Environment Minister responds to shooting of hen harrier ‘Annie’

Yesterday we blogged about the illegal shooting of Langholm hen harrier ‘Annie’, whose wretched corpse had been found, inevitably, on a Scottish grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here).

Annie Langholm harrier shot April 2015

We asked blog readers to contact Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod to demand further action against the seemingly untouchable raptor killers. The response to that request was overwhelming – many thanks to all of you who took the time to email her and send her tweets. Within a few hours, an official statement was posted on the Scot Gov website: that’s testament to the bombardment of correspondence sent to the Minister: usually it’s met with silence for the maximum 20 working days in which the Gov has to respond.

So what did the Minister have to say? Here’s the statement in full:

Minister comments on bird of prey shooting.

Commenting on the shooting of a satellite tagged hen harrier, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr Aileen McLeod said:

“It is extremely disappointing to hear the news that Annie, one of the satellite tagged hen harriers from the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, has been shot.

“The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to working with law enforcement and others to bring an end to this outdated criminal activity. I expect all right minded people involved in the countryside, including with shooting, to agree that wildlife crime has no place in a modern Scotland. I would urge anyone with any information on the latest incident to contact Police Scotland as soon as possible.

“We have been taking action, including seeing the first successful vicarious liability prosecution, and the review of penalties will be reporting in the near future. We have committed to an examination of the regulation of the game shooting industry sector elsewhere and have made clear that, though it would be complex and require primary legislation, the licensing of shooting businesses in Scotland remains one of the options that could be adopted.

“The news about Annie is in stark contrast to recent examples of successful PAW Scotland partnership working to actively improve the chances of this magnificent bird which has been in decline in Scotland.”


Now, to those who are new to this game, her response might seem satisfactory. For those of us who are not so new to this game, it was anything but. Here’s why…..

Over two years ago (July 2013), the then Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, announced a series of new measures to tackle raptor persecution (see here).

One of those measures was to conduct a review of wildlife crime penalties. Two years on, that review is yet to be completed.

Another measure was to introduce a system of General Licence restriction orders on estates where raptor persecution was suspected (civil burden of proof as opposed to the more difficult-to-achieve criminal burden of proof). Two years on, SNH has yet to announce the implementation of any restriction order, despite there being a number of suitable candidate estates.

Three and a half years ago (1 January 2012), the new law on vicarious liability came in to force. Three and a half years later, there has only been one prosecution (although a second one is due to begin this month – even so, two prosecutions in 3.5 years is hardly impressive).

Four and a half years ago (February 2011), the now former MSP Peter Peacock suggested a public consultation on whether the SSPCA should be given increased investigatory powers. It took just over three years for the Government to actually launch the consultation (March 2014). The consultation closed on 1st September 2014. Almost one year later, we’re still waiting for the Environment Minister to comment, let alone implement any changes.

Meanwhile, the raptor killing continues.

So, sorry, Minister, if we’re not bowled over by your claim that you ‘have been taking action’. Yes, action is being taken, and that is most welcome, but it’s not nearly enough and it’s not being taken nearly fast enough. Yesterday’s news, of yet another illegally persecuted raptor, is clear testimony to that.

You’re the Environment Minister. It’s your job to deal with this issue. If you can’t handle it, then step aside and let someone else have a go.

7 thoughts on “Environment Minister responds to shooting of hen harrier ‘Annie’”

  1. The politicians have to learn that they cant keep kicking things into the long grass without it being noticed!

    As a minimum the minister needs to show how strong she is by getting out a lawn mower and cutting a path through grass and finding these stalled inactions. Even if she finds these options and implements them… its unlikely that they will bring the change that is needed….

    All of the financial, ecological and environmental evidence tells us that driven grouse shooting is simply not sustainable. It should be put out of its misery.

    Nothing is happening other than dead harriers.

    On the brighter side, she did use the term “no right minded people”… should this mean that keepers should be subjected to psychological testing and a lie detector test? I think the minister might be on to something there…

  2. Perhaps our energies here should be directed at the SNP as a whole – with the next scottish elections in sight this should become a campaign/political issue. If they see their credibility as an effective party in power being undermined by lack of action and success in fighting persecution then we’ll get some real change. The Land Reform movement seem to be putting such pressure on reasonably effectively right now.

  3. By the way – Queensberry Estate aka Drumlanrig aka Buccleuch – have publicly confirmed that the shot harrier was found on theur ground but they were mystified over the incident. Im sure you will have some records of previous “mystifying” persecution of birds in that area.Just saying.

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