Scottish landowners and shoot owners could still face penalty cuts to their farming subsidies if poisoned baits are found on their land, the Scottish environment minister warned recently.
The announcement came after the European Commission controversially decided last November to sever the link between money paid to landowners under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the laws to protect wildlife from poisoning and trapping under the terms of Statutory Management Requirements, which are part of cross compliance.
The decision was taken by the commission in order to simplify the way in which the subsidy system operates. Under the old rules, John Dodd, owner of Glenogil estate, in Angus, last year had his farming subsidy cut by a record £107,000 by the Scottish Executive because of suspicions that pesticides discovered on his land were used against birds of prey.
On 1 January, management requirements linking subsidy payments to Article 8 of the EU Birds Directive were removed. However, Scotlands environment minister, Mike Russell, announced last month his intention to use alternative legislation to impose similar subsidy penalties on landowners. Previously, landowners had to comply with Article 8, which bans the use of non-selective methods of capture or killing of birds in order to be eligible for EU farming funds. The removal of Article 8 from cross-compliance means that unless a poisoned carcase is found, technically there is no longer a breach of the regulations.
Mike Russell stated, however, that he would use other legal powers to continue targeting illegal use of pesticides. He told the Holyrood Parliament: Wildlife crime is a crime like any other. It will be investigated like any other and those taking part will be punished as they would with any other crime. Cross-compliance is one of the most significant tools in our armoury for dealing with wildlife crime.
The rest of this article appears in 8 January issue of Shooting Times.
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