Well, well, well.
Last September we blogged about SNH imposing a three-year General Licence restriction on a ‘mystery’ Scottish gamekeeper in response to evidence provided by Police Scotland of alleged raptor persecution crimes. At the time, SNH gave very little information about this case (see here).
After a bit of digging, we worked out that this restriction related to an alleged crime that had happened near Tarland in Aberdeenshire in 2014 where the RSPB had filmed a gamekeeper allegedly baiting an illegal trap close to a goshawk nest:
However, we were unable to establish the name of the estate on which this alleged offence took place and the name of the individual caught on camera setting the trap, as SNH refused several FoI requests and insisted on withholding the information. The name of the individual was withheld under the Data Protection Act – that was fair enough. But we argued that the name of the estate should have been publicised – SNH disagreed.
An article by Severin Carrell in today’s Guardian has finally solved the mystery.
It turns out the individual filmed setting the alleged illegal trap was none other than the Head Gamekeeper of Tillypronie Estate, a grouse and pheasant-shooting estate which at the time was owned by Philip Astor, who was and still is, er, Vice Chair of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
[Estate boundary details from Andy Wightman’s brilliant Who Owns Scotland website]
Gosh, that’s all a bit embarrassing for the GWCT, isn’t it?
Is this why there wasn’t a prosecution and why great efforts were made to keep the details of this alleged crime hushed up?
We wonder if this relationship also had any bearing on SNH’s strange decision to impose a General Licence restriction on an individual, as opposed to the usual practice of imposing it on an estate? Astor sold the estate last year – here is the sales brochure: Tillypronie sales brochure Aug 2016 A three-year General Licence restriction hanging over the estate could have caused obvious difficulties for the sale.
Another unanswered question relates to the Head Gamekeeper’s employment status. The alleged crime took place in March 2014, but according to Sev Carrell’s article, the [unnamed] Head Gamekeeper was still employed at Tillypronie in 2016. That seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? Why would a law-abiding landowner continue to employ an individual who had been caught on camera setting an allegedly illegal trap close to a goshawk nest?
And what of Philip Astor’s position as Vice Chair at the GWCT? Business as usual, eh?