“Licensing of Scottish grouse moors is needed now: it cannot wait five years”

Duncan Orr Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland has written an opinion piece published today in The Scotsman:

Duncan’s article relates to the still-awaited Government response to the Werritty Review (apparently now due ‘in the autumn’ but don’t hold your breath). For new blog readers, the Werritty Review was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2017 to assess the sustainability of grouse moor management and it reported in November 2019. The group unanimously recommended that grouse moors should be licensed but only if, within five years, there is no measured improvement in the conservation prospects of key bird of prey populations (see here).

Here are a couple of extracts from Duncan’s article:

In December 2019 the independent Grouse Moor Management Review Group, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, made recommendations as to how Scottish grouse moors might be managed “sustainably and within the law”. The Werritty Review was prompted by relentless illegal persecution of birds of prey. It followed the publication of a damning report by Scottish Natural Heritage that analysed the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles between 2004 and 2016. The report revealed that a third of the 131 tracked birds disappeared in illegal or suspicious circumstances, predominantly on land managed for grouse shooting. Since only a small proportion of the golden eagle population was monitored, the true number of birds killed was likely higher‘.


RSPB Scotland supports the Group’s recommendations; but we do not accept the need for a five-year delay before licensing is considered. Licensing must be progressed as soon as possible. Grouse shooting businesses have had many decades to get their house in order and have patently failed to adapt to the laws of the land and to modern expectations. A five-year delay would likely mean up to ten years before a licensing system could be practically implemented. We need an immediate and significant change to deliver environmentally sustainable grouse moor management practices; any delay puts the future of Scotland’s spectacular birds of prey at prolonged risk from illegal behaviours; and hinders Scotland’s attempts to use nature-based solutions to tackle the climate crisis‘.

To read the full article please click here

UPDATE 26 July 2020: More hysterical scaremongering over proposed grouse moor licensing (here)

14 thoughts on ““Licensing of Scottish grouse moors is needed now: it cannot wait five years””

  1. Yes, I would agree wholeheartedly with the response from Duncan Orr-Ewing.

    The Scottish Government has been making noises that they are seriously concerned about raptor persecution and had the Golden Eagle review which when published had a damming indictment on grouse moor management.
    Then followed ‘Werrity’ who more or less came to the same conclusion although I am sure the parties involved in this report were deeply divided in its conclusion which gave a negative outcome for predators who lived on grouse moors.
    The conclusion, of course, made no decisive decision but suggested another five years of monitoring just to ‘see if things got better’. What a hope!
    Duncan is correct, in that urgent implementation of the report should take place immediately.

  2. Any other industry that blatantly broke the law and continued to do so for decades would have been severely dealt with a long time ago yet these people are laughing at authority, get a grip Scottish and English governments because its us the ordinary people that put you where you are we can also get rid of you, we are sick of what is going on

    1. If the first six months of this year are anything to go by most of the raptors will have gone by the end of five years.

      1. In all seriousness you are about right. Ever since a few english Agents got their feet under the table up there the countdown began. Day in, day out the numbers of raptors in the air decreases, and the number rotting in boggy holes increases. Scotland needs to act quick you have your own White Rhino situation happening now.

  3. Why do we need licencing when we can trust them……?

    Look at mountain hare. Species in trouble. Slaughtered mecilessly despite the agreement to adhere to a voluntary ban.

    Parliament votes to formally protect the species.

    So the “killing for fun’s” lobbyists decide to step in and calm things down with:- “BASC Scotland Director, Dr Colin Shedden, said: “It is entirely appropriate for the mountain hare open season to continue until a workable licensing scheme comes into force. .”

    There you have it, make hay while the sun shines….go forth boys and kill, kill, kill till they take the guns from our dead hands……..

    So Roseanna, why do you trust them again?

  4. Would love to see an explanation from Duncan as to how he sees licensing working. It won’t work, it can’t work, how would you police it Duncan?
    The RSPB need to grow some and start insisting on a ban now.

    1. Bang on Paul. Licensing is a sham policy for continued DGS and all its devasting ills. The idea of concomitant rigorous enforcement is laughable. Once licensed, DGS will be legitimised and therefore prolonged for a very, very long time. RSPB, REVIVE et al take note!

  5. If the SG fail to show resolve (likely IMO) and do not quickly introduce a rigorous and meaningful licensing system then that will demonstrate that they have made a deal with the devil.
    They are heading towards being seen as limp-wristed.

  6. The Scottish Government and SNH are structurally suspect when making decisions in disputes between the environment and finance when they find themselves in opposing camps. They always reach decisions favourable to science except in the face of large pubic support. The raven cull in Strathbraan was sanctioned even though no evidence was produced to justify it, more beavers were killed post the “protection measures” enacted by Holyrood because the regulations appeared to be lax enough to facilitate this easily predictable outcome. Both of these were part rectified in the face of overwhelming public support .. at least temporarily, and more than likely to be reversed once public attention is lost. Mountain hare culling looks to be following the same trajectory.
    It was also easily predictable that there would be increased raptor persecution during the “lockdown” but no measures were enacted that allowed raptor workers or the RSPB to continue their monitoring. I could go on and on but the time for excuses is finished.
    In my opinion both Holyrood and SNH have been seriously compromised due to the immense wealth, the tight knit social/business groups, and their dominant influence in local politics by way of their hegemonic power structures handed down over generations, by this group of large landowners.
    In particular I am suspect of the integrity of the Werrity Report for reasons i am willing to publicise but not on a site that might be open to legal proceedings, though I, myself, am not concerned about them.
    In a asymmetrical disputes similar to this one when one side has all the financial power and an apparent undue influence in the bureaucratic and political areas, then working through the system without a large and active public in tow will be both troublesome and possibly fruitless.
    Chris Packham and his allies (including those active in this field) have shown the potential of this type of campaign and a lot more should be done in Scotland to encourage direct, peaceful action as having a large percentage of the public onboard and participating seems vital in disputes of this nature .. and .. believe you me .. the public in general is on our side as the vast majority are animal and bird lovers. Achieve this and the game is over for our Upland Criminal Fraternity, regardless of what social class they might belong too.

      1. George, you have summed up the situation very well.

        Only this morning I read a comment from Alison Johnstone MSP, regarding mountain hares becoming a protected species, and the necessity to get this into legalisation before the open season, when more mountain hares will be killed.

        The government will simply prevaricate when it comes to implementing the proposed legislation for all the reason you have cited.

        But even with strong public support for changes, those with power and influence will manipulate society, and government through every means possible to ensure they maintain their way of life, and the changes demanded are not brought about.

        The attitude of “Laissez- faire” has been dominant in British society for so long, and is so entrenched in British psyche, and so well manipulated by the ruling elite, that it is hard to see how meaningful change to the management of our wild places can come about, even with scientific evidence and public outcry.

        I strongly suspect this has to start with public ownership, as only then will the claim of a persons “right to do as they wish on their property” be in the hands of the public. A public who clearly want to protect our wildlife rather than simply exploit it.

        I can clearly see the difference that public ownership makes when I walk through a local wood owned and managed by the National Trust- where diverse wildlife is abundant, compared to a nearby wood in private ownership, managed for pheasant shooting, where the absence of diverse wildlife is so obvious.

        1. I agree re land ownership either by public bodies or environmental charities. Let’s get behind initiatives such as Langholm community buy-out and other such schemes. Carrifran, Talla & Gameshope being other areas are good examples of what can be done.

  7. All talk and no action laws are meaningless if not enforced these people will not change unless their shoot are stopped for these offences and that’s not going to happen

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