New motion lodged in Scottish Parliament: “Death of golden eagle”

A new motion was lodged in the Scottish Parliament on Monday 22nd October 2012 concerning the death of the Glen Esk golden eagle:

Motion S4M-04516: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party.

Death of Golden Eagle

That the Parliament condemns what it sees as the recent brutal killing of a golden eagle in Glen Esk, Angus; considers that the golden eagle is one of Scotland’s most iconic species and understands that 11 golden eagles have been illegally killed since 2007; notes also that 2013 will be the Year of Natural Scotland; urges the Police Service of Scotland to ensure that police officers have the training and resources required to tackle wildlife crime effectively; considers that golden eagles more than earn their keep by attracting tourism to rural Scotland, and asks the Scottish Government to assess what further measures it might take to protect what are considered these magnificent birds.

Here is a desciption of what a Scottish parliamentary motion is.

Here is the full text of this particular motion.

While very welcome (and probably a direct result of all the letters of complaint and media coverage) this motion raises some interesting questions:

It was proposed by 1 MSP (whose constituency includes Brechin) and was supported by 26 others. There are 129 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Where’s the support of the other 122? Did your MSP support it? If not, why not?

Note the phrase, “….what it sees as the recent brutal killing of a golden eagle in Glen Esk, Angus” and then compare it with the official line given by Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP:

The reports may suggest that the circumstances of this incident were suggestive of an offence however there is no hard evidence and it remains possible that there is an alternative explanation“.

It seems Nigel Don MSP and the 26 MSPs who supported his motion do not share the Environment Minister’s view on what happened to that eagle. Apparently nor do the police (see here). We would encourage you to write again to Mr Wheelhouse and ask him to provide the evidence that leads him to suggest that this eagle’s death was not the result of criminal activity. Email: It’s important that this issue is clarified; any doubt that this eagle did not die as a direct result of criminal activity will be used by the Dark Side to support their continual denial about the extent of illegal raptor persecution.

Another interesting question concerns the number of known illegal deaths of golden eagles. The motion says 11 golden eagles have been illegally killed since 2007. Our figures suggest that ten have been discovered (see here):

Peebles (2007); Glen Orchy (2009); Alma (2009); Skibo 1 (2010); Skibo 2 (2010); Skibo 3 (2010); Farr (2010); Glenbuchat (2011); Lochaber (2012); Glen Esk (2012).

 So where’s the information about the 11th one? And why limit the figure to golden eagles? What about white-tailed eagles? If they’re included during this time frame, then the number of eagles known to have been illegally killed is at least 14:

GlenQuoich (2007); Glenogil (2009); Farr (2010); Skye (2011).

If the time frame was increased one year further, to 2006, then at least 16 eagles are known to have been illegally killed:

Dinnet & Kinord (2006); Glen Feshie (2006).

And then there’s all the known ‘missing’  eagles, which brings the total to at least 25:

WTE radio-tagged Bird ‘N’ disappeared in Angus Glens (2007); WTE carcass removed in suspicious circumstances from Lochindorb (2010); 4 x golden eagle leg rings found in gamekeeper’s possession on Moy Estate (2010); sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappeared’ in Monadhliaths (2011); sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappeared’ in eastern glens (2012); sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappeared’ NE of Cairngorms (2012).

And then the most recent one, the shot golden eagle found on the border of Buccleuch Estate (2012) – that brings the total to 26.

And we haven’t included any other of the known persecuted raptor species in this list!

So, well done Nigel Don MSP for highlighting a significant and on-going problem – we look forward to seeing a response from the Scottish Government.

7 thoughts on “New motion lodged in Scottish Parliament: “Death of golden eagle””

  1. Well done Nigel, my local SNP – MSP in North Angus. He and his wife attended, impartially of-course, our Nathro Hill wind farm walk to let people see the moorland involved and its proximity to a Golden Eagle SPA (Special Protected Area). Hope its the start of an opinion roll…………

  2. This is an extract from RSPB officer Rhian Evans blog on East Coast Sea Eagles, here is an example of a caring gamekeeper- keep it up;

    There is often a lot of coverage in the media regarding the perceived bad relationship between RSPB and gamekeepers on grouse moors, what often doesn’t make the headlines are the many occasions when both sides are quietly getting along.

    Two weeks ago, following what was hopefully the last batch of snow, we received a call from a gamekeeper on an estate in Angus to report a young sea eagle that had become grounded by the weather and seemed in a bad way. The caller was extremely helpful providing us with the location and happy for us to head up to the area whenever we could weather permitting. It was another three days before myself and Iain were able to make the 5km walk into the hills to check the location, due to the continued snow. Fearing the worst, of finding an injured or dead bird I had bin bags, gloves, towels and a falconers hood in my rucksack and kennel in the car in case it needed to go to the vets. We made our way up check the area stopping with the radio-tracking gear along the way and once we reached the area the bird was last seen split up in different directions to search the plateau. Iain finally picked up yellowK flying along one of the glens below. The cloud was coming and going so weren’t able to see the bird at first, but could tell from the signal that it was on the move. A good sign suggesting it was doing ok

  3. I see by their names that the vast majority of MSPs that supported the motion are SNP. Well done to them all of whatever party, and of course to the Gamekeeper who reported the Sea Eagle in trouble. Wish there was more like him.

  4. I would also like to congratulate each MSP that supported this motion. However, I also have concerns about the vast number that didn’t think this worthwhile or necessary, including every single one of the 22 SNP MSPs with cabinet or ministerial posts, including the present Environment Minister and three of his predecessors.

    And I would also like to add forward appreciation to the un-named gamekeeper. If the person is willing, then he/she should be named and congratulated publicly. But then again, perhaps the individual seeks privacy in such a case, as being associated with the “crime” of helping raptors this person could be ostracised from the profession. Well done that gamekeeper.

    1. We’ve since learned that Scottish parliamentary motions are ‘live’ for six weeks, during which time MSPs can add their name to support it. The motion, if supported by more than 30 MSPs from more than two political parties, is eligible to go forward for a parliamentary debate. See this doc ‘Guidance on Motions’ published by the Scottish Parliament for more detail. Point 13 is useful:

      Click to access GuidanceOnMotion-rev.pdf

      If you now look at the updates made to this particular motion [see here: ] you’ll see that several more MSPs have signed up since the motion was first lodged, pushing the number of MSP supporters over the magic 30 (and they’re from more than two political parties). It looks like a debate is on the cards.

  5. DEFRA response to the e-petition ‘Introduction of offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England’

    Introduction of offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England

    Responsible department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    Scotland, recognising that those who persecute birds of prey frequently do so at the direction of their employers or others with vested interests, has introduced an offence of vicarious liability, the purpose of which is to bring those parties to justice.
    This petition calls on the government to introduce an offence of vicarious liability to bring to justice those who direct or turn a blind eye to raptor persecution in England.

    As an indication of how bad thing are, in the last year only four pairs of hen harriers successfully reared chicks in England, fourteen peregrine falcon territories failed on grouse moors in Lancs forest of Bowland, and only one successful goshawk nest was recorded in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire.

    Current legislation is not enough to deter those who break the law and destroy our heritage; the introduction of vicarious liability would hit those directing the slaughter.

    This e-petition has received the following response:

    As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:

    Defra is aware of the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce a vicarious liability offence under the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Scotland) 2011, which came in to force on 1 January 2012. The new offence is targeted principally at addressing the persecution of raptors. The new offence will mean employers or agents may be prosecuted where an employee is found to have illegally killed a bird of prey (or other wild bird) – in effect they may be prosecuted for the same offence. There is, however, a defence that an employer or agent can rely on, this being that they did not know an offence was being committed and that they took all reasonable steps to prevent an offence being committed.

    It is unclear whether in practice the new offence will result in successful prosecutions of employers or agents. There are no immediate plans therefore to introduce a similar offence in England but Defra will look carefully at how the offence works in practice in Scotland. The development of our future wildlife crime policy will include consideration of how effective the new offence in Scotland has been in helping to address raptor persecution.

    This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold. [end]

    The page can be viewed here:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could get over 100,000 signatures? How could we do that?

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