Further to yesterday’s long-awaited publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management (here), Nicola Sturgeon received two related questions during First Minister’s Questions in the chamber yesterday afternoon (available to watch on ScotParlTV here and read full transcript here).
Andy Wightman (Lothian) (Green):
A month ago, the First Minister said to Alison Johnstone: “We will continue to take the right steps to protect wildlife, and will do that without fear or favour with regard to any vested interests or other interests.” [Official Report, 21 November 2019; c 21.]
We have waited more than two years for the Werritty review. Is the First Minister surprised that the representatives of the grouse shooting lobby she appointed to a review of grouse shooting have used their effective veto to sabotage what would otherwise be a clear recommendation to license grouse shooting?
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon):
The Werritty review has been published and all members can look at its recommendations. The central recommendation on the timescale for moving to greater regulation was not unanimous—Andy Wightman is right to point to that. That is one of the reasons why the Government will take time to consider the recommendation. I want to be very clear that part of that consideration will be looking at whether we move to regulation on a much quicker timeframe. We will take the views of stakeholders before coming to a final view on that.
The option of a licensing scheme needs to be considered. If that is the view of stakeholders and we consider that necessary—as I said, that is a serious consideration—we will move to implement that earlier than the five-year timeframe that was suggested by the review group.
[Thanks to Mr Carbo for this illustration]
Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab):
Further to Andy Wightman’s question on the long-awaited Werritty report, and recognising the complexity of the issue and the need for sustainable development for rural Scotland—let us all recall that a fifth of Scotland is driven grouse moors—Scottish Labour is very disappointed that the report recommends a five-year delay, in a climate emergency and a biodiversity emergency, before consideration is given to licensing. Does the First Minister agree that now is the time to consult on licensing; the possibility of the ban on burning deep peat, with appropriate exemptions as one of a range of options; the outlawing of particular types of snares and the mass mountain hare cull; and a range of other issues? Now is the time to do it—not in five years.
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon):
I answered that specific question in response to Andy Wightman, but I am happy to do so again. First, the Werritty review was independent of Government. It has made a set of recommendations, not all of which were unanimous, as has already been pointed out. We will give careful consideration to all the recommendations alongside other evidence before we issue a full response. As part of that, we will meet key stakeholders to discuss the review’s findings.
Secondly, on licensing, as I said very clearly to Andy Wightman, part of our consideration will be to move to a licensing scheme much earlier than the five-year timeframe that was suggested by the review group. We welcome the input of everyone who has an interest in the matter. We will issue our response to the Werritty recommendations as soon as we are able to do so.
The First Minister’s words are encouraging and welcome, just like those of her Cabinet Secretary yesterday (see here) but to be perfectly frank, the early implementation of a licensing scheme for grouse shooting should really be ‘a no-brainer’ rather than being ‘a serious consideration’. The Scottish Government has promised action for years and years and years (see here for a timeline) – NOW’s the time to deliver.