Scottish Natural Heritage publish details of General Licence restriction orders in wildlife crime hotspots.

On the 4th November, Scottish Natural Heritage published the following Press Release:

General licences restricted in wildlife crime hotspots

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of general licences on four properties in two wildlife crime hotspots – one in Stirlingshire and one in the Borders – this week. The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

Nick Halfhide, SNH Director of Operations, said:

“There is clear evidence that wildlife crimes have been committed on these properties. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on these four properties for three years. They may though still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.

“This measure should help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, albeit under tighter supervision. We consider that this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.”

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, including controlling common species of wild birds to protect crops or livestock.

The new measure complements other recent actions to reduce wildlife crime, including vicarious liability for offences against wild birds, which was introduced in 2011.

Restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years. This period will increase if more evidence of offences comes to light.


Raeshaw Estate

The first map above shows the general location in Midlothian of the Raeshaw Estate and the neighbouring Corshope Estate.  (NT 400 460) The map highlights the general area relating to Restriction order #1: The map was published with the approval of


The second map above shows the general location in Stirlingshire of the Burnfoot Estate and Wester Cringate Estate. (NS 690 885). The map highlights the general area relating to Restriction order #2: The map was published with the approval of

In essence the two Restrictions Orders means that during the next 3 years, ending in November 2018, the killing or taking of the following species will not be allowed by the offending estates:

Great black-backed gull, carrion crow, hooded crow, jackdaw, jay, rook, ruddy duck, magpie, Canada goose, collared dove, feral pigeon, wood pigeon, lesser black-back gull, and herring gull

In addition the use of following methodology used to kill or take these species will not be allowed on these estates:

Pricking of eggs, oiling of eggs, destruction of eggs and nests, use of Larsen trap, use of Larsen Mate trap, use of Larsen Pod trap, use of multi-catch crow cage trap, shooting with any firearm, targeted falconry, and by hand.

Below we have included the response by the RSPB to these significant restrictions.

RSPB Scotland welcomes General Licence restrictions in areas of confirmed wildlife crime.

Golden Eagle Strathspey, C/R Terry Pickford

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of General Licences on four properties in Scotland this week where they believe there is sufficient evidence of crimes against birds of prey in recent years.

In response, Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We welcome the continued commitment of the Minister and Scottish Government to tackling wildlife crime, and this is confirmation that the Open General Licence will be removed from land where Scottish Natural Heritage is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of crimes against birds of prey in recent years. The use of the Open General Licence to control what are considered by some to be “pest species” of bird, including crows and magpies, for conservation and other legal purposes, is a privilege and not a right. This activity is undertaken as derogation from the provision under the European Union Birds Directive, which affords protection to all native bird species, so it is right that the highest standards are met.

“The removal of the Open General Licence is an important part of the toolkit available to the public authorities to act as a meaningful deterrent to the serious problem of the illegal killing of birds of prey in parts of Scotland, and underpinned by what is now a clear body of evidence confirming the scale and detrimental impact of these crimes on the populations of bird species including the golden eagle, hen harrier and red kite. This wider toolkit for combating wildlife crime also includes the prosecution of landowners for vicarious liability for the actions of their employees in cases of confirmed crimes against birds of prey unless they have taken steps of due diligence to prevent this activity from occurring”.

The General Licence required by an authorised person to kill certain birds causing serious damage to livestock is GL 04. The definition of “livestock” is listed in Section 27 of the WLCA 1981: “livestock” includes any animal which is kept [c] for the provision or improvement of shooting or fishing.
[Being WLCA 1981 c. 69 Part1 supplemental section 27. Interpretation of Part 1]
Given the wording / intention of the SNH GL 02 2015 is seems clear that it mirrors England’s GL 04.

2 comments to Scottish Natural Heritage publish details of General Licence restriction orders in wildlife crime hotspots.

  • Paul Tresto

    Does England operate a similar system of Open General Licences? Can Natural England do the same to landowners / estates in the Forest of Bowland where the Hen Harriers and Peregrines have been slaughtered? If this is possible then they should suspend all the General Licences immediately.

    Editor’s Comment. Paul thank you for your interesting and thought provoking comment. We have attached 3 links each relating to ‘General Licenses,’

    The first under the direction of Natural England which you may wish to ponder.

    The second link from BASC

    The third link from the RSPB which explains proposed changes to the English General Licences.

    Regarding your last question, we doubt very much, even if each and every bird of prey completely disappears from the Forest of Bowland as now seem likely, that Natural England would choose to follow Scotland’s example. The main objective of NE in Bowland appears to be protecting the interests of the estates rather than the well-being of protected ‘raptors’.

  • Julie Wright

    This is definitely a move in the right direction, but wildlife crime still needs harsher fines and sentences if the law is broken. Thousands of people holiday in Scotland and want to see the wildlife, look at Mull and how much money it’s made from tourism. Change is hard and people who class BOP as vermin, pass this down and its ingrained in generations, if they were given information on a particular species say the Red Kite for instance and told it’s a scavenger would this change their perception I don’t think so. I think the younger generation should be given specific education about our wildlife especially species that are close to extinction. Let them learn and be guardians, let them go home and tell their parents about it. The wildlife we have in Britain is so special, birds migrate here to have chicks, birds winter here, we have a heritage, we need to stand up and protect the natural world because without it we as a species are doomed.