The village of Leadhills, in Lanarkshire, was the target of one of the largest rural police operations in Scotland in recent years late last month, resulting in six men being detained for questioning, later released without charge. Co-ordinated by Strathclyde Police, officers raided a number of homes in the village in an effort to find evidence of raptor persecution, having received word of a buzzard found poisoned close to the local grouse moor. None was found.

As many as 80 officers were involved in the day-long operation, on 27 September, using helicopter support. The six detained men were questioned for six hours while their homes and properties were searched for evidence of banned pesticides or illegal poison, and then released.

An RSPB Scotland spokesperson said: ?We cannot comment specifically on any ongoing police investigation. Raptor persecution in parts of the southern uplands of Scotland continues to be a serious problem. When asked by the police to assist with wildlife crime investigations, we undertake this work as any good citizen would.?

A spokesperson for the Scottish Gamekeepers? Association told ST: ?Everyone has free access to the Scottish countryside, it?s easy for anyone to throw down poison bait and make an anonymous phone call to the RSPB. Why are these raids happening and nothing being found??

Coincidentally, Lothian and Borders police service, which was involved in the Leadhills raids, will be the base for a new National Wildlife Crime Unit, launched in Edinburgh last week. At the launch, Tony Andrews, chief executive of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: ? We are confident that the new unit will tackle these crimes in a measured and proportionate manner.?