The National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) has joined forces with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) to criticise a proposal in the Scottish Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill to impose a 14-day limit on catching-up.

Both groups agree that a resolution of the legal situation on the long-established practice of capturing wild pheasants and partridges for breeding purposes at the end of the shooting season is long overdue, but both also agree that the proposed two-week timescale to carry out the work is inadequate.

An NGO spokesman said: ?Some keepers do all the catching-up they need to in January, as the law currently requires, but we are talking about wild birds here and a time of year when the weather can be particularly tricky, especially in the north. Often, catching-up cannot be completed in time and there needs to be a legal mechanism to allow for that. A two-week window is not the answer.?

In a briefing note sent recently to MSPs, SGA committee member Bert Burnett said the whole month of February should be allowed for the work: ?When the season ends on 1 February, the birds are usually scattered across an entire estate and time is required to draw them back to feeders to concentrate their numbers and make the capturing process more practical and efficient. If the weather is mild, the birds are reluctant, making catching-up within 14 days extremely difficult.?

Nicolle Upton, from BASC Scotland, said: ?BASC Scotland took the lead on this issue by submitting a stage two amendment in December to extend this arbitrary 14-day period to a more realistic 28-day period.?

?Unfortunately, the minister for the environment, Roseanna Cunningham, argued against this amendment and Karen Gillon MSP then had to withdraw it. BASC Scotland is currently discussing this with Government officials and it is our intention to resubmit the amendment for a 28-day catching-up period at stage three of the bill.?