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A major victory but we’ll keep fighting

BASC has been battling to amend proposals to licence grouse shooting in Scotland — and has made good progress, says Dr Conor O’Gorman.

In March last year, the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill was published, seeking to introduce licensing for land used for grouse shooting, licensing for muirburn and licensing and training requirements for various types of wildlife traps (News, p8). 

As the Bill has progressed through the various stages of parliamentary scrutiny, BASC and other rural organisations in Scotland have argued for a proportionate and evidence-based approach to the regulation of red grouse shooting and the management practices underpinning it. 

Last month, a critical BASC amendment to the Bill was approved (News, 21 February), to remove disproportionate shoot licence suspension powers, an issue BASC has lobbied MSPs and ministers on over the last year. Without its removal, grouse shoot licences could have been suspended or revoked based purely on an allegation with no evidence of wrongdoing, for a range of so-called “relevant offences”. 

BASC has repeatedly said it would be completely unreasonable for the initiation of an “official investigation” to be the trigger for a licence suspension, a power which could have potentially contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. 


Such a power to suspend licences, even when NatureScot was not satisfied of any wrongdoing, was simply absurd and an open door for vexatious allegations to destroy jobs and livelihoods, and we are glad our political pressure has seen this aspect taken out. 

Initial proposals for annual grouse shoot licences have been amended and will now be renewed every five years, which is going in the right direction, but we believe that 10-year licences would be more appropriate, promoting investment and forward planning for sustainable grouse moor management. 

The Scottish government has passed a ban on the use of snares, which we have opposed, and we are now arguing for a licensing system for some types of snares. 

As the Bill enters the third and final round of debate in the parliament, we will continue to lobby for further improvements to the Bill. Many of these were outlined in a letter to MSPs in January, signed by more than 1,000 BASC members in Scotland. 

There remain key issues to be resolved on the muirburn licensing proposals, such as the need to remove a last resort clause and making it easier to use muirburn to tackle wildfire risk. Additionally, muirburn licences should be, at a minimum, 10 years in length. 

Another concern is proposed powers that allow Scottish ministers to add further bird species to the grouse shooting licence. We will also continue to call for a compensation scheme which would provide licence holders with financial support pending the outcome of a licence suspension. 

The BASC Scotland team have been working hard to lobby Scottish government ministers and MSPs from across the political spectrum on behalf of the gamekeepers and land managers who will be impacted by the proposals. 


BASC Scotland director Peter Clark said: “Overall, Stage 2 of the Bill resulted in significant victories for shooting in the face of lobbying for further restrictions from the antis. BASC has lobbied MSPs extensively over the past year to lodge amendments to make the Bill more acceptable and workable. 

“However, the Bill still presents challenges for gamekeepers and licence holders, posing risks to effective and sustainable grouse moor management. Discussions with agriculture minister Jim Fairlie will take place ahead of Stage 3 to make a case for further improvements.”