SNH notifies two more estates of intention to restrict General Licence

The ability for SNH to impose a General Licence restriction order on land where there is evidence of raptor persecution taking place came in to force on 1 January 2014. This measure, based on a civil burden of proof, was introduced by then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to the continuing difficulties of meeting a criminal burden of proof to facilitate a criminal prosecution.

Whilst these GL restrictions are not without their limitations (because estates can simply apply for an individual licence instead –  see here, but also see here where SNH recently revoked an individual licence for alleged non compliance), Wheelhouse argued that as the restriction notices will be made public, they should act as a ‘reputational driver‘ and to us, that’s still where their value lies.

Since 1 January 2014, SNH has imposed two GL restrictions: one for Raeshaw & Corsehope Estates, and one for Burnfoot & Wester Cringate estates in Stirlingshire. These restrictions began in November 2015 but as regular blog readers will know, Raeshaw & Corsehope made a legal challenge which ended up with a judicial review in January 2017. The court’s decision was announced in March 2017 and SNH was found to have acted properly and lawfully.

Since the findings of the judicial review were made public in March 2017, we’ve been waiting to see whether SNH would notify any further estates of an intention to restrict the use of the General Licence. We’re aware of many raptor persecution incidents that have been recorded since January 2014 that potentially would meet the criteria required for a restriction order.

Recently we submitted an FoI to SNH to ask about progress. Here is the response:

As we don’t yet know which estates have been notified, we’ll reserve comment until the final notification decisions have been made, but let’s just say we’re particularly interested in the Aberdeenshire case.

As per the SNH guidelines on restrictions (here), estates have 14 days in which to respond to a notice of intent from SNH. An estate has the right to challenge the decision, which then goes back to SNH for further consideration. If SNH decides to continue with the restriction order, the estate then has another opportunity to appeal, which will be considered by a more senior SNH staff member. The final decision on the appeal should be made within a four week period of SNH receiving notice of an estate’s appeal.

So it’s quite a convoluted process, and we don’t know when, exactly, SNH first notified the two estates of the intention to restrict the General Licence, so we don’t know how far along proceedings have moved. Hopefully we won’t have too long to wait and, as before, if the restriction notices are upheld, we expect SNH will publish the decisions on the SNH website.

7 thoughts on “SNH notifies two more estates of intention to restrict General Licence”

  1. I wonder what is happening at that estate where the Snh inspection led to matters being reported to the police?
    SNH always seems to put a lot of trust in keepers… but I do hope they remember that when they have carried out inspections….. The failure rate is bobbing around the 100% mark!

    1. It’s a good question. Presumably the police investigation is on-going so we’re unlikely to hear anything about that for some time. However, we’re interested in whether SNH will extend the period of restriction in light of the latest allegations.

      According to the GL Restriction Framework, SNH has the ability to do this, ‘Where, during a period of restriction, new evidence is received by SNH which provides reason to believe that wild birds have been killed and/or taken, there is intention to do so, other than in accordance with the terms of the Licence’.

      Click to access A1417398.pdf

  2. “Reputational driver”….as if that has ever worked in the past…is this really the best they can do?

  3. Doesn’t the power of a “reputational driver” rather depend on whose opinion you feel is valuable (morally or financially) to your reputation? I suspect that many of the estates ‘in the frame’ couldn’t give a damn for the views of birdwatchers, conservationists or even the general public. The first two they may well be happy to annoy whilst the third they may consider, since they are protected by powerful vested interests, unimportant and without power. As for those within the driven grouse shooting community then I fear that amongst far too many their reputation will be enhanced.

    1. Sadly I’m forced to agree. I dont think those involved in these practices will give two figs about ‘reputation’ amongst the aforementioned groups.

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