Another MSP calls for greater protection of golden eagles

Following on from the news that Nigel Don MSP has lodged a Scottish parliamentary motion asking the Scottish Government to consider what further measures it can take to protect golden eagles (see here), another MSP has ramped up the pressure by adding an amendment to the original motion. Here it is:

Motion S4M-04516.1: Claudia Beamish, South Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/10/2012

Death of Golden Eagle

As an amendment to motion S4M-04516 in the name of Nigel Don (Death of Golden Eagle), insert at end; “is further appalled by the shooting of another golden eagle in the south of Scotland; urges the Scottish Government to build on the initial work carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage in Commissioned Report No. 193: A conservation framework for golden eagles: implications for their conservation and management in Scotland to develop an action plan for the next steps for golden eagle conservation in Scotland, and further urges the Scottish government to use the Year of Natural Scotland as an opportunity to educate young people about ecology and the role of predators in a healthy ecosystem, especially since the golden eagle is identified by Scottish Natural Heritage as one of the five flagship species for this initiative.

The full text of the amendment can be read here. You may also notice that the number of supporting MSPs listed underneath the original motion has grown to 32. We understand that parliamentary motions are ‘live’ for up to six weeks, during which time MSPs can add their support. The motion can be called for a debate if the number of supporting MSPs passes 30 and are representative of at least two political parties. It looks like they’ll be debating this particular motion.

We are certain that this motion (and its amendment) was triggered by the number of people writing to complain about the two recent shocking incidents involving the illegal persecution of golden eagles in Scotland (see here and here). Don’t think for a minute that you can’t make a difference. Look at what happened with ‘buzzardgate’ – a complete u-turn due to massive public opposition. Look at what happened yesterday with the proposed badger cull – a complete u-turn (although Owen Paterson denies this) and an overwhelming majority parliamentary vote against the cull going ahead.

The frequent frustrations expressed on this blog, by us and by you, could easily lead to an apathetic position of ‘What’s the point?’ That’s understandable, but it’s not a workable position. We may not be able to influence change as quickly as we would like, but we stand a much better chance of doing so if we’re still in the game. Will this latest motion (and its amendment) make any difference in the long term? Who knows, we’ll have to wait and see. The cynics amongst us will say ‘No, of course it won’t’. But even if it doesn’t, the issue is still kept in the public eye and the pressure is still building. One of these days that pressure is going to explode.

6 thoughts on “Another MSP calls for greater protection of golden eagles”

  1. Many thanks to the MSP’s who have backed this motion to date. What a relief to realise that there are at least some politicians with vision who do care about these ongoing atrocities – well in Scotland at least! If only our lot at the helm in England could emulate them, but there again, the terms ‘apathy’ and ‘being leaned on’ spring quickly to mind! But surely there are some who have spines? Well, a man can dream can’t he? Even when he reads about ex-police getting derisory sentences for breaking the law by stealing eggs of rare birds (while on duty?.! And as for the repeated claims by the SGA that it is only a few ‘bad apples’ in their ranks who are committing these crimes, what is their reaction to the revelation that 70% of the 152 people who have been convicted of offences against birds of prey under the W & C Act 1981 since 1990, were gamekeepers employed on shooting estates? And I stress – these were people actually found guilty and convicted, not suspected or charged. If the latter cases were also taken into consideration, I would suggest the figure would be off-scale! I would also like to add my name to RPS’s plea – ‘One really can make a difference”, so come on everybody, keep on battling for these charismatic birds which are so important to tourism and a healthy balanced environment.

  2. Blogmeister…I dont think you need to worry about “apathy” amongst those who comment here!…I would also like to congratulate you in sticking to your guns [now where does that expression come from!] with this Blog…Im sure it has had some influence..

    Re your comment about “being in the game”…agree, up to a point…that however is the traditional argument of appeasers throughout history – the “political game” can be played by all sides and is easily rigged out of democratic sight. I like the look of this parliamentary motion, as it appears to be a genuine reaction to the persecution problem and not some party political game….I look forward to the debate.

  3. I fully agree that writing to MSP’s & MP’s is very useful and I believe that doing similar to the national press adds effectiveness.

  4. Following a letter I sent to Paul Wheelhouse (which I was moved to write following the latest eagle persecutions) I recieved a reply, which I’ve now replied to with more questions!

    Had to smile though at the acknowledgement the Ministerial Correspondence Unit sent my for my second letter. It reads:

    Dear Mr. Spinks, I am writing to acknowledge your recent letter to Paul Wheelhouse regarding the prosecution
    of raptors. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible.
    Yours sincerely
    David Woods
    Correspondence Unit

    Surely raptors are getting a bum deal already by being persecuted, without being prosecuted as well.. hopefully it was just a typo on their part :)

    As comments above say – continue the pressure with logical and sound questioning about the effectiveness of current policies and proceedures: asking en mass for our MP’s and MSP’s to support our wildlife – we will get there! Let the floodgates open..

  5. For the record here’s the reply to my original letter, from Karen Hunter (Wildlife Crime Policy Officer):

    24 October 2012
    Dear Mr Spinks,

    Thank you for your correspondence of 1 and 15 October 2012, to the Minister for
    Environment and Climate Change, Mr Paul Wheelhouse. I have been asked to respond and
    will address the variety of points that you have raised.

    You have commented on the Minister’s letter regarding the incident involving a young golden
    eagle in Aberdeenshire. Please allow me to clarify. The reports may suggest that the
    circumstances of this incident were highly suggestive of an offence involving illegal
    persecution. However, whilst that may be the most likely explanation, there is unfortunately
    no hard evidence to that effect. In the circumstances therefore it is not appropriate to
    comment on this case as an example of illegal activity. However, clearly the RSPB have
    offered a reward for information and it remains possible that this may yet be treated as a
    criminal matter.

    With regard to the second case, it was shocking and frustrating that someone would
    deliberately shoot at a Golden eagle. While all crimes committed against wild birds are
    unacceptable, this is particularly dismaying given the fragile status of Golden eagles in
    southern Scotland. The Scottish Government is grateful for the efforts of those involved who
    have ensured that this bird now has a chance of recovering.

    Tackling wildlife crime is a priority for the Scottish Government. To this end, Scottish
    Ministers have worked closely in the development of a broad partnership approach including
    law enforcement, conservationists and land managers, through the work of the Partnership
    for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland. This partnership is dedicated to dealing
    with all forms of wildlife crime, and in particular raptor persecution. We believe that the
    partnership approach is delivering the reduction in bird of prey poisoning that can be seen in
    the statistics published by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland,
    in recent years. However we are not complacent and if it becomes evident that there has
    been a switch to other methods of persecution, we will take the necessary action to bear
    down on those methods.

    Following a full debate on wildlife crime in the Scottish Parliament during the passage of the
    Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill in 2011, the Scottish Government introduced
    vicarious liability, a ground-breaking new provision to deal with landowners and managers
    who turn a blind eye to employees committing offences against wild birds on their land.
    Vicarious liability came into force on 1 January 2012. It does not have retrospective effect,
    and so applies only to offence committed after that date. We think however that it is already
    having a significant effect as the due diligence defence to a vicarious liability charge has
    prompted many landowners and managers to examine their procedures, training and
    equipment for employees and contractors and also to remind them of their responsibilities
    under the law with regard to wild birds.

    It is extremely frustrating that it is so difficult to detect, and in some cases to prosecute and
    convict those responsible for wildlife crimes. However while it easy to make suppositions
    about circumstances of an apparent offence as reported in the media, wildlife crime must be
    subject to the same standard of proof as any other crime. Police and prosecutors also apply
    the same stringent procedure for dealing with wildlife crime as for any other sort of crime.
    The Scottish Government recognises that game shooting generates significant income and
    employment in our rural economy, often in areas where there are few alternative
    opportunities. However it is important that these businesses operate within the law and,
    while the Scottish Government recognises that most such businesses do so, concerns do
    exist about how universally the law is obeyed. However where there appear to be conflicts,
    for example between raptors and highly-intensive grouse moor management, we believe that
    an approach of seeking to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement while working with
    partner organisations to isolate those persisting with illegal practices is the best way forward.
    With regard to your final point on estate licensing, this proposal was debated during the
    passage of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill. It was clear that the
    proposal would be complex in legal terms and would require full consultation and careful
    consideration. The Parliament did not proceed with the proposal, but the then Minister
    Roseanna Cunningham observed that the debate on the idea may resurface in the future.
    The correct course of action at this time is to make the best use of existing legislation,
    including the recent introduction of vicarious liability, but if it appears that this is not
    addressing the objective of reducing crimes against raptors, the Scottish Government will be
    prepared to consider other options.

    We agree that the unlawful killing of raptors is abhorrent and has no place in today’s
    Scotland and will continue to work hard to eradicate this totally unacceptable and criminal

    Yours faithfully,

    Karen Hunter
    Wildlife Crime Policy Officer

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