Changes are ahead

The Scottish Government has announced that it is to start licensing grouse shooting.

The decision follows assessment of the findings of the independent Grouse Moor Management Group who produced the Werritty Report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government.

Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon announced the new proposals, saying: “Having given full consideration to the recommendations of the Grouse Moor Management Group, alongside a wealth of other evidence and research, I have concluded that greater oversight of the practices associated with grouse moor management is necessary.

“The majority of those tasked with managing land already follow best practice guidance and care deeply about the countryside and the land that they manage. I cannot, though, ignore the fact that some of the practices associated with grouse moor management, such as muirburn and the use of medicated grit, have the potential to cause serious harm to the environment, if the correct procedures are not followed.

“Neither can I ignore the fact that, despite our many attempts to address this issue, every year birds of prey continue to be killed or disappear in suspicious circumstances on or around grouse moors.

“The changes that I have announced today strike what I believe is the right balance.  They are not designed to bring an end to grouse shooting. ”

Licensing grouse shooting threatens jobs

The decision brought strong criticism from Alexander Burnett, MSP for Aberdeenshire West who spoke directly to Shooting UK saying: “This is another SNP attack on Scotland’s rural economy, without any hard evidence to back it up.

“Estates and managers should have five years to prove grouse moors can be run sustainably. At that point, licensing could be considered if there was proof otherwise.
But the recommendations of Prof Werritty have been completely disregarded. The Minister has again jumped the gun. The SNP are aloof to the jobs they are threatening and the income which will vanish from the economy, if they have their way.”

Quick response from fieldsports

Fieldsports bodies were also quick to respond, with Adam Smith, Director of Policy at the GWCT Scotland, voicing concern:

“The Scottish Government’s announcement today on its Review of Grouse Moor Management shows that it has chosen to constrain land management rather than support it with practical options. That is despite the advice of that review concluding that the disadvantages of licensing far outweighed the advantages and it’s easy to see why the independent review group was so cautious about licensing. They recommended that licensing be held in reserve and implemented in five years’ time only if other reasonable conservation management options were not acted on.

“Many grouse moors have been replaced by farming or forestry to the detriment of many ground-nesting species whose losses are alarming, among them golden plover, lapwing and curlew. Once these priority species lose their open habitat they effectively face local extinction.

“As Scotland loses yet more grouse estates, it risks losing more of its increasingly rare moorland habitat, the species that depend on it and the social and economic life that goes with it.