Dear Cabinet Secretary

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

For many years now, the Scottish Government has acknowledged that illegal raptor persecution is an issue that not only affects the distribution and abundance of several internationally protected raptor species, but that it also casts a long shadow over the environmental credentials of a country that attracts millions of visitors every year who come to see its wildlife.

We acknowledge that in recent years the Scottish Government has taken steps to combat illegal raptor persecution, including taking leadership of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime, instigating two poisons amnesties, the introduction of vicarious liability, the introduction of General Licence restrictions, the publication of annual wildlife crime reports, the commissioning of a review of wildlife crime penalties and an acceptance of the review’s findings, and the commissioning of a review on raptor satellite tag data (which is yet to be published).

We applaud the intention behind these measures, which have been in sharp contrast to the outright denial by the Westminster Government that there’s even a problem, let alone how to address it. Nevertheless, despite these actions, nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing.

Raptor persecution continues, disproportionately taking place on land that is managed for game bird shooting and particularly on driven grouse moors, and as a result certain raptor populations are in a continuing spiral of decline in these areas. Prosecution for these offences is virtually impossible, and even when sufficient evidence is gathered, it is ruled ‘inadmissible’ or ‘not in the public interest’ to proceed.

This morning’s news that an armed, masked man was seen, in broad daylight, blatantly shooting and killing a hen harrier on a grouse moor near Leadhills, is the final straw. Leadhills is the perfect microcosm of what is a country-wide problem. This latest incident is just one of at least 48 reported crimes in this area alone since 2003, and only two of those crimes resulted in a conviction; the vast majority did not even reach the prosecution stage.

What we are witnessing is a theatre of the absurd. We all know what’s going on, where it’s going on, and why it continues to go on.

Over the last five years, several Scottish Government Environment Ministers have promised further action if current measures proved to be ineffective. Here are some examples:

October 2012: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the news of a golden eagle that had been trapped on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens and then moved, overnight, and dumped in a lay by with horrific injuries and left to die:

“The unlawful killing of any raptors has no place in today’s Scotland and we will continue to work hard to eradicate this criminal activity. We believe that the partnership approach with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, is bringing the reduction in bird of prey poisoning that can be seen in the statistics in recent years. However we are not complacent and if there is evidence of a switch to other methods of persecution we will take action to bear down on those methods”.

November 2012: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the news that a hen harrier had been found shot on an Aberdeenshire grouse moor:

We will not tolerate the illegal persecution of protected species such as the hen harrier and, as I have said recently in relation to another shooting [the golden eagle that was found shot and critically wounded on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire], I am prepared to look at further measures to strengthen and assist enforcement if we continue to see this flouting of the law in respect of protected species“.

March 2013: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in response to the poisoning of a buzzard on a pheasant-shooting estate in SW Scotland:

And it does sicken me that unfortunately, once again, a bird has died as a result of Carbofuran poisoning, but I very much hope to see a positive outcome in that particular case. If we do continue to see a downward trend with the poisoning maps, but there is evidence perhaps of other types of persecution taking its place, as I’ve already said on the record, I will have no hesitation nor indeed very little option but to consider what other measures might be necessary”.

February 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, in a Channel 4 interview, when asked why he won’t just fully regulate the game shooting industry like other countries:

We want to avoid putting in place something that might be seen as a draconian response, or too restrictive a response. We’re not saying we wouldn’t do this, eventually…

April 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, on twitter, in response to our accusations that the Scottish Government was too interested in the independence referendum to bother with raptor persecution:

It [raptor persecution] stains our reputation and I promise you this is not being ignored by me or Scottish Government


We’re being robust and if new measures don’t improve, will go further

May 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in a Parliamentary debate on raptor persecution:

If and when we judge it necessary, I am committed to taking further action. If that involves licensing certain types of businesses, then we will do so“.

May 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to Parliamentary questions about raptor persecution:

The Scottish Government announced a package of measures in July 2013. These were a review of the penalties for wildlife crime, a restriction on the use of general licences and encouragement for the police to use the full range of investigative techniques at their disposal to deal with wildlife crime. We also introduced the vicarious liability provisions in the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act in 2012. The Scottish Government remains of the view that the measures have the capacity to help prevent, deter and detect wildlife crime. However, the measures must be given time to be fully implemented and for them to have an effect.

Nevertheless, we have been clear that if it becomes apparent that further measures are required we will take whatever action we consider necessary, including examining whether stronger management and regulation of game bird shooting is appropriate“.

October 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to a letter from the Cairngorms National Park Authority asking for help to address raptor persecution:

I have been clear that we will be prepared to go further if it is necessary, including looking at the licensing of certain types of shooting businesses“.

November 2014: Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse speaking at the SNP conference:

Listen to the will of the Scottish people and understand that we will not tolerate these crimes any longer. The sand is running out of the hour glass and they [the raptor-killing criminals] really do have to start listening to the messages we’re giving them very strongly. Enough is enough. Obey the law, respect the will of the Scottish people and protect our wildlife.

We must recognise that not all estates are engaged in this activity, there are, unfortunately, several rotten apples in the barrel who are spoiling this for everyone. I hope people do listen to the messages today, we really don’t want to have to go down the route of licensing game-shooting but we have indicated, in Parliament and elsewhere, that if we are forced to do so, that is the direction we will travel. I hope offenders heed the warning, stop spoiling what is a strong industry in the rural economy for Scotland, and make no mistake, as I say, we will not hesitate to act if they do not listen to what we are saying“.

April 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod in an article she wrote for Holyrood magazine:

I want to make it abundantly clear that the illegal poisoning of wildlife cannot – and will not – be tolerated in a modern Scotland“.

August 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod speaking about the possible reintroduction of golden eagles to southern Scotland:

The persecution of raptors will not be tolerated under any circumstances“.

August 2015: Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod following the news of a shot buzzard near a grouse moor in the Borders:

“The Scottish Government has already put in place new and strengthened measures to crack down on wildlife crime, including vicarious liability prosecutions and general licence restrictions, for example. But let me be absolutely clear – I will consider taking further action if necessary and the licencing of shooting businesses in Scotland remains an option.

August 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths in the last five years:

The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception. As previously stated, the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary. It will be unfortunate if the activities of a few bring further regulation on the whole sector, but that is the risk those why defy the law and defy public opinion are running“.

August 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Elwood’ had ‘disppeared’ on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths:

The news that a juvenile hen harrier has disappeared in the Monadhliaths, complete with its satellite tag, only weeks after it fledged, strengthens my determination to get to the truth about how, where and why raptors with functioning satellite tags seem to be regularly disappearing. I have asked for a review of all the evidence and I intend to ensure that data from hen harriers and red kites, as well as data from golden eagles will be considered as part of this. We are continuing to collect evidence in relation to raptors in Scotland, which will be a significant factor in deciding the next steps for tackling wildlife crime.”

September 2016: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responding to the news that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ had ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park:

I take this issue very seriously and it shows the need to establish whether the disappearance of these birds is indicative of criminal activity. 

It is clearly suspicious, but we must ensure that a robust statistical analysis of all the data from over 200 tagged birds supports any conclusion. 

I will consider what action to take in the light of the full evidence, and I am not ruling out any options.”

February 2017: Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham addressing the Scottish Raptor Study Group conference:

The illegal killing of our raptors does remain a national disgrace. I run out of words to describe my contempt for the archaic attitudes still at play in some parts of Scotland. We all have to abide by the law, and we do so, most of us, all throughout our lives. All I’m asking is that everybody does the same. Sporting businesses are NO different, and the people who breach the law deserve all the opprobrium and punishment we can mete out. I have no truck with the argument that raptors damage driven grouse shooting interests. Such damage, frankly, is a business risk you have to live with and manage, but within the law. And that is what must be reiterated again, and again, and again“.

With the imminent publication of the raptor satellite tag review, and the results of the national hen harrier survey, we can predict that you will shortly be faced with yet even more evidence of the continued impact of raptor persecution on the populations of several raptor species.

The SNP has had the support of the conservation community, and the wider general public, for ten years, and the steps taken against raptor persecution in the last few years have been seen as positive in comparison with the non-action of the Westminster government. But that’s not enough. Nowhere near enough. Even you must now acknowledge that these measures have led to no tangible changes in the behaviour of the game bird shooting industry.

As you can see from the above quotes, many fine words have been spoken over the last five years by successive Environment ministers. Hundreds, if not thousands of members of the public, in Scotland and beyond, have listened and waited patiently, but our patience has now run out.

The SNP needs to take meaningful, tangible action NOW.

No more procrastination.

No more second, third, fourth, tenth, hundreth, thousandth chance.


We are relying on you, and the SNP, to keep your promises.

Your sincerely,

Raptor Persecution UK bloggers


We’d encourage blog readers to send a copy of this open letter to the Cabinet Secretary, or even better, send your own message. Please send emails marked for the attention of Roseanna Cunningham to:

31 thoughts on “Dear Cabinet Secretary”

  1. Seriously, my admiration for the work done by RPUK knows no bounds. This well researched and excellently presented case is virtually flawless, and we can only hope that the cabinet secretary will absorb its contents and more importantly, DO SOMETHING at last to rid us of this pernicious criminal activity. We should all do as they ask and either send a copy or put together a message in our own words. Keeping up the momentum is vital.

  2. Great letter and powerful in its summary. If this does not make the SNP take the issue seriously, then the only conclusion can be that they are taking sides with the criminals.

  3. Amazing work again RPUK. How long will they keep procrastinating? Looks to me like we need to take a lesson from Gandhi and his principle of ahimsa – a non-violent tool for mass action. We do a mass walk onto the moors on the inglorious 12th.

    1. What about a brass band practice session on the moors? People suitably attired for the hills take their instruments to a point on the public paths as close as possible to the grouse butts so the lovely shooters can enjoy music as well as the sound of their shotguns, at least when they take any ear protectors off. Sure it would add an extra something special and can’t be accused of ruining the tranquility with the shooting and beaters sweeping the hills. Maybe a young piper or two just starting out with the bagpipes as well when the brass section needs a break. If the winds right flying a hen harrier ‘kite’ or two might also be an option. As long as they get their fun uninterrupted they will continue to chortle at the dropped court cases and the illegal killings they know about and we can only guess at. Public opinion, the law and real conservationists are being ignored and even taunted by this lot.

  4. We are all behind you RPUK, that was a great and factual letter sent to Roseanna Cunningham. Thank you.

  5. Well done RPUK. They have been treating us to a feast of empty words and, as such, no real gains have been made.

  6. Really good letter – well done. The clarity and factual detail you use is so clear that politicians will know that their usual soundbites will not be enough. Thank you for writing this letter on our behalf. We are with you all the way.

    Would it be possible to copy this letter to key editors in the mainstream press?

    1. It’s too long for their attention span.
      As a press publication “The week” seems to have a different perspective. Perhaps they might be interested in running a piece.

      One day a forward thinking journalist will see the potential in running with it.

  7. Tremendous work RPS. so sickening we live in a society where can find masked men with shotguns blasting birds even a few hundred yards from suburbs on capital city GreenBelt- with owl seen flying away low from vicinity in middle of day. picture of the man with mask and gun taken 3 weeks ago. told new Tory councillor stopping shooting was my main priority more than traffic etc

  8. Letter sent to Roseanna Cunningham…

    For the attention of Roseanna Cunningham.

    Dear Cabinet Secretary

    I am sure that you will be well aware of the latest raptor persecution incidents in Scotland and England.
    If not then please take a look at the far-too-regular reports of such on the Raptor Persecution UK blog (link to RPUK inserted).
    Indeed, the most recent blog is aimed at yourself here (link to latest RPUK blog inserted).

    The vast majority of the UK’s public care for wildlife.
    A very small proportion of people are wildlife criminals, but they are having a massively damaging effect on our special birds of prey, and all in the name of shooting gamebirds, particularly the red grouse.
    Those criminals are denying the majority of the public of ever experiencing the sight of a majestic Golden Eagle soaring above the mountains, or a Hen Harrier sky-dancing over moorland.

    No more procrastinating, it is high time the Scottish, and Westminster Governments took the right steps in ridding the UK of wildlife crime.
    And the only step that will effectively stop raptor persecution is to BAN driven grouse shooting.
    There is absolutely no doubt that as long as grouse shooting is allowed to continue then our birds of prey will suffer, to the point where the Hen Harrier could become extinct in the UK.
    No amount of legislation will prevent those criminals from destroying protected birds of prey.

    Imagine the increase in wildlife tourism if our governments dealt properly with raptor persecution.

    Please, please use your powers to stop raptor crime NOW!

    Yours faithfully

    Andy Holden

  9. This is an excellent display of deep concern about our Birds of Prey, and if its import does not work with the SNP Government, then nothing will, and a strategy must be developed that will require stamina, determination and constant lobbying to redeem the reputation of Scotland, as a state that will finally remove those who wilfully and contemptuously break wildlife protection laws, from owning or leasing land for game bird shooting. We must bear in mind that most politicians are really conservation of wildlife “illiterate” , and are at sea when they receive pleas to show some attention to the slaughter of wildlife going on in our countryside. Moreover, how can any rational and humane person feel at ease living in a country where there is a dark cloud of doubt hanging over the administration of law and order in our rural areas. That insecurity has been induced by the actual inability of our prosecution service and judiciary to impose meaningful sentences on criminals caught in the act, or against whom evidence is incontrovertible, when birds of prey have been killed or seriously injured. RPS has an unblemished record for publishing the horror in our countryside, and archiving information on all cases of such abuse of these birds. Yet, the money and influence of the shooting mob seems to trump all the careful work of the RSPB and other vigilant groups, when it comes to getting a prosecution.

    We have now reached the stage of no turning back, and we must insist that a change has to take place, whereby those in Government and in the administration of the law, must stop allegedly protecting malefactors from being suitably punished. However, we must bear in mind that there has been a general limpness in the sentencing of criminals in the UK, with sentencing being derisory or cut short of serving to full term. There is a malaise in Britain and the public must change that state of affairs. How can we expect to be taken seriously, when the general public are dissatisfied with the behaviour of our judiciary and our politicians in reacting to a more violent and dangerous trend in behaviour. Those killing our birds of prey are supposedly members of the elite in our country; people of high standing, and thereby supposed to uphold the law. We will have to be careful who we let in to power in this forthcoming general election, with the Tories obsessed to bring back the blood sport of fox hunting, and other parties remaining mute on that subject, so far. We have to break the stranglehold of those who dominate our countryside as a recreation area for killing birds and animals.

    1. Another great post GH,s. I wish I had the knowledge of your use of vocabulary, some words of which I have to look up in the dictionary, always taking heed of your take on the matter.

    2. Great to see old pal Greer still in such strong voice and spirit. like Andy, great admiration of your eloquence and knowledge, as well as RPS What a difference in attitudes to wildlife there might have been if Strathclyde had had the sense to make you a Head

  10. The basic line here is the rich and famous bullies rule the roost in Scotland and in England, thus undercover is the only way to go.

  11. How much longer can this go on ? Keep up the good work because it looks like you will need to for quite a while yet based on the recent lack of prosecutions…..let alone the SNP response ….

  12. Well-done RPUK. Laws were passed a long time ago here in the US to protect raptors and other non-game birds; and for good ecological reasons. Without a complete, well-functioning ecosystem, even the game birds won’t flourish. It seems anachronistic that a country that has had, literally, hundreds of years to figure these relationships out has relegated this issue to something less than a high priority. The increased impacts of climate change, habitat loss, electrocution, collisions of all types, and habitat fragmentation, make it that much more important that we do everything we can to mitigate these environmental insults wherever possible including the acts any self-serving portion of our society.

  13. That is just brilliant, thank you for spending the time to compose this letter. Is it possible for you to compose a similar letter that applies to England. I will then send it to my MP.

  14. I’ve sent my own email to Roseanne Cunningham. Can’t compete with yours, though, as it is so good.

  15. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx so I just mailed this in a letter with a regular stamp and envelope. Not nearly as emotionally satisfying, I’ll admit, but possibly more effective. I sent it to my constituency MSP and the SNP candidate for Westmonster.

  16. Please stop the killing of birds of prey, show Westminster you’ve cleaned up your act and that your not in the pockets of wealthy land owners, as a falconer I have an interest in this, you have the best country in the world please protect it, the birds were here first

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: