A new petition has just been launched calling for the Scottish Government to introduce a State-regulated licensing scheme for all gamebird hunting in Scotland.
Background information about the petition may be read here.
Information about previous action that has been taken to address this issue may be read here.
The petition itself may be read here.
To sign this petition, please go here.
This isn’t the first time the Scottish Raptor Study Group has called for licensing. In 2014, they, with support from RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, called for grouse-shooting licences to be introduced (see here); a request that was rejected by the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse (see here). That request was an informal one, put to the Minister in a letter. This time they’ve gone for a more formal approach and they need your support.
There is really no need to explain here why the regulation of gamebird hunting is long overdue. If you’re in any doubt whatsoever, just spend a few minutes looking through some of our blog posts and also have a look at the background information links above. The gamebird-shooting industry in the UK is the least-regulated in comparison with other European countries and, arguably, is responsible for more environmental destruction than any of its European counterparts. The UK shooting industry has had decades to get its act together and self-regulate, but has failed, comprehensively, and so enforced regulation is inevitable.
What’s interesting about this petition though, is how it differs from Mark Avery’s petition to ban driven grouse shooting (which so far has attracted over 55,000 signatures – see here).
The most obvious difference is that this new Scottish petition is calling for licensing rather than for a ban, and it is directed at ALL types of gamebird hunting in Scotland (e.g. grouse, pheasant, partridge) rather than just driven grouse shooting.
Some may argue that the licensing approach is futile, mainly due to enforcement issues, and we’d have to agree with that to some extent. Scotland already has some of the strongest wildlife protection legislation in Europe but enforcement problems continue to be of concern. Nevertheless, this new petition is still worthy of your support, and importantly, there’s nothing to stop you signing both petitions!
It seems the licensing approach in Scotland is considered to have more chance of acceptance by the Scottish Government than calling for an outright ban, largely due to the fact that the Scottish Government is, in relative terms, much more progressive and further down the road on this issue than the Westminster Government. This call for licensing is in line with the Scottish Government’s previously stated approach to the illegal persecution of raptors; they’ve been saying for years now that they are prepared to take further action if the persecution doesn’t stop, so this petition could nudge them in the direction they’re already travelling, because, despite the gamebird shooting industry’s claims to the contrary, the persecution has not stopped (see here).
It could be argued that licensing is just delaying the inevitable, in that if it fails to act as an effective deterrent, a ban must surely be on the cards, but we’d have to wait 10+ (?) years to get to that position because the Scottish Government will insist, quite rightly, that the licensing approach will need time before its success or failure can be measured. It does seem highly unlikely that the Scottish Government will support calls for a ban until all other options have been tried, so the licensing approach seems to be a necessary hurdle to be jumped, but if it does turn out to be effective then that’d be good, obviously.
If the Scottish Government does decide to accept a call for licensing, the next question will be, ‘What will that licensing look like?’. Who knows, and that’d be for the Scottish Government to decide in due course, but it might include restrictions on the intensification of land managed for gamebird shooting (i.e. restrictions on muirburn, restrictions on drainage, restrictions on medication) as well as new reporting requirements (i.e. How many gamebirds shot? How many predators legally killed? How many mountain hares killed?) etc. Crucially, whatever regime is introduced, it must be independently monitored if the public is to have any confidence in it.
But that’s for later discussion. At this stage, the most important thing is to apply pressure on the Scottish Government to accept that gamebird hunting in Scotland cannot continue in its current unregulated form. Whether you think a licensing scheme will work or not isn’t that important right now; the Scottish Government needs to hear from you that this issue is important to you and that you want to stimulate a discussion about it.
The Scottish Government’s petition system works differently to the Westminster system. For Mark’s ‘ban driven grouse shooting’ e-petition, the Westminster Government requires 100,000 signatures within a six-month period before it will even consider holding a Parliamentary debate, and even then that’s not a given. In Scotland, petitions are only live for six weeks but all petitions to the Scottish Government are considered equally by the Scottish Petitions Committee, regardless of how many signatures have been registered. The Petitions Committee will automatically submit the petition for consideration to the most relevant Parliamentary Committee, in this case the Environment Committee, who will discuss and put forward their recommendations based on their findings. Please note: the Scottish petition may be signed by anybody, anywhere in the world, whereas the Westminster petitions are restricted to UK citizens/residents only.
The Scottish petition will close on 22 August 2016. We’d encourage you to sign the petition (here), not only to support the views of the Scottish Raptor Study Group, but also to let the Scottish Government know that this issue is important and deserves Parliamentary time and attention.
As mentioned above, you don’t have to restrict yourself to signing one or other of the two petitions. What happens to raptors in Scotland is of equal significance to what happens to raptors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many raptor species physically cross country borders, particularly as juveniles, and at the moment they are just as likely to be illegally killed in certain parts of Scotland as they are in certain parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For this reason, we’d also encourage you to sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting (here), which closes on 20 September 2016.