Leadhills Estate confirmed as member of Scottish Land & Estates

The Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in south Lanarkshire has featured regularly on this blog (see here).

Since 2003, 46 confirmed incidents of wildlife crime have been discovered either on or near to the estate, but only resulting in two successful convictions (2004 – gamekeeper convicted of shooting a short-eared owl; 2009 – gamekeeper convicted of laying out a poisoned rabbit bait). Here’s the list:

2003 April: hen harrier shot [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2004 May: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2004 May: short-eared owl shot [gamekeeper convicted]

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [gamekeeper convicted]

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2010 October: short-eared owl shot [no prosecution]

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap [no prosecution]

2011 December: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2012 October: golden eagle shot (just over boundary with Buccleuch Estate) [no prosecution]

2013 May: shot otter found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 June: significant cache of pre-prepared poisoned baits found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 August: red kite found shot and critically-injured in Leadhills village [no prosecution]

2014 February: poisoned peregrine (Carbofuran) [‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

For a long time, we’ve been trying to find out whether this estate is a member of the landowners’ organisation Scottish Land and Estates – an organisation that regularly claims to be fighting hard against raptor persecution. All our attempts to find out have been met with a wall of silence. We knew that Lord Hopetoun served on the SLE Board, so it was quite likely that his estate would be a member of SLE, but we weren’t able to find definitive evidence.

Well, we have now. Leadhills Estate has launched its own website (see here). It’s a spectacular example of how to conduct a public relations charm offensive – lots of info about how the estate is supporting the local community: providing a new home for the volunteer fire crew, lending a hand on Gala Day, engaging in a village clean-up for Christmas, and providing support for the Leadhills Miners Library. It brings a tear to the eye. There’s also plenty of encouragement for walkers to keep to the tracks so as not to disturb the wildlife – because Leadhills Estate really cares about wildlife.

Of most interest to us is a statement on the web site’s home page:

‘Leadhills Estate is a member of Scottish Land and Estates – an organisation which promotes the work of landowners and rural businesses undertake [sic] for the benefit of rural Scotland’.

Amazing. We’d love to hear how SLE justifies the membership of Leadhills Estate in their wildlife-crime-fighting organisation.

The Leadhills Estate website also includes a gallery showing images that visitors can expect to see when they visit this most welcoming of estates. Here’s another one for them – taken at one of many stink pits hidden away on Leadhills Estate (far from the tracks that visitors are encouraged to stick to). For those who don’t know, stink pits are used (legally) by gamekeepers in which to dump the rotting carcasses and entrails of dead wildlife. They set snares around the edge of the stink pit to catch (and then kill) any animals that may be attracted to the stench of death (typically foxes). This particular stink pit includes a few fox carcasses oh, and a cat. Nice, eh? Welcome to Leadhills Estate.

Leadhills dead cat stinkpit - Copy



19 thoughts on “Leadhills Estate confirmed as member of Scottish Land & Estates”


    Highland and Islands Division

    Telephone 01463 720396 – Out of Hours call 101

    PR 2519

    12 March 2015 For immediate release

    Multi-agency Highland Wildlife Crime conference held at Divisional Headquarters today

    Police Scotland Highland and Islands Division welcomed partner agencies to Divisional Headquarters today as hosts of the Highland Wildlife Crime conference. The theme of the event was to focus on improving partnership working to tackle wildlife crime. Partner agencies attending today included Scottish Land and Estates, RSPB, ScottishSPCA, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Raptor Study Group, Association of District Salmon Fisheries Boards, Forestry Commission for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, the Cairngorms National Park and Scottish Gamekeepers Association. Various speeches and Q&A sessions were held on many different topics, including freshwater pearl mussel crime and the new advances in DNA profiling now helping to assist police investigations. Commenting on the event, N Division Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator Chief Inspector Colin Gough said: “It’s been excellent to have so many different partner agencies attending today providing input on how we can work together to tackle wildlife crime. “Investigations into incidents of wildlife crime can be complex and pro-longed so it is vital we encourage and improve our strong partnership working to enable us to bring those who are intent on harming our Scottish wildlife to justice. “Here in the Highlands we are blessed with diverse and vibrant wildlife all around us – it is our collective responsibility to ensure we are protecting these species through the many different networks and techniques at our disposal. “Already we have been able to evidence how recent advances in technology help us link the suspect with the crime – in doing so we send out a very strong message that wildlife crime is not tolerated by Police Scotland and the many agencies involved in protecting our wildlife.” Keith Duncan, Operations Officer for Scottish National Heritage added: “It’s fantastic to be here with the many different agencies dedicated to tackling wildlife crime. This level of co-ordinated partnership working at both a national and a regional level is key to successful outcomes and in raising awareness to local communities and members of the public. Wildlife crime can often go unreported so ensuring members of the public are confident in reporting such incidents is an important step going forward.”

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  2. Seems strange that some of the probable main perpetrators of wildlife crime in Scotland, such as certain members of Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association are even allowed to be considered as Partner agencies ???

  3. Looks like they got the “local” police officer/ officers in their pocket. It would not surprise me if some of them have not taken part in a shoot on this Estate as it’s very disturbing to note the amount of incidents that have been recorded,let along the many that have probably been missed. How on earth can an Estate have so many illegal incidents take place on or near its land and nothing seems to get done about it.

    No wonder they advise “outsiders” to keep to the designated footpaths etc. It’s fortunate that someone hasn’t been killed yet with the amount of illegal poison that’s being laid out on the land. Has this Estate even been searched for illegal poison ? Does it receive subsidies via the tax payer (silly question I know considering a “Lord” has an interest in the Estate).

    And as for this Estate spending money to assist the locals….em makes you think as to what their motives are regarding this. Are they a member of the “Independent States” of Scotland who don’t appear to be the subject of Scots law unlike the majority of the citizens in this country.

    C’mon Scottish government please, please surprise the decent people of this country who won’t to see our wildlife survive the wrath of these mindless freaks and after this “amnesty” is finished regarding banned poisons, prosecute those that have it in their possession or on their land, before we have no wildlife in or near these Estates or a member of the public is killed by the total disregard of the use of these illegal substances.

    [Ed: slight edit made – no evidence found to demonstrate it’s the Leadhills gamekeepers putting out the poison (apart from the one who was successfully prosecuted). It must have been those pesky District Nurses again…]

  4. “Me”…There have been successful prosecutions of keepers on this estate..and there have been several searches [include one massive one]..there have also been many “unsuccessful” reports to the Police and Crown Office…but nothing which has actually stopped the killing…..If the police were serious about tackling wildlife crime [and I just laugh at the Police Corporate Communication above..Ive attended more of those affairs than I like to remember none of which had the slightest effect] – then they would be walking over that estate every spring [now would be a good time] as it is obviously a magnet for crime.

  5. The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association’s claim to be a responsible organisation for law-abiding gamekeepers is as credible as the Japanese scientific research whaling industry. In my opinion it’s time for organisations like RSPB to take a firmer line against the shooting fraternity, and not get in bed with them.

  6. well I think the fact that XXXXX XXXXX who was the Head Keeper at Leadhills was also a JP might explain the lack of successful prosecutions.

  7. Thanks for that info Lindsey, I am not at all surprised to hear this, many gamekeepers are also specials so it is no wonder they get away with so much criminal activity. In my younger days I used to be in awe, and have full respect for those administering justice, but that was a long time ago!

  8. They throw them to rot a few meters from the snares here. The ‘legal’ dead wildlife. In Perth I once found two dead foxes dumped in the entrance to their den. It’s too sickening to describe.

  9. Am I correct in saying that all the successful action on this estate that resulted in prosecution was a direct result of the efforts of sspca.

    This shows that it is possible to catch and prosecute wildlife offenders.

    Surely giving sspca increased powers will enable them to improve the current depressing situation.

  10. That’s kind of missing the point Sue, which is the number of alleged crimes NOT prosecuted. I may be in a minority, but I’m not convinced the SSPCA is the right body to be policing wildlife crime. This is not to say they don’t do great work in their field.

    1. If the SSPCA is not the right body to be policing wildlife crime then who do you suggest should be? Surely you can’t mean the police are the right people, they’ve already shown on many occasions that they are not fit for the task. Corruption in the police force is so widespread on so many fronts it’s becoming difficult to know just who is pulling their strings, especially so on the shooting estates where the owners are quite often people in high places and of extreme influence.

  11. Jack

    whilst I agree with you that the issue of undetected crimes is THE major issue here, aren’t you missing the point that on the few occasions that have resulted in successful prosecution it has been as a result of the SSPCA who have achieved this with limited powers. This asks the question in all the other occasions of which there appears to be dozens and dozens ,why haven’t the police managed solve a single one…..?

    And Leadhills is by far not the only place in Scotland carrying out such levels of wildlife crime.

    As far as not being convinced SSPCA are the right body, I accept your right to have that opinion but have to ask you for your solution and who is the correct body to improve things. ( Yes, we would all like the police to be able to do so but this is just not happening or likely to change. For loads of reasons)

    SSPCA may not be the silver bullet but their track record speaks for itself and strongly indicates that extra SSPCA powers are going to help the current situation, which everyone accepts is dire.

    Its a no brainer!

  12. Sue, this will sound feeble, but that’s a difficult question to answer. Not because I don’t have one, but because it is complex and I wouldn’t know how to keep it concise. Perhaps I’m biased because I have crossed the wrong people in SSPCA. As I’ve said on this website before, I’m filled with respect for the grass roots workers in SSPCA, but have sceptical opinions about some senior management in their organisation. People like Dave Dick (formerly) and Ian Thomson of RSPB Scotland have done tremendous work in the field, but I feel that the RSPB as a whole could do a hell of a lot more to speak out against shooting birds for fun (is that any less disgusting than shooting grebes for hat feathers?). They should be applying greater pressure on politicians, civil servants and police to take the wildlife protection legislation more seriously. They say the right things following advice from their marketing department, but are far too conservative in my opinion (no doubt they consider themselves liberal). There is a tangible groundswell of opinion just now against persecution of raptors, and raptor group members need to stop being elitist and unite with other conservationists to encourage this trend before it slips away again. Petitions and campaigns against grouse shooting are a welcome start to such a process, but I’d rather see more direct, non-violent action to highlight the cruelty and law-breaking indulged in by groups of powerful people pathetically persecuting harriers and mountain hares under the excuse of ‘wildlife management’, just to give them more grouse to enjoy killing.

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