Preventing Wildlife Crime in Scotland – Press Release from the Scottish Parliament

[singlepic id=225 w=250 h=152 float=left]Proposals to tackle wildlife crime by making employers responsible for their employees’ illegal poisonings have been outlined by the Scottish Parliament today.

Scottish lairds and grouse moor owners face £5,000 fines or jail terms if they allow their gamekeepers to illegally kill birds of prey, under tough new measures tabled today. The powers would, for the first time in the UK, make landowners directly liable for wildlife crimes committed by their employees, after an upsurge in cases where rare birds of prey have been deliberately killed to protect grouse stocks on shooting estates.

The proposals were welcomed by conservation charities and political leaders at Holyrood, but condemned by estate owners as unnecessary and potentially damaging to the rural economy.

 The Scottish rural property and business association (SRPBA), which represents many of the country’s largest landowners, will lobby ministers tomorrow and warn it could cut investment in grouse moors, a sector worth £23m a year.

The new measures, known as “vicarious liability”, would mean that grouse moor owners in Scotland could be jailed for up six months or fined up to £5,000 for either allowing or failing to prevent their employees from persecuting birds of prey.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced the Scottish Government’s intention to bring forward a Stage 2 amendment to the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, when giving evidence to the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee earlier today (November 3).

She told the Committee that the amendment would create a new ‘vicarious liability offence’ that would target those who control or manage others who are involved in criminal bird persecution. Those found guilty could face six months in jail, be fined up to £5,000 pounds. There will be a defence for those who can show that they took steps to prevent persecution.

Ms Cunningham said: “Increased awareness and condemnation appears to be doing little to bring down the number of illegal bird poisonings in Scotland. Official figures show that 16 birds of prey were poisoned in the first six months of this year and I find this extremely disappointing.

“We have robust legislation in place to tackle this sort of crime but tougher action has to be taken to deter those who think that they can get away with persecuting our wildlife.

“I don’t want to unfairly target any particular group and I will be engaging with stakeholders over the coming weeks to make sure that they know what we are trying to achieve with this amendment.

“We have a duty to protect our birds of prey as they are an integral part of our national identity. They also help our economy by attracting tourists from across the world and we cannot afford to have our international reputation tarnished by the few who continue to target them illegally.”

Statistics published by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture show that in the first half of 2010 there were 13 poison abuse incidents with 16 bird of prey poisoned and a 30 per cent increase in all types submissions to the lab for testing.

The 16 birds of prey were three buzzards, five red kites, four golden eagles, two peregrine falcons, one sparrowhawk and one sea eagle. The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on June 9, 2010. It covers a range of subjects from game to invasive and non-native species. The Bill is currently being considered by the Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Environment Committee.

The Scottish Labour party and Scottish Liberal Democrats indicated they are likely to support the measures. But Doug McAdam, chief executive of the SRPBA, said these laws “are unnecessary and won’t work. They are potentially going to damage investment in the sport in Scotland.” The Scottish parliament is expected to pass the amendment.

The RSPB urged ministers in London to introduce similar powers in England, because existing wildlife laws were not effectively enforced by the police and the courts, and were being widely flouted by shooting estates.

The charity said hen harriers were on the brink of extinction in England because of systematic persecution on grouse moors in the Pennines, Peak District and north-east.

One recent study estimated that the UK’s grouse moors ought to support 499 breeding pairs of hen harriers; a survey found only five breeding pairs.

Scottish ministers have become increasingly irritated that bird-of-prey persecution has continued unabated despite high-profile wildlife crime initiatives supported by the police and prosecution authorities.

More than 250 members of the SRPBA and the Scottish estates business group (SEBG), which represents senior peers and major Highland landowners, have signed an open letter condemning wildlife crime.

Even so, the latest figures for 2010 show that 16 birds of prey were poisoned in Scotland, including four golden eagles – the highest number for 20 years – five red kites, two peregrine falcons, one sparrowhawk and one sea eagle. Last year was the second worst on record, the RSPB said.

An RSPB spokesman said: “These proposals have clear relevance elsewhere in the UK, where birds of prey are persecuted. We are on the verge of losing hen harriers as a breeding species from England for a second time, and we urge the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to follow the Scottish lead. The innocent have nothing to fear from such legislation.” 

Scottish Eagle Killers appear to getting away with their crimes!
Poisoning of Scottish birds of prey at highest levels in 20 years
12 May 2010

Police investigate bird of prey deaths at Skibo estate

28 Oct 2009

UK’s once-threatened bird species back from the brink, conservationists say

Follow the attached link to Raptor Persecution Scotland: roseanna cunningham – we salute you!

10 comments to Preventing Wildlife Crime in Scotland – Press Release from the Scottish Parliament

  • Dave

    Well done Ms Cunningham

  • q

    Its a shame England can’t follow her lead!

  • nirofo

    As I said before it’s to be commended, but I’ll wait and see, there’s a lot of very powerfull estate owners in Scotland.

    nirofo.

    • Skydancer

      Credit where credit is due, Roseanna Cunningham is a very brave lady for putting principles first on her agenda taking on the establishment. One of the first Scottish politicians to do so William Wallace, who was betrayed by his fellow kinsmen taken to London and there he was hung drawn and quartered.

      The proposals being tabled by Ms Cunningham have a very long way to go. In the meantime a lot could happen. The estate landowners will not take her proposals lightly, they will certainly do all in their power to prevent what is being proposed. These individual will not always play by the democratic rules that now govern Scotland. Let just hope the Scottish people get behind Roseanna Cunningham to show their determination that the illegal destruction of Scotland’s Wildlife Heritage must stop.

  • paul williams

    Do we in England, not have a member of parliament who has enough balls to follow suit with Ms Cunningham, and stand up for all that is wrong on private estates regarding the persecution of birds of prey. Private estate landowner should not only sign a letter condemning wildlife crime but should be made to PROVE persecution does not happen.HOW.. i hear you ask?,by showing us birds of prey on your estates and how well your guardianship of wildlife is doing,Now there,s a challenge for private estate landowners in the Forest of Bowland.

  • Coop

    All the decent people of Britain congtatulate you, wish you the very best of luck, Ms Cunningham.

  • Coop

    Apologies for the above typos.

  • paul williams

    However, no apologies for using my birth name,i do not hide behind a ficticious AKA.

  • paul williams

    Coop i must apologise to you, i thought you where commenting on my English, i cant spoke proper England since i were a children.

  • Coop

    No problem Paul. As you now obviously gather, I was aluding to mistakes in my own post. As for my “ficticious AKA”: that’s what everyone who knows me calls me. I often forget what my real name is! :)