Petition launched to licence gamebird hunting in Scotland

SRSG logo2A new petition has just been launched calling for the Scottish Government to introduce a State-regulated licensing scheme for all gamebird hunting in Scotland.

The petition has been lodged by the Scottish Raptor Study Group and already has the backing of RSPB Scotland (see here) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (see here).

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.

Thank you.

17 thoughts on “Petition launched to licence gamebird hunting in Scotland”

  1. Easy way to calculate the license fee. Add up all the subsidies the estate receives, plus the expected net income from the shoots, take off five percent, and you have your magic number. All fines to start at six percent of that subsidy plus net income number. Payable for each breach of license committed, loaded gun left on moor, dozen pole traps set, two shot buzzards found, four acres of moor burned “by accident”; well that is 19 fines right there. Each at that minimum six percent . Not to mention working hours, “green” energy use, etc and so on. I bet I could have them bankrupt within three weeks if I put my mind to it. It means the fines are not so big as to outrage public opinion, but when combined with the cost of licence it would be ruinous to get even one and there doesn’t need a successful criminal prosecution to apply them.

  2. I don’t feel it is realistic to sign both this petition and Mark Avery’s, being convinced, following a lifetime of experience, that the only way to rid ourselves of the shame that is grouse shooting is to ban it altogether. Providing the opposition with a compromise, when there is already legislation in place to outlaw the persecution of raptors, is a gift to them. It would be interesting to know Mark Avery’s true feelings about this latest development. If I were him I’d be profoundly disappointed, because it seems inevitable that if this latest proposed model is applied in Scotland, it would likely be picked up in the rest of the UK. This would effectively be a get-out clause, and would undermine the petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Some may think it’s a step in the right direction, but I believe firmly that it’s a dangerous route to go down. The campaign against various other environmental problems associated with grouse shooting would effectively be put on hold, and the wrangling continue for many more years to come. Harriers will continue to be ruthlessly killed. We need firm coordinated action against the evil of grouse shooting and all blood sports, not a woolly compromise. As a longstanding member of the Scottish Raptor Study Group I’m appalled that this decision has been taken in my name, with no consultation.

  3. Sorry to say that I think the chances of getting a ban or licensing are close to zero given the politics & vested interests currently.
    Just look at the record of Scotland’s politicians on these issues & the low profile of the issue in the rest of the UK.
    Only activism & raising the profile to bring the criminality to public notice will do the job.
    Injustice needs to be addressed by a more radical movement.

  4. The Scottish petition and the rationale behind it are worse than I originally feared. It answers many unanswered questions as to why RSPB, and in Scotland the SOC, seemed less than enthusiastic about Mark’s petition to ban driven grouse shooting. This all becomes too clear on reading the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s “50 for the Future” guest blog by Stuart Housden, Director in Scotland of the RSPB. Rather than take the bold step of committing full support to Mark’s e-petition, the organisations involved appear to have chosen to play to the RSPB tune. As a long-term enthusiastic supporter of two of the main bodies involved, namely the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, it saddens me greatly that they have chosen this path, especially apparently without consulting their wider membership. I assume that at least as a matter of courtesy, the RSPB and/or RSG discussed this with Mark before embarking upon this alternative initiative? The idea of course is almost as old as the hills, and has been discussed quite widely in the past but never acted upon.

    Personally I stuck my neck out last year and attempted to engage SOC and (indirectly) RSPB in Scotland more actively in Mark Avery’s campaign, but I can see now why my attempts were met with such resistance, even some hostility and personal abuse. Reading Stuart Housden’s guest blog sent a shiver down my spine, and as I read through it, it became more apparent that the proposed licensing system, although not without some appeal, was like a death sentence for the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting. If introduced, I believe it will greatly reinforce the hand of the shooting set (although even they might not realise this initially), and we can forget the concerns we have about the unnecessary cruelty involved in game shooting. The management practices of grouse moors, abhorrent as they are, will continue, a licensing system giving nothing really but respectability to this disgusting and environmentally damaging human behaviour. I suspect that a period of negotiation would lead to a watering down of the proposals put forward by RSPB et al. Any hope of ending driven grouse shooting will vanish, and raptors continue to be persecuted, at least for some considerable period into the future. How can we be so naive? I can only presume that the RSPB is protecting its Royal Charter and seeking favour with the Establishment, by being at best neutral, or at worst supportive, concerning the future of game shooting in the UK. Civilisation will just have to wait a while longer, possibly a century or more.

    A softer option like this is a gift to politicians and grouse shooters alike. Meanwhile the conservation movement will have shot itself in the foot.

  5. am against licences utterly. the estates will easily get their licenses. nothing will change. same happened with wild animals in circuses. Cameron promised animals in circuses would get a ban but then licencing came in and nothing has changed for the animals driven up and down motorways, being beaten etc. nothing will change except that the driven grouse shooting to stop campaign will get shelved. the RSPB man was quite keen on licencing. hopeless man.

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