Scottish Government denies ‘negotiating’ with gamekeepers on new offences for trap damage

In early May we blogged about a claim made by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) that it was ‘negotiating with Government for a new offence to be created for damage to legal predator control tools‘, i.e. traps and snares (see here).

[A spring (Fenn) trap set on a log, designed to catch and kill any animal that stands on the trigger plate. Gamekeepers argue that traps like these, and others, are routinely damaged by members of the public. Photo from the Untold Suffering report published by the Revive Coalition last year. NB: It is no longer legal to use Fenn traps for killing stoats in the UK as they have been ruled inhumane – new trap designs have recently been approved (see here)]

This claim led to Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell posing two Parliamentary questions earlier this week, asking the Government for details of these alleged ‘negotiations’ (see here).

Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has now responded and her answers are hilarious:

Mark Ruskell MSPTo ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding creating offences and sanctions in relation to animal trap damage, broken down by (a) date and (b) location of discussion. (S5W-28828).

Roseanna CunninghamThe Scottish Government has not had any recent discussions with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association about creating offences and sanctions in relation to animal trap damage.

Mark Ruskell MSPTo ask the Scottish Government how it plans to change the law in relation to the wilful damage of animal traps. (S5W-28829).

Roseanna CunninghamUnder existing legislation and common law a person interfering with a legally set snare or trap may be committing one of a number of possible offences.

The Independent Review of Grouse Moor Management report which was published in December recommended changes to legislation on the use of animal traps. The Scottish Government is currently considering all of the recommendations in the report and will publish a response in due course.

So, in essence then, no, the Scottish Government is not involved in ‘negotiations’ with the SGA as the SGA has claimed, and no, the Scottish Government does not appear to be considering new legislation for the provision of a new offence for alleged trap damage.

Roseanna Cunningham mentions the Government’s ongoing consideration of the recommendations made in the Werritty Review but that review did not include a recommendation for the provision of a new offence for alleged trap damage. What it did recommend, however, was new legislation for trap operators to have to undertake mandatory training before being allowed to set traps!

This begs the question then, why did the SGA claim to be ‘negotiating with Government’ when apparently it is doing no such thing?!

If the SGA could put aside its delusional posturing for a second it’d do well to be spending some time reminding its members of the current legislation on trap use. According to the RSPB this week, ‘the police are following up several raptor persecution cases and multiple reports of illegal trap use on grouse moors‘ (see here). Let’s hope that none of those traps alleged to be being used illegally, belong to an SGA member.

19 thoughts on “Scottish Government denies ‘negotiating’ with gamekeepers on new offences for trap damage”

  1. I’m a tad cynical at times, so when they say they’ve had no “recent discussions” it makes me wonder what this means. What is “recent”? This week, this month, year, decade? It suggests that there has been some discussion at some time as it doesn’t simply say there have been no discussions. In which case the question has not been answered.

    1. There have been historical discussions since 2013, all documented in the public domain – see this link and the links within:

      The point is that the SGA made a claim to be ‘negotiating with Government’ and asking its members to provide supportive evidence, which implies the ‘negotiations’ are current. According to the Cab Sec, this simply isn’t true.

      1. I’m afraid I think you giving too much credence to the Scots government.. Their reply is vague and suggests that they have had discussions recently but not perhaps last week! The Gamekeepers via moor owners and shooting organisations, on-side ministers, have probably a shortcut to ministers’ ears and there is in all probability a permanent conveyer belt of misinformation, lies, and subterfuge, mingled , I would not be surprised, with threat, inducement, and wink-wink complicity. This is internalised and even if not actually under discussion now is poisonous input from poisonous manipulators intended to sway forth coming decisions. I like many others am aghast at the ecological crimes committed with the connivance of our elected representatives, but it is only part of a mindset moulded by class, privilege and systematic corruption.

  2. Having spent rather a long time in politics myself, I’d just like a clarification on what the SG defines as ‘recent’. If they mean the last week then this means they could have had discussions the week before that. Are we talking a few months, six months or over a year? The question maybe should have been ‘have you had discussions/negotiations and if so, when’?

    1. Mark’s original PQ was specific. It was the Cab Sec who introduced the word ‘recent’.

      However, look at the Cab Sec’s response to Mark’s second question. There is no indication whatsoever that a ‘negotiated new offence’ is being considered. Probably because it’s already an offence to damage a trap, which she has also reiterated.

  3. Anyone caught damaging traps and snares is committing an act of criminal damage. As such, they should be dealt with by the police. Likewise, anyone trespassing on private property, should be dealt with by the police under criminal law.

    1. Trespass is NOT a criminal offence anywhere in the UK except on railway property, it is a civil offence except if you have committed criminal damage. All those signs in the countryside ” Trespassers will be prosecuted” are an untrue deterrent. To win a case in civil law certainly in England or Wales you would have to prove persistent trespass to win an injunction.

    2. There is something you may not have thought about here. Traps whether legal or illegal, and whether they are properly used if legal, kill birds that may have moved into the moors from surrounding areas, prospecting young etc. those who systematically kill raptors are not aiming to kill only raptors living or attempting to breed on their land but often eleiminating them from surrounding areas too, to prevent them causing dispersion of game birds to areas where they cannot be shot. Often birds killed have been reared in nests on adjoining nature reserves. In other words these criminals are seriously depelting the nations birds not just those they would like to think they have rights over as land-owners. this is immoral and represents a loss of ecological heritage on a regional or even national level , since some of the birds only breed in limited parts of the country. Golden eagles killed on grouse moors have an impact, therefore, beyond the local. Intensive grouse shooting is a sport that depends on killing wild creatures, very wide range of bird, mammal and herpetological (this indirectly) species, many of them protected and others, shamefully not. the intensification of shooting has also led to gamekeepers persecuting wildlife outside grouse moors too. Snares should be banned and intensive grouse shooting which now is making even greater demands of the environment should also be banned.

    3. “Trespass” is not dealt with under the criminal law. It is merely a potential civil tort.

  4. I never understood how there could ever be “negotiation” with anyone over legislation. There certainly should not be, but that is no guarantee that there will not be dirty work done at the crossroads. That goes for all governments, but the failure of Holyrood to deal with raptor persecution renders it is impossible to exclude unsavoury activity.

  5. It’s an amusing example of their failure of self-perception and though it’s not the same it reminds me of the GWCT’s propensity to post on their website ‘Our letter to the Times on xyz’ etc. I don’t think any of those have ever been published (except on the GWCT’s website), though maybe the odd one has slipped through. To me, it makes Mr G look like Mr Little Grumpy of Tunbridge-on-Sea, progressively diminishing the GWCT’s stature.

  6. To quote alancranston above ” progressively diminishing the GWCT’s stature.” indeed and at an increased pace. Surely they must realise that they do themselves no favours or is it the marketing psycology, say it often enough and hope folk will believe what they claim?

    It must be incredibly frustrating to them to have their claims shot to smithereens so often, it seems astonishing to me that they continue promulgating absolute twaddle.

  7. Always remember that the game shooting industry is now very, very nervous !

    Their stock in trade is always to claim that they have more political clout than they really have.
    Bluster is available in vast quantities from them and their mouthpieces.
    GWCT I suspect will continue with this also and I also suspect that their support will gradually dwindle as they have never separated from the old methods of keepering that we all know about.
    As more communities turn against the destruction of moorland and lowland ecology by shoots, they are going to get even more nervous.
    They only have a feudal hold over their slaves and small parts of those communities now.

    A whole herd of cats are now out of the bag.

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. Despite my reluctance to give money which may eventually end up in the Duke of Buccleuch’s alleged offshore accounts, I will support the Langholm community buy-out. It’s one way of ending the driven grouse shooting industry’s damage to the environment by taking the uplands away from them.

  9. Can I please tag onto this thread a request for “authoritative information” about the new trap laws? Okay, I get that the new DoC traps can be used for stoats, and I get that for these the “entry aperture” into the tunnel should be no larger than 51mm – GWCT reckon this is defensible. But in cases where keepers have lifted and moved their old Mk4 Fenns and discreetly reset them elsewhere “just for weasels”…what should the maximum “entry aperture” be? Or to put it another way, when I look at a tunnel trap that is still using a Fenn Mk4 “for weasels”, how big should/shouldn’t the entrance be?

    1. The advice from GWCT is as follows
      The popular Fenn-type trap, and the BMI bodygrip remain a legal for weasels, after 1 April, but trappers must reduce excluder apertures on any boxes/rails that remain with these traps to minimise the risk of stoat capture. Because of the overlap in body size between weasels and stoats, it is very unlikely that a physical excluder can be devised that will allow weasels to pass through while excluding stoats. We therefore urge trappers to fully embrace change and demonstrate full compliance with the law by switching to new generation stoat traps for both species.
      It seems the “best ” course of action is to abandon the use of Fenn traps completely. My own view would be if you find set Fenn traps in areas that contain stoats ( nearly all of the UK) report it to the police, RSPCA, One kind etc.

      1. Thanks Paul. It is as I thought a massive loophole which makes any reasonable effort to enforce this law a huge uphill slog just like the raptor laws. On a walk where I would normally see a few Fenn traps on logs across streams, I noticed yesterday there were none – although the logs and cage tunnels still remain. I would bet my last pound that they won’t bin them, and have simply gone back to putting them (the Fenn Mk4’s) in cavities inside dry-stone walls as was standard practice years ago. Should a member of the public notice one with a dead stoat in it (unlikely as they aren’t conspicuous like the log traps) the fallback defence will always be “it was targeting weasels.” Be interesting to know how many of these new designs have been imported and sold…as your average upper-end grouse moor will each need to replace their stock of 60 to 100 Mk4’s per 5000 acres.

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