General Licence restriction not worth paper it’s written on

SNH logo 2Further to yesterday’s blog about the status of the General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate (see here), SNH has now provided an explanation.

You’d better make sure you’re sitting down:

Thank you for your email to Andrew Bachell. I am writing to give you an update.

SNH issued a restriction on the use of General Licences in two separate locations in November 2015. Following this, Raeshaw Farms Limited petitioned the Courts to seek a Judicial Review (JR) of our decision. The Court has yet to make a decision as to whether or not a JR will proceed but we expect a decision shortly.

As an interim measure during the petitions process the Judge suspended the restriction up until 10th June 2016. This date has now passed and the use of General Licences on this land is once more prohibited. Our website has been updated accordingly.

In response to an application from Raeshaw Farms Limited, we have granted them an individual licence to carry out some activities otherwise permitted under General Licence. This licence is subject to specific conditions and controls. This will allow the business to continue to operate but under tighter scrutiny rather than the relatively ‘light touch’ approach to Regulation that General Licences afford.

We will issue a press statement once the legal proceedings have concluded.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Halfhide, SNH Director of Operations


This is unbelievable, even by SNH standards.

SNH issued a General Licence restriction order on Raeshaw Estate as a sanction for recent alleged raptor persecution crimes, on the basis of evidence provided to SNH by Police Scotland (see here and here). Even though that evidence wasn’t enough for a criminal prosecution, SNH must have been satisfied that it was sufficient to warrant this penalty, otherwise they wouldn’t have issued the GL restriction order.

Raeshaw Estate has been the subject of several police raids in connection with alleged wildlife crime since 2004, although none have resulted in a prosecution (see here).

SNH’s procedures for issuing a GL restriction are now subject to a potential judicial review but the GL restriction is now back in place on Raeshaw Estate after a temporary suspension by the court.

So why the hell has SNH now issued an individual licence to permit the very activities their GL restriction is supposed to prevent?!

What is the point of having a GL restriction in place if SNH is then going to totally undermine it by issuing an individual licence?

SNH says the individual licence is “subject to specific conditions and controls”. And what might they be? Unless you’ve got an enforcement officer shadowing the individual licence holder (wholly impractical and unrealistic), SNH is placing a huge amount of trust in the individual licence user to comply with these ‘specific conditions and controls’. That’ll be the trust that SNH deemed absent from the estate when it issued the GL restriction order.

UNBELIEVABLE. Remember this the next time the Scottish Government says it’s getting tough on wildlife crime.

25 thoughts on “General Licence restriction not worth paper it’s written on”

  1. Unbelievable is correct.
    If this continues the SNP and SNH will be overseeing the fall in raptor numbers in Scotland down to those in England.
    One wonders if this is deliberate?
    I fear for those hen harriers left near Langholm.

    1. Red Kites are already doing much better in England – the SNP should hang their heads in shame.

        1. Yes, near grouse moors such as those south of the Black Isle, yet they thrive where there aren’t any grouse moors such as the Chilterns. It is only too obvious as to who is killing them – Gamekeepers.

      1. Not in all parts of England. Ten Red Kites found shot or dead in suspicious circumstances in North Yorkshire in the last three months. See Yorkshire Post 16 June.

  2. Should have taken your advice and sat down, would have saved my jaw hitting the floor!
    Farce and fiasco from top to bottom!

  3. It looks like Roseanna Cunningham has seamlessly taken over from Aileen McLeod, by doing nothing whatsoever to combat wildlife crime.

  4. We, the humanely concerned for wildlife are just wasting our time believing that a solution to Bird of Prey killing will be provided, by putting our trust in the SNH, the present Government or any other Government that may follow the SNP. The situation is akin to Neville Chamberlaine to-ing and fro-ing to appease Hitler. Only a “war” will finally solve the abuse animals and birds suffer in the UK, associated with shooting estates. What have we got to face this Mob? Our army is made up of thousands of concerned and dedicated people who have given their time and money to contest the killing of our raptors and creatures such as Mountain Hares, Corvids etc. The opposing army has great financial back with the City’s big earners financing much of the shooting industry. Along with that finance, they have the Establishment and its blood sport traditions, along with the syndicates of shooters made up of less well-off punters straining to be a country sort, with gun and dog. Then there are the seriously rich, who can afford to bid high to shoot an endangered Rhino in Namibia, or a pride of White Lions in South Africa. Ours is a Peasants’ Army versus mail clad knights.

    These depraved characters who have to kill to get a buzz, are just laughing at us, and when we write or email our MPs, MSPs, the response shows polite indifference, or some fake promise to do something about it. The “sheep” herd we have as Scottish MPs, along with our MSPs of the majority party, are told to be quiet on the issues of blood sports and animal welfare. Our cause is well down on the list of priorities with such people, and with the Police. If it were not for the two Green MSPs raising wildlife issues, our cause to save our Birds of Prey, would have no champions to fight for them at Holyrood.

    We need to form ourselves into a formidable body to take on the opposition, and through public opinion, make sure the Scottish Parliament has to respond to this crisis of survival for our wildlife. Failure to do so, will mean a future of dithering and complaining, getting us nowhere. Have we the strength to do it? Where our champions like Sir William Wallace and Kier Hardy? Like ISIS, this obliteration of our wildlife is a medieval practice carried to excess into the present day, as there is no reasoning with a fundamentalist enemy.

  5. I take it that we should now address any questions we might have about wildlife crime, straight to SLE, rather than bothering about SNH ?

    Perhaps the police could have meetings with their ‘stakeholders’, you know, the burglars union, and murder inc. then they could release a report in due time.

    WHY are SNH and the National Parks having talks with the PR / lobby group for the very people committing wildlife crime ? This is madness, you couldn’t make it up!

    If the estates are stopping you from doing something….. then PASS A LAW, you are the government, start acting like it.

    LAND VALUE TAX NOW !! There is only a couple of thousand of them, there is 5 million of us.

    1. ‘WHY are SNH and the National Parks having talks with the PR / lobby group for the very people committing wildlife crime ? This is madness, you couldn’t make it up!’
      Spot on.
      It really stink of corruption. Either that or pathological naivety.
      Either way, as said numerous times, SNH is definitely not fit for purpose.

      1. In my experience, naivety is a prerequisite to being employed by SNH. That and an uncanny ability to walk around with their ears and eyes tightly shut!

  6. Direct action is becoming inevitable. I have often wondered what the response would be if a gamekeeper were to be found hanging from a tree with a dead Hen Harrier around his neck. You can guarantee the shooting industry would be up in arms (pun intended).

    1. It is a truly astonishingly weak response. It sounds like SNH offered the individual licences to be kind to the estate and to be seen to be reasonable to the judicial review.
      I think we need an FOI to find out the sequence of events. Did the estate apply for individual licences? What regime has SNH put in place to monitor these licences? How often will their staff inspect the Estates? What will they inspect? The traps on the hill, the traps in the shed? Will the keepers have to keep records? Will SNH do random DNA wipes?

      Or will the keeper just tick a box at the end of the licence that promises that they were very good and they are bound to be on Santa’s nice list?

  7. This estate has a deplorable history and a strong case for removing the General Licence.

    I understand that a number of xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx were found on the grouse moor.

    The search was in reposonse to a poisoned bird of prey having been found earlier.

    This against the backdrop of continued raptor persecution.

    Removing the General Licence would appear to entirely proportionate and correct response.

    What are SNH thinking by getting this far and then issuing an individual licence. It defeats everything that has been achieved and sends out entirely the wrong message.

    This case goes to show nothing beats a criminal prosecution and this is exactly what should have happened with this case. Once convicted the General Licence is automatically removed and any individual licence would have apply an the basis of having a criminal conviction.

    SNH have to have a much more robust approach if estates are to be deterred from illegal practices.

    The other issue is the removal of the General Licence should be made public, how can breaches be reported if no one knows they are not permitted to use the General LIcence.

    Well done RPUK for sticking with this case and making the facts public.

  8. General Licences would not be worth the paper they were written on IF they were written on paper at all. All you have to do is read the signed license on-line at the SNH website and so long as you follow the very lax rules you can go off and kill unlimited numbers of perhaps 20+ species of native birds for whatever of the many reasons you might choose. One legit reason for killing native wild birds is to artificially increase the numbers of tame, intensively reared non-native pheasants for low-paid peasants to shoo in front of a bunch of bunnets with shotguns. I thought the whole General License scheme was up for review this year – the sooner that happens the better.

  9. This is the same estate that challenges walkers and photographs them.

    Killing wildlife with impunity…………………..

  10. Am I the only person who realises that the General Licence restriction is meaningless in terms of grouse moor management? All it does effectively on the moor in Stirlingshire, with which I am familiar, is to disallow the killing of Carrion Crows. The other species listed are either absent, scarce or of very low impact at this location. Removing crows makes no significant difference to grouse productivity, so the ‘keepers won’t notice any adverse effect. It’s only temporary anyway, and they’ll soon compensate once it’s over by shooting or trapping every crow in sight. Keepers love any excuse to exercise revenge. Their greatest targets regarding predator control (apart from Hen Harriers) are Foxes, followed by Stoats, both of which they can continue to slaughter with impunity. If they feel the irresistible urge to control crows while the restriction is in effect, all they have to do is surround the restricted area with baited crow traps, or focus on shooting crows at a communal roost site which is outside the zone. As punishment for a crime, or a deterrent against possible criminality, it’s just about the weakest imaginable. We may as well prohibit the wearing of tartan kilts. For those of us who oppose grouse shooting, it’s a diversion.

    1. jack you are missing the major issue associated with crow traps.

      crows are the by catch! raptors are often the main species caught and then killed by the gamekeepers using them.

      the licence allows the trap to be operated legally 365 days of the year making them particularly effective at catching raptors particularly at certain times of year.

      crow traps work on the principle of using a decoy to catch territorial corvids at certain times of the year. so why would so many choose to use them when they are not effective due to the time of year or their position, i.e high up in a hill

      killing the odd raptor is unlikely to have an impact on the national population, the misuse of crows traps contributes majorly to reducing raptor populations.

      don’t underestimate the removal of the general licence.

      1. Graeme M, I’m sorry but this doesn’t make sense to me in several respects. I don’t know what part of the country you’re in, but I can assure you that in southern/central Scotland on grouse moors the vast majority of birds trapped in crow traps are crows. I won’t go into detail explaining how I know that! However I also know that they do catch the occasional raptor too, mostly Buzzards and Sparrowhawks, but it is not the main means by which gamekeepers control raptor numbers. I’ve never known a harrier caught in a crow trap, and it must be a pretty rare occurrence because none of my Raptor Group harrier worker colleagues has ever come across it, neither have I come across any report of such an event. Maybe you could enlighten me.

        Again maybe there is regional variation, but in my part of the country crows are not infrequently found “high up in a hill” at any time of year, only scarce on grouse moors due to persistent persecution.

        I’m sorry but in my experience the temporary restriction on the use of crow traps will make no significant difference to the number of raptors killed, and certainly not Hen Harriers which are the main target on grouse moors. Not killing crows will also make no significant difference to the numbers of young grouse reared (contrary to the conventional wisdom of the game industry), so in what way could it possibly be an effective deterrent? The industry is only fighting the case because of the precedence involved, which they see as the thin end of the wedge. It’s no more than a mild embarrassment to them, and causes them no inconvenience whatsoever.

        1. Jack

          Firstly I am happy to agree that hen harriers unlikely to be caught in multi catch crow traps however

          Kites, buzzards, eagles, goshawks, owls,sparrowhawks most definitely do.

          I would be interested to know how you are able to state ” that in central.southern scotland on grouse moors the vast majority of birds caught in crow traps are crows”.

          This is a very easy and logical assumption to make.

          I know persons who are continually using these traps and have done for many years and inform me that it is crows that are the by catch . I have personally seen for myself many species of raptors being caught in crow traps.

          Some cases have reached court and can be easily researched, details of some have been included on this blog. You may remember the Aberdeenshire case David Scott 2006 seen to shoot 2 buzzards in a crow trap and a search of the area revealed 11 dead buzzards, stuffed down a rabbit hole which was sited near to the trap.

          That was 1 single trap on 1 single day, mulltiply that by all the traps being used in Scotland over a number of years and you begin to get an idea of what effect crow traps could potentially have on raptor populations.

          Even more effective for catching raptors are Larson trap which when used with a ‘lure’ magpie, jackdaw or up until recently a jay.

          I think you are underestimating the effects of removal of the General Licence. Being realistic I don’t see it as a silver bullet but most definitely will go towards making things more difficult for those who wish to persecute raptors.

          1. Graeme M, I don’t dispute that crow traps catch raptors, and I certainly don’t dispute the figures given in RPUK, but we will have to beg to differ. I have spent a lot of my lifetime birdwatching on grouse moors, including 18 years of intense Hen Harrier monitoring, and have always made a point of following a route which involves inspecting as many crow traps as possible. I have difficulty making an estimate, but I must have made somewhere in the region of at least 600 inspections. I admit I have not kept a record of the numbers of each species trapped, but I can say with utmost confidence that the vast majority of them were Carrion Crows. So my knowledge that you question is from first hand experience

            On more lowland farmland they were mostly Rooks, Magpies and Carrion Crows. As for Sparrowhawks and Buzzards (mainly), xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. My only regret is that I failed to report raptors which were already dead, but my reason for that was because xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx. I don’t know what the ‘keepers are like in your neck of the woods, but in mine they can be quite intimidating and are known to threaten violence towards anyone who interferes with their ‘business.’ Thankfully about half of them have now retired or been made redundant, and there is only a handful of crow traps still operating.

            Judging by the impressive list of species, including eagles and goshawks, that you have witnessed being trapped, I can only assume you live in a different part of the country to me, one far richer in raptors. I suppose that could explain the greater frequency of them being trapped. It’s just a pity there are no official, certainly not reliable, data available of numbers and species caught in crow traps. For that we’d have to rely on honest gamekeepers, and I must say I’ve never met such a creature.

            [Ed: Jack Snipe – part of your comment has been deleted – you’ll understand why!]

            1. I do indeed, Ed., but thought I was only incriminating myself, not bringing RPUK or any other party into disrepute. No harm done, I think I got my point across.

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