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Muirburn Bill could have fallen foul of human rights

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill still has ‘some way to go’ to be reasonable but BASC amendments remove a ‘fundamental flaw’.

BASC has claimed a significant victory in a vote on the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, which will ensure that grouse shooting continues unhampered. The Bill, which sought to introduce grouse shoot, muirburn and trapping licences, had entered the first day of voting of stage 2 amendments by the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee. 

Initially, it did not provide legal safeguards for licence holders in respect to grouse shoot licence suspension, a power that could have potentially contravened articles within the European Convention on Human Rights. The vote removed what were deemed disproportionate suspension powers for trap licences, so trap licences could have been suspended or revoked for a broad and loosely defined range of “relevant” offences, without the need to prove criminality or wrongdoing. The removal of these powers places the Bill in a more workable position. 

However, according to BASC, the Bill has “some way to go” before being reasonable. 

Peter Clark, director of BASC Scotland, said: “It is evident that our lobbying and hard work engaging with MSPs and ministers throughout this Bill’s progress has removed a fundamental flaw in the Bill. 

“The power to suspend trap licences, even when NatureScot was not satisfied of any wrongdoing, was simply absurd, and we are glad our political pressure has seen this removal,” he continued. 

“We believe the snaring ban is wholly disproportionate and is damaging to threatened bird species, which will now be subjected to overpredation. 

“Inconsistent and disproportionate legislation could jeopardise the viability of moorland management, placing jobs, investments and our capacity to safeguard upland biodiversity and carbon stores at risk. 

Director of the Heather Trust, Katrina Candy, told ST: “The Heather Trust’s focus is always on sustainable moorland habitat for all and, to achieve that, there has to be proper understanding and a degree of compromise among all interested parties. Therefore we welcome the amendments which should provide important legal safeguards for wildlife managers when operating traps. 

“Ministers must be mindful that managed upland landscapes are crucial habitats for many globally threatened species and those managing these areas need an effective toolbox to do so.” 

Voting on further amendments to the Bill is to take place today (21 February).