Werritty Review published: unanimously recommends grouse moor licensing but wants 5 year delay

The Scottish Government has this morning published the long-awaited Werritty Review on grouse moor management.

You can download it here: Werritty Review_Nov2019

The key recommendation is that the panel unanimously recommends a licensing scheme for shooting grouse in Scotland but inexplicably suggests a five-year moratorium of this measure to allow the grouse shooting industry to get its act together – a last chance saloon, if you like. Industry figures will be familiar with this saloon – they’ve been quaffing free champagne in there for decades.

On a first skim of the executive summary, this proposed delay has no justification other than to appease the grouse-shooting reps on the supposedly ‘independent’ panel.

As far as we’re concerned another five-year delay is totally unacceptable. If the panel has accepted the need for reform, which it has, unanimously, then reform needs to begin now.

So far, the Scottish Government has not published its response to Werritty’s report. [See update at foot of blog]

Much more analysis on this to come….

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: encouraging response from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Eagles at risk after landowning lobby delays licensing of grouse shooting (article in The Ferret, here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: response from RSPB Scotland (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: grouse shooting industry predicts ‘rural Armageddon’ (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Raptor slaughter will continue following “washout” grouse shooting report (article in Third Force News here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Scottish grouse moor owners face mandatory licensing (article in Guardian here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Revive Coalition responds (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Scottish Raptor Study Group responds (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: response from OneKind (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Scottish Greens slam it as a ‘weak washout’ (here)

UPDATE 19 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: Scottish Wildlife Trust urges action ‘without unnecessary delay’ (here)

UPDATE 20 Dec 2019: Werritty – a long wait for not very much (Mark Avery’s blog here)

UPDATE 20 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says early licensing is ‘a serious consideration’ (here)

UPDATE 21 Dec 2019: Werritty Review: a surprising response from GWCT (here)

UPDATE 21 Dec 2019: BBC interviews Professor Alan Werritty (here)

UPDATE 2 Jan 2020: No, Magnus, the Werritty Review does not threaten gamekeepers’ jobs, wildlife crime does (here)

UPDATE 19 Jan 2020: Professor Werritty to give evidence to Environment Committee on grouse moor reform (here)

UPDATE 12 Feb 2020: How much did the Werritty review cost & why is it so difficult to find out? (here)

UPDATE 19 May 2020: Full cost of Werritty Review finally revealed (here)

UPDATE 14 August 2020: Cross-party political pressure on Scottish Government to respond to Werritty Review on grouse moor licensing (here)

UPDATE 18 November 2020: Werritty Review – one year on & still waiting for Scottish Government response (here)

60 thoughts on “Werritty Review published: unanimously recommends grouse moor licensing but wants 5 year delay”

  1. More evidence that SNH has been corrupted by the vast hegemonic powers of Driven Grouse Moor Proprietors and there is no doubt in my mind that any legislation will have huge holes in it. Why they continue with voluntary actions undertaken by the Grouse Industry is unfathomable given their behaviour over the years with little, if any, improvement visible, unlike the unregulated tracks and the destruction of the ecology which are self evident to anyone who visits these locations.

  2. Oh yes we definitely need 5 years to prepare our estates to act legally, possibly 10.

    5 year Licensing trial from April 2020 is what we need, then total ban if no massive change.

  3. Pathetic. How long did this group take. A total failure. With all the evidence of illegal activities and habitat damage how can a further 5 year delay with waffly criteria for judging improvement be justified. Let alone the get out of jail free card at the end of the period. As for a voluntary code on medicated grit.Since when has anything voluntary been observed by the driven grouse industry?. A wonderful, expensive and wasteful exercise in fence sitting.

  4. When the petitions committee were discussing my one for an independent, comprehensive study of the real economics (or not) of DGS a couple of years ago they said this issue should be covered by this forthcoming review. Now the review is published and after a very quick skim it states that both there is very little data to determine the the actual economic value of DGS AND it is of value to some remote communities!?! A full, independent economic study still needs to be done, but was side stepped for what looks like at first glance a pail of pish. Yet again another piece of fucking fudge to keep the usual suspects happy? Safe and legal protest on the moors during the grouse shooting season – what other option are we left with now?

  5. Can someone explain how the group could be evenly split with 5 members?
    Grouse Moor Management Group (Alison Hester, Alex Jameson, Ian Newton, Mark Oddy and Colin Reid)

    ‘The Group was evenly split on whether or not to license grouse shooting. When, as Chair, I sought to exercise a casting vote in favour of the immediate introduction of licensing, this was contested by two members of the Group. 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’ A. Werritty in Preface

    1. Maybe the special advisers and secretary were also allowed to ‘vote’.
      In which case how could 2 members block 10?

      Specialist advisers

      Dr. Adam Smith
      Dr. Calum MacDonald
      Professor Des Thompson
      Susan Davies


      Karen Rentoul

      1. I get more confused when i read it.
        Werritty talks about casting a deciding vote (therby implying a straight vote) and then gets somehow forced into a position of need an unanimous decision.
        This feels seriously dodgy. How can 2 subvert the will of 9?

          1. Read The Ferret and after going around in circles come back to my first question. How can 5 members be evenly split? if it was evenly split including Werritty (3-3) he couldn’t cast a deciding vote. Doesn’t add up.

            1. What does add up ..Conspiracy & corruption, vested financial & social interests! No mystery! Hypocritical!
              Probationary period of 5 years to assess specified raptors to a ‘favourable’ conservation status? We are well aware of the future potential culling killing figures & survey results as previous history reveals.
              Government ministers are running scared from the landowners & lawyers..Sick! sick! sick!

    2. The working group has six members including the chairman, so the split was 3-3. The chairman then decided against a casting vote.

      1. OK thanks but that is not my understanding of a casting vote.
        Cambridge Dictionary
        Casting Vote
        ‘a single vote, given by the person in charge of a meeting if the number of votes about something is equal, that decides the matter.’

        1. Ah a legal definition talks about a second vote by chair.

          The Law Dictionary
          What is CASTING VOTE?

          Where the votes of a deliberative assembly or legislative body are equally divided on any question or motion, it is the privilege of the presiding officer to cast one vote (if otherwise he would not be entitled to any vote) on either side, or to cast one additional vote, if he has already voted as a member of the body. This is called the “casting vote.” By the common law, a casting vote sometimes signifies the single vote of a person who never votes; but. in the case of an equality, sometimes the double vote of a person who first votes with the rest, and then, upon an equality, creates a majority by giving a second vote

          [Ed: Prasad – this is in danger of veering off topic. No more commentary on ‘casting votes’ please. Thks]

  6. i’m probably not in a majority in thinking a 5 year delay may not be all bad news. I wonder if the threat of legislation is more significant than actual leglislation (which will be full of unintentional holes). But, a delay has to be linked to very significant improvement targets that are assessed by a comprehensive survey in 5 years time and why shouldn’t the land owners pay all or a majority of costs (but the survey will be independent and not undertaken by game keepers)? If all is well in 5 years time that isn’t the end of it, there would be other surveys in 10 and 15 years with the threat of legislation remaining. If after 20 years everything is much better that may be long enough to break the current culture of abuse that is apparent in some, certainly not all, estates. I should add that I am speaking for myself, Phil Whitfield may have a completely different view.

    1. But then it will take several more years to gather the data and then publish papers to prove that
      ‘there is no marked improvement in the ecological sustainability of grouse moor management, as evidenced by the populations of breeding Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers and Peregrines on or within the vicinity of grouse moors being in favourable condition’.

      Ministers should have the guts to start licensing right now rather than another 5-10 year delay.
      Double whammy today. This and the RPUK report on pathetic dithering of Scottish Rural Affairs & Environment Minister.

      Of course for Golden Eagles, Peregrines and Hen Harriers to be in ‘favourable condition’ on grouse moors would require a massive improvement! That could be a little secret weapon that they slipped in.
      Also kudos to Werritty for letting us know about that 2 person veto.

      1. Change can happen quite quickly, perhaps more quickly than most people imagine, the Monadhliaths are a good example. They have gone from being in a very poor condition wrt golden eagles into being in a favourable condition in only a few years (See page 9 https://sse.com/media/575256/Biodiversity-Report-2019_WEB.pdf). This has come about via a change in ‘land management’ practices across most but not all of this region. Many of the satellite tagged young eagles are settling much faster than previously thought, particularly in ’empty’ areas. So, change can be rapid (less than 5 years).

  7. Christ you don’t have to read far to get to do dodgy statements (apart from the one mentioned previously about economics).

    ‘The Joint Raptor Study on Langholm Moor showed that, in sufficient numbers, Hen Harriers can reduce the densities of grouse to such low levels that driven grouse shooting is impracticable’
    This ‘fact’ is seriously contested by the RSPB. The grouse densities were high enough for previous shooting levels.
    It should read something like ‘that intensive driven grouse shooting with high profit goals is impracticable.’

    1. My criticism is not accurate.
      The statement quoted from the report is technically correct fore the first part of Langholm although only with the caveat ‘without remedial measures’ which were explored later at Langholm.
      I chose a wrong target because their statement on its own is correct and leaves us, as a society, with a binary choice. Do we want driven grouse shooting or Hen Harriers. There is no need for a 2 year report once that fact is accepted, which it is by the report. There really is nothing more to say, one thing follows the other.
      The one get out clause for DGS was diversionary feeding and that was the result that the RSPB contested at Langholm; that diversionary feeding allowed grouse numbers to recover to a level that had previously been considered enough for shooting. As the report later states, the grouse lobby rejected such a remedial measure.
      So we are back to that binary choice, which isn’t a choice at all.

  8. F*** Me
    5. That the brood management programme for Hen Harriers in England should be monitored, and if it is deemed successful in producing an increase in the breeding numbers and distribution of Hen Harriers, then consideration should be given to introducing a similar programme in Scotland’

    1. ‘Brood Management
      .. partly removes the concern of the moor manager that, if he allows harriers to nest on his land, in time their numbers on the moor might increase to such a level as to make driven shooting non-viable.’

      Ignoring for now that statement that the moor manager in question is a criminal, how does that make any sense unless he/she thinks that the brood managed birds will get killed before or when they return to his/her land. Remember the lowland introduction is bases on site fidelity and didn’t Langholm prove that there is some basis for many birds returning to a good area.
      If they are saying that the removed birds will keep on being moved as the population increases, where are all these birds going to breed and as they increase year upon year how on earth is this ever going to work. Thousands of birds being removed and reared in captivity. It is absurd. How can they even write this nonsense.
      This report is depressing reading.

    2. FFS. This just gets worse.

      ‘Recommendations arising from the science reviews
      Raptor persecution and predation
      4.That where particular species are perceived to be limiting the populations of red and or amber-listed ground-nesting birds, including Red Grouse, greater use should be made of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981s16. This existing licensing legislation allows SNH to permit under licence a range of lethal and non-lethal management options’


  9. If Government accept the recommendation, which is quite likely, it will be important to press on with designing a licencing system which sets out standards by which it shall be judged, so that it can be introduced promptly in five years time. At present there is no agreed/accepted ‘standard’ which a licence could be measured against for game management (cf the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme used for Forestry), so while five years may appear disappointing it gives plenty of time to have such discussions and work progressively to take licencing forward.

  10. ‘For some Group members the association between some areas of grouse moor management and the evidence for activities adversely affecting raptor populations provides grounds for the licensing of grouse shooting. But for other Group members this evidence is strongly contested and the case for licensing on these grounds is deemed to be flawed.’
    How can anyone with such an anti-scientific belief be allowed onto a scientifically based group.

  11. Setting aside the apparent inconsistency in the vote this is more obfuscation! What more evidence is needed? The evidence of decades should be sufficient. It is a binary choice stop shooting the raptors now or be licensed!

          1. I should says sounds similar to father than exactly the same, sorry.
            What i mean is that your binary choice would take time to be demonstrated. The only way to stop killing now is a ban.

  12. This is a disappointing fudge. What the report says is hey! we know there is a problem. Its been a problem for a long time. But we don’t like taking flak, we don’t like being bullied so we will give a politician’s answer which is always we will deal with it tomorrow. The bad guys can get their act together and we will look at the problem again 5 years down the line! But it won’t be 5 years down the line because then another Committee will sit, reports will have to be written, meetings will have to be held etc. etc. More raptors will have been killed, more hares dumped in stink pits, more hillsides ruined. Shame on you for missing out on a good opportunity to improve the status quo. Rant over – I’ll go and bang my head against a brick wall instead!

  13. What difference do you laptop heroes think it will make anyway? It’s just another form of tax which you lot probably don’t pay any of anyway. Get a mortgage and buy your own land and see how long it takes you to ruin it!

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