Werritty Review: encouraging response from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham

Further to the publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management this morning (here), Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has made an encouraging statement in a Scot Gov press release, as follows:


A review into grouse moor management has recommended the introduction of a shooting licensing scheme if breeding populations of raptors show no marked improvement.

The review, which was chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, Professor Emeritus of Physical Geography at University of Dundee, was asked to examine how we can ensure that grouse moor management continues to contribute to the rural economy while being environmentally sustainable.

As well as the recommendation that a licensing scheme is introduced for the shooting of grouse if there is no marked improvement in the ecological sustainability of grouse moor management, the report also makes a number of other recommendations relating to common grouse moor practices, such as the use of medicated grit and muirburn.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

I would like to thank Professor Werritty and the other members of the Grouse Moor Management Group for undertaking this important review and for their extensive work over the last two years.

As well as the issue of raptor persecution, the review was asked to look at grouse moor management practices including muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and also to examine regulatory options including possible licensing of grouse shooting businesses.

It is important that we give careful consideration to the recommendations, alongside other evidence, before issuing a response. An important part of this will involve meeting key stakeholders to discuss the findings of the review, and we will publish a full response to the report in due course. At this early stage, however. I believe the option of a licensing scheme will need to be considered and – if required – implemented earlier than the five-year timeframe suggested by the review group.”

[Photo insert by RPUK – in 2018 after the suspicious disappearance of golden eagle Fred in the Pentland Hills Roseanna Cunningham told Chris Packham in an interview that grouse shoot licensing had been talked about by the Scottish Government since 2009. It’s ten years on – time for action now, not in another five years. Photo by Ruth Peacey].

Professor Werritty said:

When I accepted the invitation from the Scottish Government to lead an expert review on grouse shooting, I had not fully appreciated the complexity of the issues involved, the passion with which contrasting views were held, or the length of time the review would require.

Our remit invited us to make recommendations to reduce the illegal killing of raptors but at the same time to give due regard to the socio-economic contribution that grouse shooting makes to Scotland’s rural economy. Both topics have proved complex and problematic.

In order to have a unanimous recommendation on this key issue with the authority that implies, the Group proposes a five year probationary period for specified raptors on or near grouse shooting estates to recover to a favourable conservation status. Should this target fail to be achieved, licensing should be introduced immediately. We all agree that it is the only way forward in that situation“.


The Grouse Moor Management Group was established in November 2017. It was commissioned by the Scottish Government in response to a report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which showed that around one third of tagged golden eagles had disappeared on or around driven grouse moors.

The group’s report can be found on the Scottish Government website.



10 thoughts on “Werritty Review: encouraging response from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham”

  1. I don’t understand why there are any qualifications in the report: if an activity is sustained by multiple acts of illegality, environmental destruction and a negative impact on other protected wildlife and people’s rights to roam safely it surely must be so tightly regulated that these issues all disappear. The economic case is irrelevant. What that says is “if it generates enough money we will let the illegal acts continue”. If you use that logic then the police should turn a blind eye to the illegal drugs industry, because the income it generates dwarfs the entire shooting industry many times over.

    Sorry but I find this whole thing another exercise in doing nothing, hoping people will forget or get fatigued / bored by the subject.

    1. Even if DGS made sense economically as you point out the problems associated with it mean it is not an acceptable activity. The thing is it doesn’t make even basic economic sense – there is no legitimate reason for it what so ever. The review was framed as seeing how DGS could continue to make a valuable economic contribution to rural communities whilst these problems could be resolved, totally bypassing the point of whether or not DGS creates or drives away more jobs just a convenient assumption it’s a boon for rural communities. The answer to that is almost certainly it drives jobs away which is why the Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Russians, Canadians and New Englanders don’t have it. The key issue of economic justification for DGS has been side stepped yet again otherwise the grouse moors would be sunk.

  2. We know that licencing has been talked about in Holyrood for the last 10 years and now the proposal is to delay implementation for a further 5 years (that’ll be 5 years after the Gov. actually manage to make a decision – when the next blue moon appears).
    There is no indication of when the Gov. will actually comment on the proposals in the report, but then these people just hate to have to work to deadlines.
    What the Gov. describes as giving the report consideration is, in reality, no more than an exercise in obfuscation with the aim avoiding taking the action needed to eliminate long standing and unrelenting criminal activity.

    1. Cunningham is talking about bringing it in sooner than the 5 years. That is presumably what RPUK are highlighting as being ‘encouraging’. That really is the best thing i have read all day.

  3. Where governments worldwide are expected to legislate and plan for efforts to beat back the worst effects of climate change in 8-10 years, any decision like this one would be an indicator to the international community of just how committed this or any government is likely to be in the resolution of environmental issues. Where environment damaging “muirburn” and medicated grit use are “a given” the Scottish government should have no real difficulty in making a strong case for immediate action – it’s that simple. A delay of 5 years with no “third party” monitoring is just another opportunity for the “industry” to build a legal and economic case for doing nothing.
    Alongside that, and in spite of the present political issues, it shouldn’t be impossible for any government to at least reach some consensus into linking it to wider environmental rural land reform where the acquisition of these estates, in their present form, becomes less attractive. If nothing else there should be slightly less political resistance, at least in Scotland, following the recent election.
    By all means make concessions so that there is a move towards some form of compensatory income – but built around re-wilding with specific areas set aside for local sustainable environmental commerce where possible.

  4. This statement did cheer me up a bit. I’ve not been close to it but it seems likely to me that Prof Werritty was (to use a friend’s analogy) the referee at the end of a game which, after a record penalty shoot-out, is still a score draw. So then there had to be some handling, and my reading is that there has been some good work by officials here to turn the extended score-draw into a win of sorts. I do not know if he could have done better but what is now clear is that it is a matter of political will. So we must be in there, supporting Roseanna Cunningham and exposing the bad guys. The Scottish Parliamentary elections are much less than five years away.

  5. So, they stop illegal killings for 5 years, get a gold star for their efforts, stop licensing happening because they are good boys and girls and finally resume their usual tricks!!!!!


  6. Professor Werritty said:

    “When I accepted the invitation from the Scottish Government to lead an expert review on grouse shooting, I had not fully appreciated the complexity of the issues involved, the passion with which contrasting views were held, or the length of time the review would require.”

    The man clearly had no clue about an issue which has dominated his ‘field’ for decades. Is that why he was ‘chosen’?

  7. Professor Werritty said:

    “In order to have a unanimous recommendation”

    There was NO requirement to have a unanimous recommendation. That condition has been invented by Werritty.

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