Almost every aspect appears to be affected, reports Matt Cross for Shooting Times

The Scottish Government has published its programme for government and shooting now faces ‘an enormous task’ to secure its future in the country.

Fox control

Among the planned bills was a “Fox Control Bill” and without providing further details, the programme simply said that the bill would relate “to the use of dogs to hunt and flush foxes and other wild mammals,” and would “introduce further measures such as preventing trail hunting.”

Preventing any use of dogs to manage foxes has been a longstanding personal cause of some green MSPs. Inevitably the small percentage of Scotland’s land managed for grouse shooting was a major focus. The programme claims that, “The evidence is clear that urgent action is needed to tackle wildlife crime and to address the environmental impacts of intensive grouse moor management,” before ominously adding that, “We will support the transition to more economically and environmentally productive uses of land.”

Deer management

The way deer are managed also looks set to change with the Government saying they will “modernise deer management,” suggesting that the emphasis will not be on a healthy and robust deer population. The proposals on deer went on to say: “It is vital we protect tree‑planting, woodland regeneration and peatland restoration from further damage if we are to meet our climate change and biodiversity commitments.”

The Government seems set now to legalise the use of thermal scopes for shooting deer with a reference to “use of specialist equipment when managing deer.” Vital species management licences may also be altered with the programme saying that the government will “review the wider species licensing system with a view to ensuring that the law is being applied correctly and that lethal control is only licensed where the conditions required for such a licence are demonstrably being met.”

Response from fieldsports organisation

Responding to the document, BASC’s Ross Ewing told Shooting Times: “The contents of this programme are relatively unsurprising. It represents a continuation of the campaign to attack country sports which has become synonymous with this SNP administration, although it has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens.

“The level of ambiguity in the programme does, however, represent an opportunity for BASC and others to try and influence proceedings. That said, we should not doubt the enormity of the task ahead of us.”