Letter from Environment Committee Convener to Cabinet Secretary re: game shoot licensing

Last week the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in the majority to write to the Environment Secretary recommending a Government-led exploration, with stakeholders, in to the implementation of a licensing regime for game bird shooting (here).

The Environment Committee’s Convener, Graeme Dey MSP, has wasted no time in getting on with it as the following day he wrote to Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. Here is a copy of his letter:

We’ve taken it as a given that the Cabinet Secretary will agree to the Committee’s recommendation because it’ll reflect badly on the Government if she rejects it, and why would she reject it given the overwhelming evidence on which the Committee based its decision? However, nothing is certain until Roseanna responds in writing to the Committee, and the deadline for this has been set as Wednesday 21 June 2017.

For those who missed it, the video of the Environment Committee’s discussions about how to proceed with this licensing petition can be watched here (starts at 1:04:05) and the official transcript of proceedings can be read here (starts on page 21).

We’d highly recommend watching the video and/or reading the transcript, if only to see Alexander Burnett MSP (Conservative, Aberdeenshire West) claim, “Game bird licensing would apply to the whole of Scotland and would also cover pheasant, partridge and duck shoots, in relation to which there has been no suggestion of wildlife crime“. Er, doesn’t Alexander represent the very same constituency where gamekeeper George Mutch was convicted in a high profile trial (he subsequently became the first gamekeeper to be jailed for raptor persecution crimes) on the pheasant-shooting Kildrummy Estate?

10 thoughts on “Letter from Environment Committee Convener to Cabinet Secretary re: game shoot licensing”

  1. I’m not sure if I’m confused or Mr Dey is confused.

    But I thought the idea was to license shooting estates,(with the sanction for any breach of the conditions of the licence to be loss of the licence), rather tan to alter the criminal law, or change the rules on the admissibility of evidence in criminal cases.

    However Mr Dey seems to think otherwise

    ‘the lower burden of proof demanded by civil law might enable more prosecutions to proceed’

    1. ‘the lower burden of proof demanded by civil law might enable more prosecutions to proceed’
      Hmm ! Good luck with that one.
      To make someone face a charge in a criminal court (guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt) with the standard of proof reduced to civil court level where the pursuer has only to “demonstrate the balance of probability” would be a quantum leap, and then some, for the criminal just system. If that suggestion is followed up I can see it being thrown out PDQ or still being debated this time next century.

    2. Good point. Maybe he is using prosecute in the broadest way and so includes withdrawal of licence.

      I thought it odd that in the debate and consequent meetings the idea of a licence was assumed to be a punishment. It should be a duty not a punishment.
      Right now the lack of licence is a ‘right’ left over from feudalism (as most of our system and laws are, in my opinion).

  2. ‘there may be merit in operating a flexible and non-onerous licensing regime ….’ This sounds to me to be a very much watered-down and placatory description of what is really needed.

    1. That is the concern. That the SNP do what they do best, and try to be all things to all men, and we end up with another paper tiger like vicarious liability.

  3. Why do I think that the MSP driving the process is heading towards a sandpit where everything will simply get bogged down? Not so long ago (2015) MSP Graeme Dey was in Holyrood to host a reception at the Scottish Parliament launch a report on behalf of the The Moorland Association and stated at the time that “balanced, evidence based debate on the best way forward”. The claims made on the “evidence based report” were soon seen as nothing of the sort and were repudiated by one of it’s authors. Our old friend Tim Baynes was the Director of the Scottish Moorland Group. One wonders how handy it would be to have a kindred spirit leading the process when some sort of progress was being made. Anyhow, read the report and make your own mind up as to the sincerity involved. http://www.moorlandassociation.org/2015/11/eighty-one-bird-species-on-grouse-moors/

    1. I’ve now read the original report as opposed to Baynes’ interpretation of it and it does by no means suggests that grouse moors are good for birdlife it just reported bird sightings. To put the 81 species of bird in perspective over the years naturalist and broadcaster Mike Dilger has counted 85 species in or flying over his small suburban garden. Last year I picked up an exhausted little auk in Callendar Park, Falkirk. That doesn’t mean the park is habitat for arctic seabirds and thereby particularly good for willdife it just means birds can turn up anywhere because of these things they have called wings. Not a surprise, in fact an expectation that a lot of the birds in the report were recorded on parts of the estates that weren’t actually grouse moor. It’s pathetic what they’ll stoop to.

  4. “While there does not appear to be a significant problem of raptor persecution in relation to walk-up grouse moors, …”. Again I would seriously contest this complacent statement, but I can understand where they get the idea because the RSPB repeatedly states that they do not want to ban grouse shooting altogether. This fudges the whole issue. Would it be possible for anyone from RPUK to provide the evidence behind this belief, which is frequently expressed on this blog? It is contrary to my experience over many years, albeit on only a handful of walk-up grouse moors. Because of this, I believe it is a dangerous route to go down, as I firmly believe that if driven grouse shooting is ever banned, any future campaign against walk-up shooting may well not be taken seriously. In fact, the very act of banning driven grouse shooting could merely produce a more rigorous form of management on walk-up moors, which would almost certainly involve an increased effort to control raptors.

  5. The problem with civil law is: who is going to bring the prosecutions? The RSPCA have found that if they bring private prosecutions in the civil court, judges, no doubt sympathetic to the defendants, will not award costs against the the convicted miscreant, leaving the criminal with a slap on the wrist and some costs but the complainant with legal costs on top of teh costs incurred in investigating the wrong-doing.

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