Conservationists call for game bird shooting licence

RSPB footage Image copyright RSPB
Image caption Conservationists are calling for game bird shooting to be licensed

Conservationists are calling for game hunting groups to join them in creating a licensing scheme for shooting birds such as grouse.

The conservation groups want licences to help protect rare birds of prey.

It comes after two cases against gamekeepers were dropped because prosecutors decided video footage was inadmissible as evidence.

But gamekeepers say any decision which could impact on jobs should be based on proof, not "suspicion".

The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG), the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland believe a licensing scheme will give protection to birds of prey in Scotland.

The RSPB said the illegal killing of birds of prey such as eagles and hen harriers was a "stain" on Scotland's reputation.

The call to work together to set up a licensing scheme comes after Holyrood's environment committee agreed to keep open SRSG's petition on creating the new regulations earlier this week.

Committee convener Graeme Dey has written to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham asking her to look at "a licensing system for shooting businesses based on civil law".

"Constant stain"

Logan Steele of the SRSG said: "We accept that many within the shooting industry are law-abiding and are as keen as we are to bear down on the criminal element within their ranks.

"A government-sponsored inquiry, into how a licensing regime might work, presents an opportunity to work in partnership with forward-looking representatives from the industry, and other stakeholders, towards creating a sustainable upland environment where our birds of prey can thrive alongside legitimate shoot management."

The call comes after the Crown Office said video evidence provided by the RSPB in two cases was not admissible in court because it was filmed for the purposes of gathering evidence.

RSPB director Stuart Housden said the "illegal killing of our birds of prey has been a constant stain on the reputation of our country" for more than two decades and there was an increasing recognition that self-regulation had "failed".

A Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) spokesman said it, and others in the game industry, had put forward proposals to the Scottish government aimed at ending wildlife crime.

He added: "The SGA will not defend wrongdoing and has taken strong action when its position on wildlife crime has been breached by its members.

"We also believe honest working people, in the overwhelming majority in our profession, deserve to have their rights to employment protected.

"Any decision which could ultimately see a business, in any field, ended, with resultant loss of employment, ought to be taken on the appropriate, substantive standard of proof rather than on the basis of suspicion."

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