SNH imposes General Licence restriction on ‘mystery’ gamekeeper

So, SNH has today announced it has imposed two General Licence restriction orders, based on evidence provided by Police Scotland of alleged raptor persecution crimes.

We know that one of those restriction orders has been placed on Edradynate Estate, Perthshire, because SNH has been quite upfront about it and has named the estate (see here).

But what about the other General Licence restriction? Well, according to the SNH press release, this has been imposed on “an individual” rather than on an estate.

This in itself is interesting. We know from the SNH framework for imposing these restrictions that this action can be taken against an individual, as well as on certain areas of land, but the framework document suggests that imposing it on land would be preferable to imposing it on an individual:

While the wording provides for the exclusion of individuals, it is the intention that where SNH has robust evidence that wild birds have been killed or taken or where there is intention to do so other than in accordance with a licence, SNH will exclude the area of land on which such evidence is found from General Licences 1, 2 and/or 3“.

Hmm. So who is this individual and why did SNH impose the restriction on him/her, rather than on an estate?

The SNH press release points the reader to the SNH webpage on General Licences for “full licence restriction details“. However, when you look at the SNH webpage, all you find is this:

Is SNH having a laugh? The “full licence restriction details” of this particular GL restriction order amounts to one sentence:

In addition [to the restriction imposed on Edradynate Estate] SNH has imposed a restriction prohibiting the use of General Licences by an individual for 3 years from 15th September 2017“.

That’s it? No name? No information on the area, let alone the name of the land where the evidence of raptor persecution took place? Not even the region?

What’s with the secrecy? Who is SNH shielding, and why?

This could be absolutely anyone! Is it Nicola Sturgeon? Is it Alex Salmond? Is it JK Rowling? Highly unlikely, it has to be said, but you get the point we’re trying to make.

And what happened to the transparency that was promised when former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse first announced this new measure to tackle ongoing raptor persecution? He said he expected details of General Licence restrictions to be published on the SNH website to act as “a reputational driver“. That’s not going to happen if SNH withholds the details, is it?

This is a very dangerous precedent to set. SNH has previously withheld details of estates that were being considered for a GL restriction but in that case, the justificiation for being all secret squirrel was reasonable: the GL restrictions hadn’t yet been imposed, but rather the estates had been notified of an intent to impose, and SNH argued that the estates needed time to respond/appeal (see here). That was fair enough.

But in this case, SNH has already imposed the GL restriction, and we’re struggling to understand the justification SNH might have for keeping the details secret.

What is it with statutory agencies and their reluctance to release information that’s clearly in the public interest?

We’ll be submitting an FoI to SNH to ask for further details, and, based on the response, we’ll consider appealing the decision to the Scottish information Commissioner.

In the meantime, have a look at today’s press statement from RSPB Scotland about these latest GL restrictions. This gives us more of a clue about the recipient of the restriction order. The statement includes the following quote from Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson:

The other restriction was imposed after RSPB investigations staff passed video footage to police of a gamekeeper allegedly setting illegal traps, baited with a dead woodpigeon, very close to a goshawk nest in NE Scotland.”

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. The recipient of the GL restriction is a gamekeeper, working in NE Scotland, who was filmed allegedly setting illegal traps close to a goshawk nest. And the RSPB has even provided a video clip of the alleged offence, with the individual’s face pixellated (presumably done on legal advice).

Well, quelle surprise! Another gamekeeper trying, allegedly, to persecute a goshawk in north east Scotland. This is becoming quite a habit in this part of the country. First we had gamekeeper George Mutch, caught on video trapping and battering to death a goshawk on the Kildrummy Estate in 2012, crimes for which he went to prison (see here), then we had a gang of masked armed men caught on video shooting at a goshawk nest on Forestry Commission land at Glen Nochty in 2014 (see here), and now this latest case.

But who is this latest gamekeeper and on whose land was he working when he allegedly set this trap?

More on this in the next blog…..


More on the mystery gamekeeper with the general licence restriction (here).

16 thoughts on “SNH imposes General Licence restriction on ‘mystery’ gamekeeper”

  1. It might appear to some that hidden powers are possibly at work within certain area’s of the SNH who put their own or their associates interests above the welfare and protection of the birds and animals under their care. Should this be the case, and If those who hold those powers are strategically placed, this would end up as the tail wagging the dog, so to speak. It’s hard, almost negligent, not to consider this scenario given the facts presented to the public.

  2. Pardon my technical incompetence: I wanted to ‘lift’ this page, or directly copy a link, to the Scottish Parliament minister referred to, but cannot work out how to do it, as it is prefaced by https (which apparently prevents me from copying it)/ For my own privacy reasons, I do not want to sign up to additional Facebook requirements (and give them even more personal information) and therefore, can’t simply click on the Facebook link you provide.
    I really do want to be able to send this (and other Raptor Persecution Scotland) information, to Scottish ministers, but find I can’t do so. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can do this, without’selling my soul’ to Facebook?
    I appreciate you will not print this, but I do not know any other way of requesting your assistance, other than using this page to request the help.

    1. Hi Harry,

      It’s simple.

      Just click on the title of the specific blog article you want to copy, so the full URL appears in your taskbar at the top of the page.

      Then right click on the URL, press ‘Control’ & ‘C’ at the same time. This copies the URL.

      Then go to wherever you want to paste the article (e.g. in the body of an email) and press ‘Control’ and ‘V’ at the same time.

      This will paste the URL link in to whatever document you want it in.

  3. Can we infer then that this gamekeeper was filmed on land that was not his place of employment? Hence the restriction on him and not on his employer’s land.
    SNH might then run the argument that identifying him would unfairly identify his employer who doubtless would have known nothing about, and would of course have deplored, his activities.

    1. That sounds like a plausible explanation, Tim. Although you’d have to wonder about an employer who wants to keep on an employee of this calibre, especially as the GL restriction will apply to activities he undertakes on his employer’s land.

    2. Interesting especially as the next RPUK post shows that a Dinnet estate gamekeeper was convicted in 2006 for trespassing with a firearm on the neighbouring Crannach Estate.
      But wouldn’t the opposite also apply, that the wrongly associated estate would want to clear their name and want it publicised. I presume you are playing devil’s advocate but why would it ‘unfairly identify his employer’. Surely the place of the hypothetical crime is irrelevant to the relationship to the employer unless of course the two estates were not related in any way (e.g. busman’s holiday).
      If what you say is true then gamekeepers just have to be employed by one estate and work on another and if this were widespread we would be well and truly up the creek without a paddle.

  4. Could it be that the person in question has been dismissed by the estate and since legally they have not got criminal record any naming would unfairly restrain their chances of getting another job?

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