Earlier this month two blogs were published here about an application from Mark Osborne (representing the Leadhills Estate) to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH, now re-branded as Nature Scot) for a licence to undertake out-of-season muirburn on the grouse moors of Leadhills (see here and here).
A bit of scene setting – regular blog readers will know all about Leadhills Estate and the catalogue of raptor persecution incidents that have been recorded there since the early 2000s, and the fact that this estate is currently the subject of a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed by SNH after even more alleged offences were uncovered there in recent years, including the discovery of this male hen harrier that was found in 2019 with an almost severed leg caught in an illegally-set trap next to its nest site (see here). Nobody was prosecuted for this barbaric killing.
[Chris Packham holds the corpse of the illegally-trapped hen harrier. Photo by Ruth Tingay]
Since the General Licence restriction was imposed in late 2019, further alleged offences have been reported at Leadhills and are the subject of ongoing police investigations (see here) including the alleged shooting of a(nother) short-eared owl by a masked gunman on a quad bike as witnessed by a local resident and his eight year old son (see here).
And then there was the individual licence that SNH issued to Leadhills Estate to shoot crows between April and June this year (see here). One of the conditions of that licence was that a return had to be made to SNH within one month of the licence expiring. An FoI request revealed that the estate had breached this condition (see here).
And then there’s the additional context of ALL muirburn being temporarily banned in Scotland until 30 September 2020 under emergency Coronavirus legislation.
The first of the two blogs written earlier this month about the licence application for out-of-season muirburn at Leadhills this summer can be read here.
The second blog detailed SNH’s initial refusal to issue a licence to Osborne/Leadhills Estate, and Osborne’s subsequent appeal of that decision (see here).
This latest blog details SNH’s consideration of Osborne’s appeal, which took place in late August 2020.
So, Osborne had been notified by SNH, in mid-August, that a licence to undertake out-of-season muirburn was not going to be issued. Osborne immediately sent a letter of appeal to challenge that decision and here’s what happened next:
There was some internal dialogue at SNH on 20th August 2020, between unidentified staff members, as follows:
On 24th August 2020 SNH wrote back to Osborne and asked him to provide more detail about his licence application:
Two days later, Osborne responded with the additional information SNH had requested:
The following day, 27th August 2020, SNH wrote back to Osborne saying that if the requested photos could be supplied then a site visit from SNH at Leadhills wouldn’t be necessary:
Later the same day Osborne sent over three photographs and a further explanatory email:
The next blog will examine SNH’s response to Osborne’s licence application appeal…..coming shortly.