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Game shooting under threat across the UK

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill would mean annual licences are required for the shooting of red grouse, reports Felix Petit

birds flying on moorland

The bill would initially apply to "only red grouse", but there are fears other species would go on to be included

The Scottish government has introduced the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill which, if passed, would make the shooting of red grouse illegal unless licensed. Further to this, it would massively restrict freedoms to conduct the burning of heather on peat moorland and would introduce corporate grouse shooting bans covering whole estates in penance for the illegal killing of raptors by individuals such as gamekeepers. Grouse shooting brings £30 million to the Scottish economy each year and supports thousands of jobs.

This bill is the progression of 2019’s independent Grouse Moor Management report, also known as the Werritty report. It is clear from the Scottish parliament’s framing of the bill that further restriction of game shooting in Scotland is to follow. The government summary states that this new licensing would apply to “initially only red grouse” making quite clear the direction of government intent.

With the bill in its current state, licences to shoot red grouse would have to be renewed each year. This current proposal would apply to anyone, anywhere in Scotland, who wished to shoot grouse. The changes far outstrip the suggestions for the licensing of grouse moors that were proposed in the Werritty report. Ross Ewing, the director of moorland at Scottish Land & Estates, has said there is a lot of trepidation about the bill.

The RSPB is actively supporting the Scottish government’s proposal and is calling for similar licensing in England. The RSPB recommends this on the back of a report on the economic and social impacts of future options for grouse moor management that it commissioned. The Countryside Alliance’s head of shooting, Adrian Blackmore, describes this report as containing “speculative, unscientific and misleading claims”. Mr Blackmore – a strong advocate for responsible heather burning – also said the report was “selective in the research chosen to ensure it reinforces its chosen position”.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill is still at the committee stage and has not yet been debated in Scottish parliament.

This story first appeared in Shooting Times, Britain’s oldest and best-selling shooting magazine. Published every Wednesday, the 141-year title has long been at the coalface of the countryside, breaking the stories that matter to you. Subscribe here.