The Scottish government has announced the launch of a new working group to aid applications from keepers wishing to control protected predators, such as buzzards and sparrowhawks.

The move follows the Scottish government?s recent admission that it overlooked issuing specific guidelines for protecting game birds when it published its original guidance in May.

The group will include the Scottish government, Scottish Natural Heritage, BASC and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: ?We intend to produce comprehensive guidelines for the lethal control of predatory birds to protect pheasant poults. However, lethal control will continue to be considered as a last resort used only where all other alternatives have failed.?

The SGA?s Alex Hogg, who has twice unsuccessfully applied for a licence to shoot buzzards that were attacking pheasants on his shoot, welcomed the news.

?Predation of poults by ever-growing numbers of buzzards has become a major problem for the shooting industry. As a result of this meeting, the Scottish government is now well aware of our plight.?