Werritty Review: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says early licensing is ‘a serious consideration’

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.

12 thoughts on “Werritty Review: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says early licensing is ‘a serious consideration’”

      1. Sturgeon, optimistic she will be manipulated sucking up with the tweed brigade during the festive period..Champagne & all the trimmings..Stakeholders? Ummm..Xuuuuuu Xxxxx!

  1. Five years is far too long to wait for licensing, when the bird and mammal killers have had very many decades to comply.

    Perhaps, there are too many bad apples to rid the industry without destroying itself.

    The whole industry stinks.


  2. I was a bit disappointed to read the intro to the report and taken a back by the paragraph below. Why oh why did the Prof not just use his casting vote, was getting a unanimous recommendation really that important? Maybe he is being clever and sending a message to the Government that even though they have made a particular recommendation he actually believes it should be immediate. That in itself is quite telling. I assume the two members who contested it were the reps of the shooting community. The other interesting point is that the others (presumably including the conservation interests) went along with it. Not being party to all that was discussed maybe well just have to trust their judgment.

    “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.”

    Come on, get a legally robust, enforceable system of licensing in now. The shooting community have had long enough to get their house in order, enough already.

  3. I understand the Scottish Government’s wish to produce a compromise, which is politically to be expected. However, if we really want raptors to be protected by statute and practical terms, how can we be content to accept a compromise which would still be exploited by the game industry? Gamekeepers generally follow their managers’ instructions, and on one occasion one of the most “respected” managers in Scotland (and elsewhere in Northern Europe) told me that he would never, ever allow a harrier on any of his moors. At that time, as a Countryside Ranger, I was attempting to negotiate an agreement that he would stop his keepers shooting Peregrines under my watch, but the best he could offer was to remove most of the clutch, leaving only one egg (or chick), “to stop the adults taking too many grouse chicks,” when I had never recorded any grouse being taken! However, the local gamekeepers were quite happy to follow his orders, and hen harriers were their prime victims over a period of twenty years in my experience. Peregrines were their next avian target, followed by Short-eared Owls, Buzzards and the occasional Kestrel, Raven or Carrion Crow.

    Can anyone, including RSPB and RPUK, explain to me why they seem to be heading for an agreement to compromise (Licensing), which in my opinion will only lead to keepers being more cautious when they continue to persecute harriers and other species they hate to see on their moors? A complete ban on grouse shooting is the only solution in my opinion, with moorland management becoming a conservation solution leading to less intensive grazing and a haven for its unique biodiversity. This would require far more designations as SSSIs or SPAs. Hopefully bodies like RSPB and SWT could take the lead by purchasing as many of the prime sites as possible, assisted by SNH. There are other solutions, of course, including statutory monitoring by Raptor Study Groups, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage.

  4. I really would like to see a chronographic record of how many times since the first protection was introduced in 1958 that the criminals has promised that it would end….in five years.

  5. I agree with a previous comment that a ban on grouse shooting is the only answer. The landed gentry have engaged in their barbaric blood sports for far too long. It is time to finish these outdated and cruel activities in the 2020s.

  6. After Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘statement’ today does anyone else see the ‘lets have another consultation’ similarity to the Scottish governments approach to stopping raptor crime and independence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: