Statement from Environment Cabinet Secretary about ongoing illegal killing of raptors on grouse moors

Further to the First Minister’s statement in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (see here) in response to Alison Johnstone’s question about when will the Scottish Government finally take action against those who continue to kill birds of prey on grouse moors, the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has this afternoon issued a statement, as follows:

Let’s be blunt about this, because the time for niceties has long since passed.

This latest holding statement, because that’s what it is, is utter bollocks.

It offers absolutely nothing new and is no different to anything the Scottish Government has published on this very serious issue over the last 20 years. Here’s an example of a similar statement, by the same Minister, ten years ago. And here are many more examples of Scottish Ministers claiming that ‘raptor persecution won’t be tolerated’.

This is, pure and simple, persistent inaction in the face of persistent evidence.

That persistent evidence has been presented for over 20 years, stretching back to the early 1990s, well before the Government decided to commission yet another review in 2017. That latest review, the Werritty Review, was handed to the Scottish Government nine months ago (the 18th November 2019 to be precise). And yet STILL the Scottish Government has failed to publish its response.

The only thing that’s changed in the last 20 years is that the body count has increased. Here’s the latest, a white-tailed eagle that was found dead on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park, poisoned to death by a banned toxin (see here).

Actually, it’s not the only thing that’s changed. Public awareness of these crimes has grown, as has public anger, as can be seen by the volume of correspondence the Cabinet Secretary refers to at the beginning of her statement. So much correspondence in fact that the Government can’t cope in having to reply individually and has had to resort to a generic statement instead.

The title of the Cabinet Secretary’s latest missive is ‘ACTION ON RAPTOR PERSECUTION & WILDLIFE CRIME’. And action is indeed what we should continue to demand.

You can do this very easily. If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, and the Government’s persistent inaction, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) demanding change. Launched on Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 37,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 37,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the country. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you

60 thoughts on “Statement from Environment Cabinet Secretary about ongoing illegal killing of raptors on grouse moors”

  1. It just underlines what I have always thought: the SNP are just Tories with Scottish accents and a desire for independence: they don’t really care about our wildlife. They pay lip-service to the law and deliver platitudes to the masses, whilst fawning to the rich and powerful.

    1. Correct Simon, as i have said in the past SNP all mouth and no trousers. They are gutless and spineless you really do wonder who is pulling the strings in Scotland and an indepedant Scotland would be no better or even worse. I have for years walked on the grouse moors of Scotland reporting wildlife crimes and it comes to this, maybe this maybe that, a licence is not the answer enforce the laws we have let the SSPCA get involved and set up special units with the right equipment to get on the hill and proper surveilance because we know they wont stop and can you blame them when they are getting away with it Scot free I WILL NEVER Vote for the.

      1. Well said…SSPCA would be a major help in reducing and detecting wildlife crime.

        SNP to scared to upset their landowning pals

    2. The issue is with land ownership…gifted lands going back centuries in some cases…that is the great big nettle that has our governments’ hands, if not tied or up in a 1/2 nelson, have to grapple with some very complex constitutional issues…Bigger than trident, even. Basically, the ‘Haves’ lording it, as usual, over the ‘rest of us’ We have enough to get by, some of us even have cars…but what we’re up against is a being who believes it’s their God-Given right to kill things for fun and do exclusive socializing, policy making…etc,etc. Golf courses are too easily barracked…Did you know there is a comprehensive network of roads in Scotland out-with the forestry tracks…I’ve seen them in well hidden valleys in the borders and in the the highlands…access roads/military roads(?), to all the secret places where the bastards to their dirty on Nature and/or play with armoured cars, tanks, Range-Rovers on steroids….

    3. Scotland has had devolutipn for over 20 years, in that time they have the leglisative power over everything apart from foreign polciy, defence and taxation (although they have limited powers over tax). And yet the SNP have been in control of Holyrood for over ten years, and nothing has changed (you get free university courses – not insignificant I accept ). They could easily have invoked progressive land reforms to combat this issue(this would be insignificant In the grand scheme of things) but at first they were preoccupied in taking the left wing vote from Labour in the central belt. Once in power they have just maintained the status quo.

      Now the ‘blame the English’ rhetoric is wearing thin and they have had ample chances to move Scotland forward. I am reminded of the final chapter of animal farm.

      1. ” And yet the SNP have been in control of Holyrood for over ten years, and nothing has changed (you get free university courses – not insignificant I accept ).” ………… Free – as in paid by the taxpayer. Nothing is ever free.

  2. Re the “tougher” sentencing: They could introduce the electric-f**kin’-chair and it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference because the tweed disease know they can get away with it time after time!

  3. Isn’t this latest holding statement down to the fact that driven grouse shooting really is conceived (in spite of all its anti-wildlife connotations) as worth more to the economy than wildlife conservation?

  4. “Rest assured that any criminal acts carried out **now** will be taken into account **if** and when we come to consider licensing” – bottom of p3.

    So are previous acts to be considered, or not, and IF they consider licensing.

    I’m not convinced by this.

    1. The flip side is: what if the criminals had held back on their crimes would that have swayed their view against action. She implies yes. So are they making decisions on science or not? Who the hell is holding them back? I call them cowards.
      I can’t wait until Independence when we can have some truly progressive alternatives. They seem to have an immortality complex. If they had acted at the turn of the century when Brian Etheridge proved in his paper from 1997 that 60 female Hen Harriers were being killed in Scotland every year; if they had licensed within 5 years of that we would have seen whether licensing had any effect by at least 2010. And by now we would have had a ban. But no it is 23 years later and we haven’t even seen a decision! I am gobsmacked.
      This is about the easiest thing to do and they couldn’t manage it.
      What other profession would list all the things that they have done when it is clear they haven’t worked.
      If i had a leaking roof and 23 years later the builder’s list of things he had attempted to do to fix the leak which hadn’t worked would be getting longer and longer, would he be tolerated. It is like the Irish builder in Fawlty Towers.
      The SNP have become the establishment.

          1. Because something should have been done as soon as Donald Dewar recognised the problem in a newly devolved Scotland. But of course since 2007 the responsibility has been totally with the SNP and so far they have acted as though will be in power for ever.

          2. The irony of it all is that the more the SNP try to do but fail because it is never enough, the more stick they get. That is life and there is probably a parable somewhere.
            Labour has recognised the problem and done nothing neither in Scotland nor England and Wales when they were in power. We rarely heard them criticised for it and as Donald Dewar showed, this is not a new nor a newly publicised problem.
            The Tories deny there is even a problem and no body expects anything different.

          3. By assuming that the electorate would always vote for anyone with a red rosette. Eventually the electorate noticed that the red rosette wearers were donkeys and unelectable. That left the door open to the pretenders.

      1. “If i had a leaking roof and 23 years later the builder’s list of things he had attempted to do to fix the leak which hadn’t worked would be getting longer and longer, would he be tolerated.”

        Yes, it is the same issue with raptor persecution being declared to be a ‘national wildlife crime priority’ in England. It is meaningless if the continued, obvious failure of current approaches does not lead to trying a different approach. If it is truly a priority then you try different approaches when you are not making progress. Endless DEFRA statements repeating the same old tired litany of how seriously the government takes wildlife crime but shooting is ‘a vital element of the rural economy’ merely serve to underline that it is in fact far from being a priority.

  5. As with much injustice, direct action will probably be the required route to justice.

    Keep up the pressure !

  6. Well this SNP member is every bit as sick as your anti-SNP correspondent, over the killing of our birds of prey, but like almost all of the people who resort to criticising the Scottish Government (which is a Government – not a party)
    he fails to explain exactly how to catch these criminals. Transferring the blame on to a political party, might be satisfactory to some, but I honestly would love to find a solution to the offender, who safe in his own environment, can easily lift a pre-poisoned bait out of his Land Rover, or quad bike and simply drop it, as easily as dropping a bag,(which no one would notice) and then moving on and back to the vehicle. What detection system would catch that offender? It’s time to get real about how easy it is to kill a bird of prey, with no one noticing that the ‘bait’ had been dropped, possibly a couple of days before the bird (or animal) ate it. Finding a dead bird, days after the bait is consumed, makes it almost impossible to prove (not have an opinion – or a pretty well-educated guess) who placed the poison. There are other ways of concealing even birds which have transmitters (I won’t go into detail as some might find it helpful) and when you get someone putting a transmitter on a boat, which goes on a wee trip out to the Firth of Forth (and still transmitting) is eventually recovered, you realise that, thus far, all the odds are in favour of the criminal! Now that’s frightening, but it is not a reason to blame folk who have not committed the crime! I have suggested that the Police hand over their responsibilities to others, such as the SPCA as, at least, no one questions their commitment, or even their loyalty, although I have my doubts that even the SPCA, would have immense difficulty in catching these people, given the unique position of the offenders.
    But when some of my friends who share my views on the persecution of our wildlife, decide to write threatening letters to MSPs, based on the inability of the Police (or anyone else) to apprehend these criminals, or political comments, based on no one’s ability to actually apprehend these criminals, I have to wonder where we are going with our criticism.
    These are, in fact, almost impossible crimes to successfully bring to prosecution – and obviously, I wish it were otherwise. However, let’s not divide ourselves, by blaming the innocent, or as at least one has done: accusing an MSP of murder! Frustration makes us do funny things, but if we don’t realise that we need to make the landowners responsible by penalising their licence (after Werrity is implemented) we must acknowledge that in fact, as far as successful prosecution is concerned, we are going to continue to shout at each other with no hope of prosecuting the guilty.
    Vicarious Liability, is a weapon which was brought into law and we all thought that would nail the culprits – or at least, their bosses, but in fact, since no one can be successfully prosecuted (so far), it has not had the result we all hoped for. We really need to push for the Werrity report to be implemented as soon as possible (and that’s not going to be a couple of weeks, or months. But at least, when it IS implemented and driven grouse moor shooting IS licensed, that same license can be taken away. Unfortunately it is just about the only road open to us and the sooner we see the Werrity Report acted upon and made into law, the sooner we will all stop shouting and insulting, each other.

    1. Please, as I have asked of others, would you explain how licensing will work? Nobody yet has given me an answer. How will it be enforced unless you are prepared to put men on the ground to do so. And that will cost money, a lot of money. The criminals commit the crime but those who know that crimes are being committed and do nothing about it, are complicit.
      Increasing the penalty to five years will give the police more incentive to investigate because it makes their life a whole lot easier to collect evidence. So why has your party not done this before? We don’t even know for sure if they will do it now. Complicit.

      1. Bang on once again Paul. Licensing would be the worst possible outcome. Only a ban will work and the conservation movement is playing right into the hands of the DGS scum. I and others have said this before and I for one will keep saying it as this such an important issue.

      2. As devil’s advocate: if a ban is the answer; what exactly are you proposing to ban? Driven Grouse shooting – which has a pretty narrow definition – and people can wander around accidentally pushing birds in the direction of guns and I suspect other loop holes?
        A ban on all grouse shooting?
        A ban on muir burn?
        A ban on all shooting game bird shooting?
        A ban on culling stoats, weasels, corvids etc?
        A ban on medicated grit?
        A ban on breeding and releasing game birds?
        A ban on draining peat moorland so that it reduces the risk of flooding in lowland areas and improves carbon capture?

        I am asking the same basic questions; how would licencing work? how would a ban work?

        What do you think MSPs can be persuaded to vote on?
        I suspect licencing will be an easier sell (with somethings banned completely); but as you rightly point out what then triggers revocation of the licence, what is the result and for how long? Indefinite is a possibility?

        Personally I am interested in a solution that prevents raptors being killed, anything else is a bonus!

        It could be a licencing solution that effectively renders DGS economically un-viable. e.g. no lead shot, no murburn, no medicated grit, no pest control, existing upland drainage and recent tracks removed, a removal of upland fences, random inspections including buildings, tests on birds shot and a high percentage of an estate’s shooting revenue as the fee?

    2. I don’t think anyone here is under any illusion about how easy it is for the perpetrators of these crimes to get away with it, Harry, but that does not change the fact that a major and long term crime wave has been happening in Scotland and Northern England which is resulting in birds of prey being eliminated from substantial areas of the landscape in which they ought to occur. It is the responsibility of government to uphold law and order and it is quite legitimate to criticise them when they fail to do so. There are lots of crimes that are difficult to police but no-one would dream of suggesting the government should be immune from criticism when such crimes occur at intolerable frequency.
      The governments in Edinburgh and London have various options at their disposal that they have chosen not to pursue. The boldest and most effective would be to ban driven grouse shooting. Short of that there is talk of licensing . Critics of licensing question – with some justification – how it would work but one thing is certain: talking about licensing changes nothing. If that is the new approach then implement it without delay and if it results in an end to the persecution of raptors, great. If it doesn’t then something else should be tried. Simply continuing with the same old tried and tested – and found wanting – approach just indicates that the issue is not a serious priority for government. Getting people to write to their MSPs, MPs and to the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary is one way of persuading the governments to make it more of a priority.

      When you refer to people sending ‘threatening letters’ to their MSPs I am not sure what you mean and perhaps you could clarify. Any letter making threats of violence to an MP or MSP would constitute a criminal offence and I certainly would not condone anyone doing that in relation to this issue or any other. If on the other hand the ‘threat’ is to vote for a different party then there is of course nothing wrong with that.

  7. Not another bloody review. More delays and searching for long grass. With a salary in excess of £100K you would expect at least one weeks work for that. What the hell are these people doing to earn their position etc?

  8. thats what you get when a small minded, nationalistic political party is in power. All the SNP can think about is hating the english and getting independence. They no better that the shithouse that is farage. Scots need to wake up as they couldnt care less about scottish people and their issues, just simply a small town agenda that will garner them more power. Theyre not competent politicians in my view, just a bunch of floundering, over acieving incompetents – just like the current tories.

    Saying that theyve brought in vicarious liability is meaningless if agents and landowners are never prosecuted.

    Increasing penalties is meaningless if the law prevents video evidence being used and no cases going to court.

    Everything they have “done” is meaningless just like the SNP in general.

    Need to be judged on results not slogans and statements and at the moment the result is no improvement and a total failure for wildlife, the environmental emergency and scottish tax payers. If SNP are not up to the job they need to fuck right off quickly and let someone competent take their place

    1. ‘All the SNP can think about is …. getting independence’
      If only.
      53% of Scottish people want Independence.
      What other country in the world would you deny that choice.
      Truly interested. Name one county.

  9. As soon as your hear them use the word “condemn,” you know you’re about to read a pile of platitudes.
    The SG hasn’t got the power to change things – the real power lays with the landowners.
    Only land reform will slay this monster.

  10. Lots of words papering over a great void of inaction if you’re lucky, facilitating wildlife crime if you’re not. So we got legal protection for mountain hares….except just not yet so the estates can hammer them as usual possibly down to local extermination meaning there won’t be a need for anymore killing for many years? Last year to great fanfare Scotgov gave Scotland’s beaver population legal protection on May 1st – no one could just go and kill one if they wanted, which was wonderful news for the public who hated this as much as they did raptor persecution. But it turned out to be not bad news for landowners who just don’t like beavers either, apply for a licence then you can keep on killing them. That’s what happened with 87 beavers, perhaps a fifth of the population, within a few months of them obtaining ‘legal protection’. With this lot it always boils down to a bit of window dressing. Apparently one of the farmers sought a licence to kill beavers on the basis they scared his cows. I don’t know if he was granted a licence, but supposedly many were on little basis including lack of site visits from SNH.

    So there you go an animal that’s a massive boon to wildlife conservation and potentially could prevent tens of millions of pounds of flood damage threatened by the gutless pandering to the brainless. Targeted tree planting and subsequent beaver translocation on to grouse moors would beautifully compliment ending muirburn and drainage there to reduce flooding downstream, fewer homes needing mopped out a very good trade for less grouse shooting. Maybe that’s a behind the scenes issue that means Scotgov is not pushing the beaver’s considerable benefits for most people, I wouldn’t be surprised. These wildlife issues are all linked clearly which is why there’s so little progress on any of them. Please sign this petition so Scottish beavers can be moved rather than shot it will send out another message to Cunningham and her ilk.

  11. When I first wrote to the Ministers about the WTE I also forwarded it to each and every SNP MSP. I got one very quick and detailed reply and a lot of automated responses.
    When I wrote a second letter to the ministers about the Golden Eagle I did the same. In theory I should have received the same auto responses but I have had nothing. From anybody. Seems I have been blocked!
    Same for Visit Scotland.
    I’m not very techie, but I didn’t know they could do that.
    Contrast that with some very encouraging responses from the six green MSPs!

    1. Paul – I believe by convention MPs and MSPs normally only respond to e-mails and letters from their constituents which is why you would receive at best an automated response and, as often as not,nothing at all from all the MSPs you copied your messages to. You have every right to expect a response from the Ministers though.

  12. Wonder why no one addressed the points I made, but are allowed to have an anti-SNP tirade? The Werrity Review has taken place. Don’t you know? Accusations of being anti-English are just straightforward insulting to me, but I’m begining to understand that there are two agendas here and one of them, is about killing birds of prey and the other is about being against a political party but strangely enough NOT the Tories! Try addressing the issues about how difficult it is, to bring about successful prosecutions against people who commit crimes against our birds of prey – or would you rather just play anti-SNP politics?

    1. Harry i vote and support whatever party works towards what i consider to be the most important issues.
      If this had been any other party procrastinating in this way i would be critical.
      I have never voted in my entire life to any other part than the SNP (admittedly only twice because i want an Independent Scotland free of Nationalistic Britain) and may still do so again but it is becoming increasingly difficult to vote for a party which seems to be becoming more and more a part of the establishment.
      Driven Grouse Shooting ban: Fail
      Independence: Fail
      No Plan B: Fail
      Land Reform: Fail
      Women’s rights v GRA: Fail
      Hate crime: Fail
      Blocking Joanna Cherry: Fail
      Salmond stitch up: Fail
      Failing to sack Leslie Evans: Fail
      Late push for Lockdown: Fail
      Keeping on Jason Leitch the herd immunity man: Fail
      Appointing Benny Higgins as financial advisor: Fail
      Craig Murray: Fail

      There are many positive directions too.

      But the SNP is too wishy washy with raptors and this wishy washyness will fail to protect us from the attack coming at us right now from Unionists of both the Labour (Fabians) and Tory variety. We are in a fight just to keep any devolved powers we already have and Hollyrood itself is threatened meanwhile 6 years since the Indy vote have been waisted.
      Independence and raptors both have some things in common. The belief that they have all the time in the world. A belief that everyone is nice and a belief that everything can be sorted if we just talk long enough, if they ask nicely enough, beg enough.
      That is incredibly naive and weak. There are some nasty people out there, in the grouse moors brigade and in the British Nationalist powers that be. That inability to act is not going to get us Independence and it isn’t showing the leadership that an aspiring Independent country needs. The SNP have become reasonably efficient centrist administrators lacking any real innovation, vision, direction and with limited progressive values. The party is being led by Chamberlains. Lack of action on Raptor Persecution is a symptom of underlying diseases, cowardice on the part of those that want change but are afraid to upset the status quo and conservatism from those that are happy with how things are.
      If a party can’t get such a small thing sorted, what good are they for really big things? I have no faith left.

      Harry all your points are irrelevant when all of them can be answered by one word, Ban.

    2. Still haven’t answered my question though have you? Are you not able too?
      We had great hopes that the SNP would be better than our Tory idiots down here. They haven’t been. Still kowtowing to the gentry. They deserve the criticism.

  13. So the the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham statement confirms that they do tolerate wildlife crime and specifically the illegal killing of raptors until they can get round to telling the good folk of Scotland what they intend to do about it. I assume the Gov’t response will not be forthcoming until November 2020 as she was not date or year specific.There is lots of long grass in Scotland. In my calendar, autumn ends in November. With this lot don’t hold your breath until a minute before midnight on the 30th Nov!.

    Until such time as the Gov’t and their police catch perpetrators and bring them before the courts for judgement, their words are meaningless. (See Coop above)

  14. There’s an election in May and the SG/SNP are not going to make any meaningful changes until after that. Following that there will be another reason (excuse) not to upset the status quo. They have history with this, they’ve been practicing kicking the can down the road for over a decade. On crimes against raptors there is nothing to separate the SNP from the Tories.

  15. A very carefully crafted response from the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham signifying “nothing”. No more than hollow words.

    There is little point in increasing penalties for wildlife crime if no one is actually getting prosecuted?

    Ms Cunningham states licencing is being considered, with a very big “if” inserted – “if it is required”. What!!!!

    So who will determine “if” it is required?
    What threshold must be passed before licensing is introduced?

    I would hope most of the public are so disgusted at what is now a very long list of raptor persecution incidents that this threshold was in fact passed a long time ago.

    So in the statement there is no mention of taking steps to increase prosecutions, no mention of giving the police or investigative bodies additional powers to deal with raptor persecution incidents, no mention of taking away public funding through grants etc to those estates where raptor persecution has taken place, and no mention of actually making national parks a safe haven for fauna or flora.

    Instead we get the usual political “smoke and mirrors”, dither and delay statement…and in the meantime birds of prey keep getting slaughtered, so a small minority of wealthy, over privileged, individuals who believe they own the grouse on their land, can get dressed up in Victorian style costumes, and go out with their guns to massage their hubris!!

    What a sad indictment on our society and our government!!

  16. I think the main point here is the Environment Secretary has been forced to produce a statement because of all the correspondence the Scottish Government has received, true it does not go far enough. However it is safe to say the grouse moor owners and managers will be less happy, as they would prefer Scotland’s dirty little secret out of public view.
    So we must all double down on our efforts. More correspondence with our MSPs and the Scottish Government. Perhaps the pushing solutions especially ones that appeal to the SNPs core values. Personally I tailor emails such as the one in this campaign to amplify the Scottish elements rather than talking generically about the UK.

  17. Despite all the comments and opinions expressed here, not a single person has told us how we can actually CATCH these offenders. I am desperate for an answer to this and have cudgel my own, not exceptionally bright, brain, but can’t figure exactly how we can produce PROOF of who actually commits an offence. That’s what the courts work on: not on opinions, which I share, about estates which are no-go areas for our birds of prey. We all KNOW what is happening, but there’s a million miles between knowing and proving and the wildlife killers know that we are unable to prove who committed the crimes – and that’s why they keep doing it and getting away with it.
    I know it’s incredibly frustrating that they are still getting away with it, but how do we get evidence which stands up in a court?. That is the problem and I’d really love to hear suggestions for a solution, because it’s a workable and legal solution we need – not gum bumping and circumstantial evidence, but clear thinking and not blaming the people who are more than willing to legislate, but solutions as to how we can get usable evidence in the situation I described in my original comment here. Protest and complain as much as you like; the courts ONLY accept evidence – not opinions and that’s our weakness, because we can’t find a way to produce usable evidence
    The only system I can see, at this stage, is for the implementation of licences and then, take the licences from them, when killing continues on the land where the licences are held. Let’s all work together for the speedy (not the five years recommended) implementation of the findings of the Werrity Report. Please also note: I do not hide behind a nom de plume My name is there, as is my email address. People who send anonymous hate mail to MSP’s on this subject, please note!

    1. I am not lawyer, there are two ways to achieve a prosecution; by lowering the bar for sub-missable evidence (changing the law again – it could be argued that a radio tagged Hen Harrier disappears on your land is evidence) or getting evidence that will hold up in court. I suspect the biggest issue with getting evidence is cost; the cost of Police, SSPCA or technical resources time, equipment etc. I would seem to me targeting high crime areas; I guess the people in the know have got idea which estates are the most active, most of the evidence collected is likely to be the tip of the ice berg, for every tagged bird killed there are unfortunately 5-20 (finger in the air) unreported. Any estate which is devoid of any wildlife but grouse has to have a question mark about its management practices. People need to be on the ground very quickly when ever a tagged bird goes missing. I don’t how tagged birds are currently monitored but I would hope this would include alarms if birds stop moving. We need the SSPCA and other investigators to be able to have the time and resources to target a area, monitor officially the movements of suspected individuals. You could argue any estate with licence restrictions must effectively submit its staff to close monitoring – all vehicles tracked for instance, GPS ring fencing of no go areas.
      As an aside I have often wonder when there is film evidence of a hooded person killing a raptor whether the phone records are checked to see what mobile phones were active in the area.

    2. Harry,
      I commented on a previous blog about some of the legal obstacles the police face when investigating raptor crime. I will re-post some of those comments below in case you missed them:-
      (Whilst the comments are applicable to the law in the English courts, the position in Scotland will not be that much different.)

      I suggested that there is a need to demand that the police have more investigative powers when it comes to raptor crimes.

      “As an example, at the moment if a suspect is arrested, the police cannot then search that suspects house or premises for evidence which would link the suspect to the crime. This is because Sect18 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which relates to searches, after a person has been arrested, is only applicable to indictable crimes, and wildlife crimes aren’t indictable. Which makes it all too easy for criminals to hide incriminating evidence.”

      “Neither have the police the automatic right to seize and examines a suspects mobile phone or other electronic devices in order to examine the suspects “digital footprint” – which might help in placing the suspect at the scene of the crime. So even, when there are images of the suspect caught on camera, the police are not able to easily search and gather other items of evidence which would link that suspect to the image, and to the crime.
      Is it any wonder, that all the suspect has to do in interview is reply “no comment”, knowing that the police have limited powers to search for other evidence. This usually leaves the police with insufficient evidence to charge.”

      As a suggestion, perhaps consider writing to your MP, SMP about bringing about the necessary changes to legislation so that the police are empowered with the same investigative options for wildlife crimes that they would have if investigating indictable crimes. (wildlife crimes are not indictable – ie not tried in the crown court/ This is not a suggestion to make wildlife crimes indictable- only a change in the investigative powers applicable to crimes committed under the Countryside and Wildlife Act)

      As politicians from all parties are unanimous on stopping the illegal killing of raptors, and the various bodies representing the land owners and grouse shooters have all publicly condemned the illegal killing of birds. Therefore there is a strong argument for politicians to act swiftly in this area.

      It should not be difficult for the government departments to liaise with the police at ministerial level to agree exactly on what changes need to be brought about to bring more offenders to justice by assisting the police secure better evidence.
      The argument being -Stronger investigative powers should help the police secure the necessary evidence to successfully prosecute more offenders, without the need to lower the burden of proof to secure a conviction- something which the judicial system will not allow- as the burden of proof has to remain at “beyond all reasonable doubt”- otherwise the total legal system will be undermined.

      This suggested change in investigative powers also has no bearing on a licensing system for grouse moors, or a ban to shooting. So its something which could be introduced without getting involved in that debate.

      However, such a change might be useful, if as a result of giving the police more investigatory powers, there was a dramatic rise in successful prosecutions of gamekeepers on grouse moors. This would provide those demanding the introduction of licensing or a total ban, with more evidence to support their position that the shooting industry was in fact out of control and embedded with criminal behaviour.

      So maybe this is something you could consider when contacting your MP?

      1. Some really interesting points. Could someone with legal knowledge construct an email incorporating these points which could be targeted at MSPs and the Scottish Government following on from the previous one? That way the First Minister and Environment Secretary don’t have a chance to “forget” Wildlife crime.

        I think the other thing that should be done is debunking some of these over inflated rumours about benefits to rural economy of the grouse industry, making it much easier for MSPs to vote for tougher legislation.

  18. You have the same problem in Scotland as over the border in England. You have a few very wealthy land owners (the Royal Family for example) who probably have shooting estates on both sides of the border who are pulling the strings of both governments. The estate owners should be held responsible for the actions of their game keepers. Unless this situation changes I can’t see anything happening to stop the slaughter of more raptors.

  19. Harry it can’t be proved, your correct, human rights are prioritized over everything else. Even if it was witnessed that the bird’s neck was being wrung, there’s a pretty good chance that the prosecution will only be a fine.
    There’s an awful lot of white noise created with this debate, and it has been going on for years, the continued verbal pat-a-cake between the two sides of warring protagonists over social media has transcended into PR farce. Those not of the interested parties, really don’t give a monkey’s, and that’s the vast majority of people in the UK.
    The same Mr. Angry from Croydon, writes the same vitriol nonsense he wrote 12 years ago, and that’s because conservation today is just a throw away tweet, our retention for the important is about as expansive as those of a goldfish in a bowl.
    Like every other species on this planet we either have to accept that predators have an inherent right to coexist or we just allow them to vanish. All conservation in this country however you wrap it up is based around human desires, we have created an industry, which is financially beneficial to ourselves, and nature’s a long way down the list.
    We’ll happily trash a habitat because we’ll get European funding, it is then wrapped up in a parcel of PR boloney that can be flogged back to members to write out even more cheques.
    People should not be surprised at the statement, these are politician, and their words are written for them by people a lot cleverer than they are.
    Will grouse shooting be banned….? No. There isn’t the political or public appetite to do so. Will they introduce licencing…? Yes, a form of watered down management will be implemented, but will it be any good? No, as you have written proving liability is almost impossible.
    So where does that leave us? Lot’s more white noise I’m afraid from the ubiquitous Mr. Angry on both sides, the RSPB yet again leaving it’s field workers out to dry, as it runs for solitude and safety in the depth of its’ Charter.
    To stop this slaughter, you have to prosecute someone culpable, land responsibly via landowners liability is the answer, but the law and repayment of awarded subsidies has to change, so instead of writing the same identical twaddle to your MP about banning grouse shooting, request a change of law on land management.

    1. Good points – however why you do think the Environment Secretary made a statement both she and the grouse moor owners would clearly rather she didn’t because of all the “same identical twaddle” she and MSPs received (incidentally I personalised my email twaddle). We all want raptor killing to stop. Making sure MSPs are aware every time there is a death via large numbers of emails focus minds especially where votes that don’t cost anything are concerned. Law changes on Land Responsibility and Land owner liability should be bought to the attention of MSPs especially if it can be aligned with their core values. Mass emailings get their attention especially if they are personalised. If we don’t keep asking we will never get anywhere! Judging by email responses I have received even some Tory MSPs are starting to think the status quo could be untenable especially coming up election time.

    2. Thomas I know that you are fond of dismissing virtually everyone involved in conservation as ‘clueless planks’ but can you explain why your suggestion of e-mailing of MPs/MSPs to ‘request a change of law on land management’ is any different to the rest of what you class as white noise verbal pat a cake? Obviously, Mr Angry and his ‘twaddle’ has thus far failed to bring about meaningful change so I am sure we would all be grateful if your dispassionate wisdom can point us all in the right direction.

    3. Thomas,

      Very well put. I have previously written to my MP regarding the issue of countryside stewardship grants being awarded to land owners where raptor persecution incidents were occurring, and pointed out how the government were unintentionally funding the criminality which was occurring.

      I suggested that stewardship grants, rural payments or any public money should only be awarded to those landowners where there was no suspicion of illegal behaviour or dubious land management practices.
      At present the payments system does not appear to allow for an instant cessation of public money to those suspected of illegal or dubious activity.

      Neither does it require that when illegal or dubious activity is discovered, that the land owner has to pay back any public money previously received.

      At the moment it would appear that on many estates the public are funding through the various stewardship schemes, the grouse shooting of a few wealthy landowners, by allowing public money to be spent on land management practices which artificially raise grouse numbers beyond the natural capacity of the land.
      As the League report highlights, this is at the expense of so much other wildlife, much of which dies in horrific circumstances in barbaric traps and snares.

      I am sure the vast majority of the public would be outraged if they knew taxpayers money was being spent on the slaughter of wildlife simply to supply an abundance of grouse for the wealthy to shoot.

      It appears to me to that the conservation grant system is just another example of how those with power and wealth are manipulating public spending to benefit themselves.

      (It can also be argued that we also see this manipulation through the funding to plant trees- How many country estates are heated with biomass wood burning boilers? How many landowners cut down trees on their land to fuel these boilers, and then claim public money to replant trees and replenish their fuel supply? I understand grants are awarded for the number of new trees planted- not the entire tree population of an estate).

      So you are absolutely correct when you suggest there has to be a fundamental change in legislation on land management, and I would also add, a fundamental change in how public money is awarded for conservation.

  20. Thats an elegant and stately looking little table behind her with the lamp on it. But to give it that authentic look of elite political aristocracy, it could do with a bit of mounted taxidermy. How about the festering, toxic corpse of the latest Sea Eagle?

  21. Imo the people in power are more than likely .who are part of the shooting brigade. The shoots that any bop are found on or any that go missing or disappear which have been tagged . They should shut the shoots down for a minimum of 2 years and fine the owners who always reckon they have no idea just what their game keepers get up to. It’s farcical too say the least.

  22. A few sensible suggestions here, one of which (John L)I hadn’t seen. The penalties were recently changed, to make the crime indictable (5 years imprisonment) which makes the crime rate MUCH higher, as far as Police Scotland is concerned. Even simple things like ‘Filming without the estate owner’s permission’ which was ludicrous, has now become allowable as evidence, but even that is just within the past few months. However it changes the whole circumstance of gathering evidence. The licensing of driven grouse moor shooting allows the granter of the licence (presumably Scottish Natural Heritage, whom I don’t particularly trust, to be honest, but it also lowers the standard of proof to a civil level, which means that the circumstantial evidence of a raptor transmitter failing to send a signal, while over an estate, may well be considered a civil standard of proof/evidence and that’s why I say, the thrust of everyone’s argument (apart from, of course, those with a political agenda) should be, to pressurise the Scottish Government to implement the Werrity Report. Now simple reading of newspapers tells us, that the SG (Scottish Government) is due to discuss the report in the autumn , with a view to considering earlier implementation. THAT’S where the pressure should now be put. I won’t be telling anyone who the MSP is who has been threatened and accused of murder, as that was told to me in confidence, by the person, but the MSP is as concerned as we are about the whole issue of raptor persecution and really, I think comments like those which have been anonymously made, are to be deplored. Sounds like the kind of ‘diplomatic language’ some of you don’t like, but my feelings about that kind of thing have to be hidden behind the ‘diplomatic language’.
    So, when Chris, Ruth and Mark organise a campaign in future, let’s hope they aim at the correct target, rather than create an outlet for vicious comment, which in almost every case, offered no solution to the problem we are all trying to solve. Let’s push for early implementation of the Werrity Report, with the exception of Werrity’s recommendation that we wait a further five years for implementation. Writing the law, to make it as bullet proof as possible isn’t done in weeks, or even months, so it isn’t going to be immediately enacted. That’s a fact.
    We need to get it passed as soon as possible and THERE’S a basis for a concerted campaign of letters to the Scottish Government.

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