Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been commissioned to carry out a controversial sparrowhawk translocation trial, which could have major ramifications for gamekeepers grappling with burgeoning raptor numbers.

The Scottish environment minister, Michael Russell, has tasked the government body with trapping and moving sparrowhawks in a bid to stop them killing racing pigeon at more than 40 pigeon lofts.

Unsurprisingly, the initiative, which is due to start in November, has not received a warm reception from raptor groups, but has been welcomed by the Scottish Homing Union (SHU), which represents Scotland’s 3,500 pigeon-fanciers.

In a recent Freedom of Information request made by The Sunday Herald, it was revealed that Scotland’s chief ecological adviser, Dr Ian Bainbridge, has discounted the project’s viability.

He advised Mr Russell that it would be expensive and ultimately ineffective. He fears that the sparrowhawks would just find their way back to the pigeon lofts or that other sparrowhawks would simply move in and prey on the pigeon.

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