SNH’s General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate is “farcical”, says RSPB

It’s good to see environmental journalist Rob Edwards following up on SNH’s pointless General Licence restriction imposed on a grouse moor estate in the Scottish Borders for alleged raptor persecution crimes.

Read his article in today’s Sunday Herald here


We’ve blogged extensively (see here) about the General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate, near Heriot, which is currently subject to a judicial review (see here). We’ve argued that SNH’s subsequent issue of ‘individual’ licences, which permit the estate to continue the activities supposedly blocked by the General Licence restriction, is utterly ridiculous (see here). In Rob’s article, RSPB Scotland agrees with our view and calls the whole affair “farcical”.

SNH has responded by claiming this is “robust regulation”. Mark Avery has an amusing interpretation of ‘robust’ on his blog this morning (see here).

SNH has also told Rob that its staff has so far carried out two unannounced visits to check that Raeshaw has not breached its specific individual licences. We’re very interested in this. When did those visits take place, how long was each visit, and what actually happened during the visits? Are we expected to believe that SNH staff searched the whole 9,000 acre estate (and the neighbouring Corsehope Farm), twice, to look for unlicensed traps? Or did they just call in for a quick coffee and a chat? We’ll be asking SNH about the ‘robustness’ of these checks.

Rob’s article includes a quote from Raeshaw Estate (owned by an offshore company registered in Jersey and managed under the direction of Mark Osborne) which includes the line:

“Responsible game management practices are at the heart of what Raeshaw and its staff do”.

Here’s a reminder of some of the raptor persecution crimes that been uncovered in this part of the Scottish Borders over the last 15 years, none of which have ever been attributed to anyone.

Photo of Raeshaw Estate (RPUK)

20 thoughts on “SNH’s General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate is “farcical”, says RSPB”

  1. Nothing says “Government indifference” like meaningless licences and bogus enforcement. That the whole “General Licence” thing is a corrupt circumvention of the EU’s Birds’ and Habitats’ Directives puts the UK on a par with Malta.

  2. If that is robust licensing what on earth does less than robust licensing look like for pity’s sake. What SNH takes away it returns immediately with the other hand in case we have upset the estate!

  3. From the herald, ” As a major employer of local people, the estate has been, and continues to be, an important part of the local economy and community.”

    How many ‘local’ people do they employ ?

    Are they in ‘tied housing’ ?

    Are their jobs Full time, part time or seasonal ?

    What/how much are their wages ?

    How much is the total yearly ( local ) wages bill ?

    How often does the estate owner socialise with the local community ?

    I simply do not believe the constant claims that the estates make, that they are important to local communities. In fact, the estates are responsible for preventing rural housing and businesses ! all the better to hide their criminality.

    MP’s, please investigate these claims, and balance that, against the cost to the public purse, of subsidy and grants the estates receive. There must be a better model of rural employment, that does not involve criminality.

    1. Spot on AF, this crap has to be challenged, forcefully, frequently and with authority. I know quite a few people who have shied away from signing Mark Avery’s petition because they thought jobs would be hit, though they hate what the grouse moors stand for. Frustrating – the estates don’t want any other businesses there that would compromise their effing shooting. How many of these estates were keen on the right to roam, they don’t want non shooters there in the first place? No interest in any enterpise that would open up the land to more visitors and inhabitants whilst bringing back wildlife. I was thinking today that although Scotland is maybe not everyone’s idea of a winter destination – it’s a lot nicer for a break than staying in a lot of urban areas.

      Surely scope for weekend, or week long get aways to an area that has recovering forests and wildlife, maybe chance to do practical conservation work to chip in even a wee bit, which many would love to do – increasing chances to see pine martens, sea and golden eagles, otters, beavers, red squirrels. Winter bush skills training, local culture and history to be displayed, communicated, enjoyed. Learning about other cultures especially in boreal/arctic areas – inuit, sami, cree, athabascans. Trying outdoor activities – cross country skiing, being on a dog sled, climbing, falconry, animal tracking etc, etc. I don’t think this is fanciful, I think the madness is accepting or believing that soul sapping, desolate wildlife free ‘moors’ which are only good for rich shooters is what’s best for this country. An awful lot of people could be drawn into rural areas if there was more there. At the moment sking at Aviemore if weather is right, bit of rock climbing or kayaking or walking by yourself or with mates – usually in and out of the area and not spending much money there. Pretty accurate description? If there is anything else it doesn’t spring to mind.

      Suggesting that the govt set up a specific department or initiative to help estates diversify economically so that the general public, environment and local communities get a better deal is something that I think would be hard to argue against – don’t Scottish Land and Estates want what’s best for everyone and everything? Given scale of the estates and the state of rural economy and environment think there’s good case for this.Until we do something with the jobs blackmail we are trying to move forward with the handbrake full on. Know I made these points a while ago, but since then they came up again and predictably at the session re Mark’s petition, Stokes and Anderson played the ‘communities will die’ card for all it was worth. Be great to contradict them.

      1. I think you are correct Les, I made many of these points forcibly to my MP this summer

        If you think that 1/2 of Scotland land is in the hand of roughly 1000 owners, holding Scotland back in the Victorian era, so they can play ‘lord of the manor’, the influence they weald in a democratic country is not on, in the 21st century.

        Many rural villages are nearly dead, locals either commute long distances, or accept very poor paying work from estates, many, if not most gamekeepers, are brought in from outside – not local. The tradesmen get some work, then wait for 3 months for the estate accountant to grudgingly pay them ( but only after the estates get their grants in )

        There should be a program of council house building in rural areas, small industrial workshops and office spaces, at low rents, should also be built, to encourage innovation and employment. If you buy an estate, the land costs £hundreds/acre, if they sell a 1/2 acre for a house site, it will cost £75,000 or more? do they pay capital gains on that ?

        2nd / holiday homes need to be HEAVILY taxed, they stand empty for the majority of the year, last figure I read, 28% of properties in the CNP were holiday homes ?

        The Scottish government needs to stand up to the 1000, albeit wealthy estates, if the laws need to be changed, then get on with it. At the moment all the estates, with the exception of a handful of ‘good’ estates, are routinely slaughtering our wildlife on an unprecedented industrial scale ! The intention is the extinction of all competing wildlife. I see no alternative, but to ban driven grouse shooting, and cease all subsidy and grants to estates NOW.

        We need a groundswell of vocal opinion, directed at our MP’s, newspapers, blogs etc. until they do something.

        1. Good morning AF. Not often find myself agreeing with some of what is printed in here. The pattern of land ownership has certainly had a major effect on the deveopment of communities in this neck of the woods. If you come off the ferry from Oban , turn left and head for Iona once you leave the coast you drive through miles and miles of bugger all as it is all land in the hands of a few large and in some cases getting larger estates. A lot of the area has been cleared of livestock and is a sea of white grass or to be trendy has been rewilded. Even the deer shun most of this ground. Once you rejoin the coast the odd new house but very little change over the last 100 years. A few miles short of Bunessan and it is all change as quite a lot of new houses a thriving primary school and economic activity. The difference is land ownership as you have hit the crofting area of the South of the island. A big driver in retaining a poulation was a family croft could provide an affordable building plot for the next generation so some of the young people could stay. Most of the crofts have been bought , some have been abused by property developers and the holiday home market does cause problems but the crofting model imperfect as it is has helped retain a local population. The small scale agriculture has also been good for wildlife hence the plague of wildlife tours clogging up the laybyes. The estates in this area were farming estates with a bit of hunting /shooting /fishing thrown in but that has changed with most bought by EU nationals as a place to come and shoot a few deer consequenty deer numbers have gone through the roof with all the problems that causes for gardens and farming. Argyll Estates retained sporting rights on most crofts sold for 99 years so are running about trying to stop the locals shooting deer on inbye land which is a right under the various Deer Scotland acts. I have had the police round twice this year for poaching despite on both occasions not having shot anything and one time for being on land I own and holding a rifle. With the livestock cleared empoyment on the estates is minimal. This is the situation on this end of the island and can not be applied to the large shooting estates on the mainand where the stalking and shooting is the engine that drives economic activity.

          1. Hi Hector,

            Thanks for your description of things on Mull, I imagine it is the same on the other Scottish isles. Isn’t it odd how quickly the polis react when the lairds think ‘poaching’ might be going on, but how slowly when wildlife crime happens :) better watch out, they could bring back transportation to….. the Falklands ?

            I think it is time that the practice of retaining ‘sporting rights’ over land should be consigned to the history books, it can be, and is badly abused in some cases, along with many other estate privileges ! We have the same problems with both deer, and bloody pheasants here.

            I agree with you about crofting, and think it should be rolled out across Scotland, Aberdeenshire would benefit, as would the borders etc. I am especially interested in ‘woodland crofting’, need to investigate.

            I like the sound of the Danish law, whereby one must be a resident for 5 years, before you can buy property, we need that here in Scotland.

            1. To be fair to the Polis they took their time but had to respond and were fair and helpful as the agent for Argyll Estates has a history of this sort of thing not just with myself. Our agent with the Sherrif of Nottingham compex is leaving us and it remains to be seen how his repacement fits in . The woodland croft scheme set up on north Mull has had a poor start with some entrants walking away because of the red tape but it must be possible to set up a scheme that works for both sides. The afforable housing can be a bit of a joke and is often abused to get planning permission. One scheme here offered the first house here to locals at just short of £200,000 which was impossible for most and if you had that sort of cash available it was cheaper to buy a plot and self build. The big estate question is difficult as we have some very good ones right through to the hellish on this pile of rocks. Years ago they tried to link large subsidy payments to empoyment units but it was kicked into touch by the powers that be. Realistic land reform has to happen in the long term but it will take a lot of sorting out. Crofting is not the answer as shown by the mess it is in at the moment but is a starting point . Anyway must dash as off to persecute some wildlife ( joke before the site pedant reports me )

        1. It could be the archaic and feudal land ownership pattern across Scotland, that favours sheep over people.

      2. I agree Les. How about trying the Swedish approach at Hornborga. Eagle weekends
        For many years during the winter, there has been an eagle centre outside Trandansen. The white-tailed eagle and the golden eagle come here to eat non-toxic food, primarily in the form of pork.
        After many years of feeding in Sweden, these eagles have now increased in number, after having been threatened by extinction. The increasing survival of young birds and the reduction in poisons are the principal reasons for these fine results.
        On some weekends during the winter, we open Trandansen for eagle watching. We then have an exhibition about winter birds and the centre is staffed by the Falbygden bird club.

  4. it’s almost as if they know it would be completely inefectual when they came up with the idea and only trotted it out so that they appeared to actually be doing something

  5. It’s completely ineffectual and the Scottish Government must know that quite well, but they are looking for a way to be seen to be doing something, when in reality they are feirt of upsetting the lairds. So much for the SNP’ s lauded land reforms !

  6. While walking through ‘Scottish Forestry’ land recently, I was challenged by a Gamekeeper & told that I had to keep my dog on a lead as poison baits had been laid. I was also told that I could NOT use a camera, which immediately made me wonder what he was afraid of. I’m wondering if these sort of restrictions are imposed on anyone walking through forested land in our National Parks, too?

    1. Oh dear whats this…a game keeper breaking the law? This chaps behaviour should be reported to the WCO with a view to a raid. He may have been bluffing about the baits but hey ho its a bluff that should be called. Maybe the local access officer should also have a word about his illegal requests….

  7. Just a reminder that there is more to Scotland than the Highlands and Islands. Given the choice between encountering Japanese tourists in the Highlands with their cameras, or tweed-clad jaggy-bunnetted Europeans blasting away at our wildlife with their artillery, give me the peace-loving Japanese any day. To me as an edge of City but reasonably rural resident, in some ways I have the best of both worlds, with plenty of places to birdwatch and study nature virtually on my doorstep. For holidays I tend to migrate north into Argyll, a beautiful county with wonderful land and seascapes and the feeling of “getting away from it all.” However, I find that if one takes the opportunity to walk in the countryside with binoculars around my neck, it’s not long before the peace and tranquillity are disturbed by shotguns blasting off somewhere nearby, or often as not being accosted by a local lackey or landowner for daring to be walking on their land without a gun, regarded by some of them as suspicious behaviour. Really what I’d like to see is a Scotland where we can choose between the bustle of the City or the remote places where we can recreate in peace. Rural economies can be based upon food production and tourism, but economic growth and wealth acquisition are not the be all and end all. I would happily pay my fair share of tax to help support the less well off country dwellers, but I object to the idea of the state providing millionaire estate owners with subsidies and grants to sustain high levels of profitability and wealth for the privileged few. Especially when they become arrogantly possessive about “their” land, and believe they have a god-given right to defy the law by killing any wild animal they care to regard as a “pest,” while treating others as convenient shooting targets. Most of us, even farmers can survive and live contented lives without owning guns. Why can’t we all? It’s almost like we have an unwritten 2nd Amendment.

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