South Scotland

Borders estate's licence revoked amid wildlife crime concerns

An osprey Image copyright Getty Images

Scottish Natural Heritage has revoked a licence to control wild birds on a Borders estate as a result of "ongoing concerns" about wildlife crime.

It said police were now investigating "potential offences" at Raeshaw Estates near Heriot.

SNH put a general licence restriction on the estate in 2015 on the basis of "clear evidence" from police that wildlife crimes had been committed.

The estate has rejected any allegation of being engaged in wildlife crime.

It previously challenged the 2015 restriction via judicial review but it was upheld.

During a compliance check this month, SNH said its staff had found "multiple instances" of breaches of conditions of an individual licence that had been granted to cover essential management activities on the estate.

'No option'

It said the breaches could also constitute offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so it has reported the details to Police Scotland.

Robbie Kernahan, SNH's head of national operations, said: "After discovering several failures to comply with the terms, we have no other option than to revoke the licence.

"In cases like this, we have to take breaches of licences very seriously and will work with Police Scotland as they investigate this case.

"We hope this also spreads the message that we will take action to stop wildlife crime whenever possible."

RSPB Scotland's head of investigations, Ian Thomson, said the move at the estate came as no surprise.

He welcomed the licence revocation but said that it was clear that more needed to be done.

'Full compliance'

"The time has come for a robust regulatory regime, including the licensing of gamebird shoots, where wildlife crimes with a proven link to estate management could lead to a loss of shooting rights," he said.

A spokesperson for Raeshaw Estates said it rejected any allegation of being engaged in wildlife crime.

"There is no suggestion by anyone of any protected bird found being dead, injured or trapped," he said.

"We believe the issue here primarily surrounds the alleged incorrect siting of legitimate traps to catch crows.

"The estate staff believe they have been acting in full compliance with the provisions of the licence and we will be seeking meetings with the relevant authorities as a matter of urgency."

He said the company had always had a good working relationship with SNH and would work with them to resolve any issues as soon as possible.

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