Grouse Moor Management Review Group: 1st meeting report

In May last year Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced her intention to establish a Grouse Moor Management Review Group, in response to the damning findings of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review which had revealed that almost one third of satellite-tagged golden eagles had disappeared in highly suspicious circumstances on or close to intensively managed driven-grouse moors (see here).

The membership of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group was announced in November 2017 (see here) and the panel was expected to report back its findings to the Cabinet Secretary in early 2019.

The Group held its inaugural meeting on 16 January 2018 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Chair (Prof Alan Werritty) outlined the background and context for the Group, and the following terms of reference were agreed:

The Group will examine how to ensure that grouse moor management continues to contribute to the rural economy while being environmentally sustainable and compliant with the law. The Group will recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation‘.

[Photo of intensively managed driven grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park, by Ruth Tingay]

Prof Werritty noted that the Cabinet Secretary had also commissioned a socio-economic study to be undertaken in parallel with the work of the Group, with interim findings to be made available later in the year.

According to Prof Werritty’s report of this first meeting, in addition to identifying a schedule for meetings, the Group agreed the following framework:

January to July 2018: gathering evidence and identifying key issues:

  • Meeting 2. Evidence 1 (Environmental law relevant to grouse moors, current licensing systems and Codes of Practice, wildlife crime)
  • Meeting 3. Evidence 2 (Predation/raptors and mountain hares)
  • Meeting 4. Evidence 3 (Muirburn and medicated grit, call for written evidence)

September to December 2018: written and oral evidence, visit to estate(s), socio-economics:

  • Meeting 5. Written evidence reviewed and oral evidence from key stakeholders
  • Meeting 6. Visit to grouse shooting estate(s)
  • Meeting 7. Review input from socio-economic study

January to March 2019: drafting report and recommendations:

  • Meeting 8. Review evidence and initial drafting of report and recommendations
  • Meeting 9. Finalise report and recommendations

At the first meeting in January 2018, the Group heard presentations from three of the Group’s special advisors, as follows:

  • Adam Smith (GWCT): Grouse moors and their management: an introduction
  • Ben Ross (SNH): Current regulatory system governing grouse moor management
  • Des Thompson (SNH): Raptor persecution and driven grouse moors

[Photo of satellite-tagged golden eagle Fearnan, found illegally poisoned on a driven grouse moor in the Angus Glens. Image by RSPB Scotland]

25 thoughts on “Grouse Moor Management Review Group: 1st meeting report”

  1. Just a shame RSPB Scotland or Roy Dennis aren’t included in the group. It needs some balance now that SNH has approved raven slaughter.

  2. Would anyone be prepared to comment on what might be an attainable figure of grouse per acre without any management – is there a known figure on a “left to it’s own devices” naturalised area – let’s say with sheep grazing but no predator control ?

    1. If Mull is anything to go by it would be very low. In Norway my impression too was that the density is also very low. Do you ever see large ‘game’ bird in high densities in their natural environment? Not in my experience.

      1. It’s difficult to compare densities, of course. Here in Orkney there are no managed grouse moors and nothing like the areas of habitat further south. We list it as a “fairly common breeding resident” Some transects are done but no real attempt at giving an overall total. There’s no doubt that numbers are low, compared to managed areas. We also have the highest concentration of breeding Hen Harriers in Britain. All of which leads to the conclusion that Red Grouse survive quite well alongside Hen Harriers (not to mention Ravens, Hooded Crows, Buzzards and Merlins!) but not in anything like the numbers required to run a business shooting them. Thus supporting the statement that managed grouse moors are not the wild places the shooting fraternity would have us believe, but grouse farms where nothing that could possibly reduce the grouse numbers, from a tick to an eagle is permitted to live.

        1. which seems to suggest that the only ones who benefit from all this controlled slaughter are the landowners who run these grouse shoots. think we all knew this and yet they are allowed to contaminate the air when they burn the moors with carcinogenic toxins and receive grants on top of the money made from all this brutality.

    2. In one of the Langholm reports, for the period 2002-2007 (I think) when the moor was not managed it was around 11-14 birds per square kilometre!

      1. From the Langholm Study repprt: “In 2003, the spring density of red grouse at Langholm was 8 birds per km2.” IOf course numbers will increase during the breeding season, but this is far short of the needed to secure a bag of 2000 a year, which it seems is needed to keep the hunters happy. In short, driven grouse shooting is only viable if the land is “farmed” for their benefit and predators eradicated.

  3. Given the difficulties SNH face in removing open general licences from estates with proven persecution records [difficulties both legal and political] what on earth makes anyone think they will be able to enforce licensing for shooting grouse [worth millions in estate value]…even if this SNH dominated committee recommends licensing?…Give SSPCA powers now and stop this continual waste of taxpayers money.

    1. I firmly believe that giving the SSPCA powers would be an excellent logical step forward, but it appears that this proposal is dead in the water. The fact that powers have not been conveyed indicates that there are powers at work stopping such a move. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to come up with a list of suspects behind the block.

    2. Quite simple if the authorities are prepared to stand up and do it.
      This licence is issued on the basis of a set of absolute conditions.
      one of those could be at least one HHarier successful fledging per 5000 (replace as appropriate) acres per year with perhaps a lower density for the first 5 years. Failure means licence removed
      another – Any prosecution of an employee or agent for a wildlife crime or firearms offence. Licence removed.

      The licence fee could be very high to cover the costs of additional monitoring and policing (reducing if policing not required)
      Just make a list and police it

      If you don’t like the conditions then don’t apply

  4. I find this interesting…

    “the Cabinet Secretary had also commissioned a socio-economic study to be undertaken”

    … because I wonder how much benefit reaches the ordinary residents.

  5. Would it be useful if someone were able to prepare a report on the full socio-economic benefit of wildlife tourism in an area that really does have the full range of wildlife that should be present, to be published at the time when GMMRG are publishing theirs for grouse moors?

    1. I read this…

      “a socio-economic study to be undertaken in parallel with the work of the Group”

      … as a separate operation.

    2. I think you’ve hit (one of) the nail(s) on the head, Mairi. The first few words in the agreed terms of reference brought me up short as they seem to prevent the Group from concluding that driven grouse shooting is incompatible with a healthy ecosystem – ‘The Group will examine how to ensure grouse moor management continues to contribute to the rural economy while …’. I’m not for a minute pre-judging the value of the review or the Group’s eventual report, but examining how to ensure grouse moor management continues seems an odd choice of words with which to start the terms of reference. Its hard to imagine that eco-tourism in Scotland could generate the same sort of revenues (and so land values) as driven grouse shooting generates (and I am sure that the GWCT et al will argue that other forms of shooting aren’t economic) but how much value that generates for the Scottish rural economy is an entirely different question.

      That said, oh for a similar review in England or indeed Wales!

      1. No, perhaps not, but eco-tourism is much more likely to benefit the local population more so than the estates do.

  6. ‘The Group will recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation‘.


    So what would be the statutory basis for a licensing system then?

    And how robust would such a licensing system be to the inevitable legal onslaught from the shooting industry?

    And why the desire to avoid new primary legislation?

  7. Are grouse moors/pheasant shoots vital to the Scottish economy?If not ,couldn’t they be banned?

    1. Margaret, I am not sure that anything that isn’t vital for the economy deserves to be banned? A total ban may not attract the support of sufficient numbers to make it possible. You could end uo with a peice of legislation of ineffective as the hunting with hounds ban. Anyway, what do you suggest be banned? Shooting? Driving birds? Killing Red Grouse? However, licencing with safeguards to ensure that proper scrutiny is in place (e.g. permission for CCTV, access etc.) would be a first step and if this doesn’t stop crime, then further steps are more easily justified.

      1. ‘A total ban may not attract the support of sufficient numbers to make it possible’
        I thought there had been a poll which showed there was a majority in support of the ban. I doubt very much that that support has dwindled with the suspicious death of each eagle.
        If you insist i will try to dig out the link. It may have been LACS or even Wings Over Scotland.

        1. Actually it was easy to find

          Also as a rough guide compare the petitions to ban, licence and do nothing.

          When ever there has been a governmnet petition the pro-ban has always done better than the grousers.

          That is without going into all the hidden costs associated with driven grouse shooting.

  8. I can’t find any contact details for this group. Does anyone have any info on that. I would like to contribute to the review. Thanks.

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