scottish Government has listened. We are delighted that the Scottish Parliament has passed a ban on these archaic traps.”

“Snares are cruel, archaic traps that originate from a bygone age. Due to their indiscriminate nature, we've received reports over the years from concerned members of the public who have found all types of animals suffering in these devices: wild animals, farmed animals, and companion animals.

“We have heard several times from distraught guardians who have discovered their companion animals dead in snares. This includes the particularly upsetting case of spaniel, Murphy, who tragically lost his life in 2018 after blundering into a snare in Cumbria and a cat who died after being trapped in a snare in a garden in Angus.

“The distress that has been caused by snare use over the years is unacceptable and we are incredibly relieved that animals will no longer be subjected this mental and physical suffering.”

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