Dave Windle

The Scottish Government is continuing to work, or maybe procrastinate, on the details of the legislation that will bring grouse moor licensing. In order to provide some balance to the landowners claims that this will cause the sky to fall in, the environmental NGOs have been campaigning. On behalf of NEMT, I wrote to Mairi McAllan, the minister responsible, with the letter copied below.

I am writing to ask you to listen to the voices of many NGOs, such as RSPB, and ensure that the proposed grouse moor licensing legislation is strong enough to compel the estates and their employees do actually obey the law. We all know that despite existing legislation, raptors are persecuted on many grouse moors. Toothless legislation, weakened to appease the landowning fraternity, will continue the status quo, where estate workers continue to flout the law. The licensing must cover all species, not just predators. As you know mountain hares are culled, without evidence, simply to attempt to reduce ticks. Killing of wildlife on grouse moors simply to facilitate so-called sport shooting needs to stop.

I appreciate that there needs to be a balance and ask you to consider the scientific evidence and to not be unduly influenced by landowning interests. I am pleased to hear that you are considering adopting of the 7 Principles of Ethical Wildlife Control and are exploring the opportunities to do so. Incorporating these principles into the conditions of grouse moor licensing will be a major step forward and brings the opportunity for Scotland to become a world leader in the way our communities and landowners manage wildlife.

I often walk in the hills of the NE of Scotland and value the opportunity to do so. Many estate owners do a good job and provide their local communities with income and local employment. However, there are some “rogue” estates and these need to be brought into line. How would we all feel if iconic species such as eagles and hen harriers become extinct because we failed to act? How will that enhance our status as a location where wildlife is easily seen and appreciated?

Meanwhile, the report on mountain hares from the citizen science volunteer programme has been published. We are hopeful that there will be funding for the project to continue next year and I look forward to asking for your help again in the next spring issue of Mountain Views.

To end on a positive note, I’m very pleased to tell you that the Langholm Initiative has been successful in raising the money to buy the second tranche of land needed to form the 10,500 acre Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. This is great news and I look forward to updating you as they set about restoring what was a degraded grouse moor. This won’t be easy as simply allowing nature to take its own course on what was a heavily managed habitat is likely to lead to an explosion of predators finishing off a variety of species. However, the Initiative is now in a good position to take things forward.

For an interesting comment by the landowner, see Land reform in Scotland: Community buy-out of Buccleuch land was a triumph for both sides by Benny Higgins in The Scotsman

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