How to stop the illegal persecution of raptors in the Cairngorms National Park

Yesterday we blogged about the illegal persecution of birds of prey in the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) and how, 13 years after the Park was first established, persecution continues (see here).

Some (but definitely not all) the grouse moor managers within the CNP are running rings around the Park Authority (CNPA), and have been doing so for years: Golden eagles poisoned, golden eagles ‘disappearing’, white-tailed eagles ‘disappearing’, white-tailed eagle nests felled, hen harriers shot, breeding hen harriers in catastrophic decline, goshawks shot, goshawk nests being attacked, peregrines shot, peregrine nest sites burnt out, breeding peregrines in long-term decline, buzzards poisoned, buzzards shot, red kites poisoned, short-eared owls shot, poisoned baits laid out, illegally-set traps, and mountain hares massacred. All within the Cairngorms National Park, a so-called haven for Scottish wildlife. It’s scandalous.

Lad HH

So what has the Cairngorms National Park Authority been doing about all this? To date, they’ve adopted the softly, softly partnership approach, which, to be fair, is a reasonable starting point. But this approach relies on ALL the ‘partners’ pulling together in the same direction; it’s not going to work if some of the ‘partners’ don’t or won’t comply with the law (i.e. not killing protected birds of prey).

We’ve seen the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan, a five-year initiative which included the aim of restoring the full community of raptor species within the NP and managing mountain hare populations for the benefit of golden eagles (see here). Three years on and evidence we produced yesterday shows the Plan is going nowhere fast (see here).

We’ve seen the Convenor of the CNPA pleading with the then Environment Minister to help combat raptor persecution within the NP because it ‘threatens to undermine the reputation of the National Park as a high quality wildlife tourism destination‘ (see here). The then Environment Minister (Dr Aileen McLeod) attended a meeting with ‘partners’ during which there was a ‘recognition of the progress made in recent years’ (see here). Eh? Have a look at our list of raptor persecution crimes within the CNP (here) – can you spot any sign of progress? No, because there hasn’t been any.

The next approach from the CNPA was the ‘East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership’. This is an interesting one. One of the stated aims of this ‘partnership’, comprising six contiguous estates and the CNPA, is to ‘enhance raptor and other priority species conservation’. A noble aim, but when you look at the details of this Partnership’s work plan it’s all pretty vague and lacking substance. It can be downloaded here:


Things don’t improve when you realise who is involved with this ‘Partnership’. One of the six estates is none other than Invercauld Estate. You remember Invercauld Estate – the place where illegally-set spring traps were recently discovered (here). The Estate’s response was (a) to suggest it didn’t happen but if it had happened it was probably a set-up to smear the grouse-shooting industry (see here), and (b) despite nothing happening, the Estate ‘took action’ although we’re not allowed to know what that ‘action’ entailed because it’s a secret (see here). Presumably, the setting of illegal traps isn’t part of the work plan designed to ‘enhance raptor and other priority species conservation’.

So where does the CNPA go from here? Well, we said yesterday that there was light at the end of the tunnel. And there is. The CNPA is currently consulting on the NP’s ‘Partnership Plan’ for 2017-2022. This is the management plan for the CNP for that five-year period and will help guide the CNPA’s work on the most pressing issues. The CNPA has identified several ‘big issues’ on which it wants to hear your views, and one of those is ‘Moorland Management’.

The question the CNPA is posing is:

How can management for grouse be better integrated with wider habitat and species enhancement objectives such as woodland expansion, peatland restoration and raptor conservation?

The obvious answer to achieving raptor conservation is to get the grouse shooting estates to stop illegally killing raptors! But how?

In the consultation document, the CNPA says the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership is the stated mechanism for delivering raptor conservation within the eastern side of the NP. Er, illegally set traps being found on one of the Partnership estates doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?

There must come a time when the CNPA has to realise that the ‘partnership’ approach is not working, and to be frank, is unlikely to ever succeed. In our opinion, that time is now.

The CNPA actually has a great deal of power and authority to act against those who continue to persecute raptors within the NP. Have a read of this blog (here) published on the always interesting ParksWatchScotland blog. The authors suggest that the CNPA can introduce ‘hunting byelaws’ for grouse shooting estates within the CNP. Permits could be removed if wildlife crime is discovered and also if Estates refuse to allow monitoring cameras. Permits could also be used to limit the size of grouse ‘bags’, thus helping break the cycle of ever-increasing intensification of grouse moor management practices. Permits could also be used to limit the number of traps in use.

As the authors also point out, byelaws were recently created for the Loch Lomond & Trossachs NP to try and limit camping. So why not create them for the CNP to try and limit raptor persecution?

The CNPA has four aims, set out by Parliament:

  1. To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the CNP;
  2. To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the CNP;
  3. To promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the CNP by the public;
  4. To promote sustainable economic and social development of the CNP’s communities.

These aims are to be pursued collectively. However, if there is conflict between the first aim and any of the others then greater weight must be given to the first aim (section 9.6 of the National Parks (Scotland) Act).

We’d encourage as many of you as possible to participate in the CNPA’s consultation process (it closes on 30 Sept 2016) and mention the idea of these byelaws and the CNPA’s responsibility for conserving the natural heritage above all else. You might think, ‘Oh, what’s the point, the CNPA won’t listen to me, they’re in the pockets of the large shooting estates’. Well, perhaps so in the past but perhaps things are changing. Have a read of this blog (here), entitled ‘Time to move with the times‘ recently written by Will Boyd Wallis, Head of Land Management and Conservation at the CNPA. There are clear signs in Will’s blog that the old regime is being challenged and the more people who write in support of this, the better.

You can access the consultation documents here.

10 thoughts on “How to stop the illegal persecution of raptors in the Cairngorms National Park”

  1. Please, when submitting a consultation response, think about the whole habits rather than a few flagship species. Grouse Moor management is all about s implying habitat structure to a Heather monoculture. The raptors are the flagship top predators but the severe continual short rotation Muir burn is getting rid of so much more. Please promote scrub willow and juniper, the natural habitat the red grouse. Remind them if the impacts on invertebrates and reptiles. Draw attention to the simple fact that strip burning is an eyesore. Give the argument against driven grouse shooting the bredth and depth. It deserves.

  2. Burning is not just an eyesore but releases carbon from not only the heather but also the underlying peat. Dried out moors don’t hold water and can, and do, cause flooding from excessive run-off.

  3. Just responded to the Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan 2017-2022: Consultation, as follows:-

    Cairngorms National Park Vision
    Our long-term vision for the Cairngorms National Park is:
    An outstanding National Park, enjoyed and valued by everyone, where nature and people thrive together.

    Our headline long-term outcomes for the National Park are:
    • Conservation – A special place for people and nature with natural and cultural heritage enhanced
    • Visitor Experience – People enjoying the Park through outstanding visitor and learning experiences
    Do you agree? Please explain your answer.
    ANSWER Yes. But beware of the partners.


    The next 5 years are:
    • Restoring and enhancing habitats on a landscape scale
    • Protecting and enhancing species diversity
    • Building support and enthusiasm for nature
    * Do you agree these are the big conservation challenges we should be addressing through our next Partnership Plan? Please explain your answer
    ANSWER Yes. But beware of the partners.


    Would you like to respond to Issue 1 – Landscape Scale Conservation
    ANSWER No.


    Would you like to respond to Issue 2 – Deer Moorland Management
    ANSWER Yes.


    Conservation – Issue 2
    2. Deer and Moorland Management

    * Should the Park Partnership Plan set guidance on the appropriate range of deer densities necessary to deliver the public interest?

    ANSWER Partnership has not worked. First lay down the law, and only then negotiate with the estates.


    * How can management for grouse be better integrated with wider habitat and species enhancement objectives such as woodland expansion, peatland restoration and raptor conservation?

    ANSWER Partnership has not worked. First lay down the law, and only then negotiate with the estates.

    I’m finished, take me to the end !!!!

  4. Some of the keeper fraternity are making very worried noises about the new tone coming out of the CPNA possibly hopeful sign and..well not exactly sorry to hear they are troubled. There’s definitely an edge there that’s not consistent with the usual platitudes to keep the estates happy, took me by (a very pleasant) surprise. I participated in the consultation and made it very clear that the estates have been running rings around genuine conservation efforts and if the CPNA don’t get on top of them they are not doing their job. The current ‘National Park’ designation is becoming a public joke and they know it.

  5. I presume the CNPA first aim and priority ‘To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage’ means the culture of grouse shooting? For sure that is how the grouse lobby will interpret it.
    Does anyone else have any idea what cultural heritage actually means? It so vague and in the consultation link it gives no explanation except a mention of archaeological sites.

    1. I made sure to point out that driven grouse shooting is an Edwardian invention and thus very recent, late Victorian at best, and also that sheep farming was a direct cause of the Clearances and that cultural heritage should involve returning to and conserving the park and landscape prior to this disruption to the way the land was used, along with explanations of the two changes.

  6. Went walking on the Moon the other day…or was it somewhere near Loch Tay.It was Loch Tay.I knew this because the landscape was green and thats all there was !!!

  7. Time for a zero tolerance approach to these estates – they’ve had decades at this stage to get their house in order and at this stage things seem to be getting worse not better. Unless raptors start returning in numbers to these areas within the next few years then its time to shut this murky industry down

  8. Not just birds or prey being hit…a complete Kingfisher skin up for sale by the same source….anything for a few bob…wild birds are just there for beer money…

    And check this out….the Jay is a pest and on the keepers general license…see here on eBay hundreds of Jay feathers sourced legally for fly tying by keepers, they musy be a real pest somewhere…300m plus wing feathers is how many birds…my letter of concern will be in next months Trout & Salmon as a life long trout angler and naturalist

    300 plus feathers, how many Jays is that targeted??? Bill

    you are bidding on 300+ blue jay wing feathers as in the picture these are between 1″ – 2.1/4″ long approx


    these will be securely packed in a cardboard box to ensure safe delivery

    the ones you see in the picture are the ones you will recieve .we do not use stock pictures

    these will be sent royal mail 1st class post

    all items are checked for size and weighed at the post office counter and proof of posting is always obtained

    if you win more than one auction i will wherever possible combine the postage costs please Please request an invoice once you have finished all your purchases so that I can amend your final p&p charge


    and i comply with all natural england general licence requirements

    These are the by-product of licensed game keepers and game dealers and have not been sourced purely for the purpose of this auction.

  9. I’m not entirely convinced that CNPA could introduce ‘hunting permits’ by using it’s bylaw making powers. Game licensing in Scotland was abolished by section 25 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. I doubt that it’s within the powers of the CNPA to re-introduce anything resembling to a licensing regime. If CNPA made such bylaws the most likely result would be a petition for judicial review.

    Bylaws are secondary legislation, so before introducing them CNPA must publicise the proposed byelaws and make them available for public inspection. It must also hold a consultation, and take into account the views and comments of the consultees. The proposed bylaws must be confirmed by Scottish Ministers. The detailed procedure as to byelaws is in section 202 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

    Schedule 2 para 8 of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 sets out the National Park authorities’ powers (insofar as byelaws concerned):

    (1) A National Park authority may make byelaws for the National Park for the purposes of—
    (a) protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the National Park,
    (b) preventing damage to the land or anything in, on or under it,
    (c) securing the public’s enjoyment of, and safety in, the National Park.

    (2) In particular, a National Park authority may make byelaws under sub-paragraph (1)—
    (a) to regulate or prohibit the lighting of fires,
    (b) to prohibit the depositing of rubbish and the leaving of litter,
    (c) for the prevention or suppression of nuisances,
    (d) to regulate the use of vehicles (other than the use of vehicles on a road within the meaning of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 (c.50)),
    (e) to regulate the exercise of recreational activities.

    In addition to the above CNPA can make byelaws for the purpose of controlling seashore, adjacent waters and inland waters (under section 121 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982) and for exercising its planning functions.

    The East Loch Lomond Camping Byelaws 2011 have been introduced by the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority presumably in order to prevent nuisance and to regulate the exercise of recreational activities ‘in exercise of the powers conferred upon it by Sections 8 and 9 of Schedule 2 of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000’. (NB- There are no sections in Schedule 2 (or in any schedules of any Act), but paragraphs.)

    It seems that National Park Authorities in Scotland have fairly been cautious to make any byelaws. LL&T NPA made two sets of byelaws so far ( I don’t think CNPA made any byelaws yet. Most NPAs in England and Wales made at least one set of byelaws. Dartmoor NP byelaws state the following:

    ‘12 Protection of Wildlife
    No person shall without lawful excuse or authority on the access land, kill, molest or intentionally disturb any animal or engage in hunting, shooting or fishing or the setting of traps or nets or the laying of snares.’ (

    Obviously the context within which these byelaws were made is different, and their scope is very limited as they apply only to ‘access land’ – which only includes land to which the public has access.

    Similarly, Pembrokeshire Coast NP byelaws ‘apply to land owned or leased by the National Park Authority – NB this is around 1% of the National Park as a whole.’ (

    The application of the East Loch Lomond Camping Byelaws 2011 is also restricted: only in limited circumstances will they apply to privately owned land, e.g. when camping is done without permission of the owner (see byelaws 12 – 14).

    I think the question is whether sub-paragraph(2) of sch 2 para 8 of the 2000 Act limits the scope of sub-paragraph(1) or it is merely a list which includes examples in relation to which a National Park Authority may make byelaws, but without prejudice to the generality of sub-paragraph(1).

    There is a fairly good (but perhaps outdated) paper on the byelaw making powers of SNH which explains the nature of byelaws in general:

    Click to access F04AD01.pdf

    (Obviously SNH byelaws were made under a different set of legislation.)

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