The Financial Times published an interesting article a couple of days ago, with the header, ‘Scotland’s grouse shooting licence scheme fuels fears of wider curbs’ (see here).
You’ll note the sub-header includes the oft-repeated-but-not-yet-evidenced claim of ‘threats to the economy’, which seems to be the industry’s go-to response at the first hint of regulation (e.g. see discussion here).
And then there are the usual denials about the extent of illegal raptor persecution and its association with driven grouse shooting. This time the chief denier is Dee Ward, vice chair of the landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), owner of Rottal Estate in Angus and Chairman of the Angus Glens Moorland Group. According to the article, Dee claims that ‘while a few estates might still be breaking the law, growing numbers of golden eagles and other raptors across Scotland showed the vast majority would these days never kill birds of prey’.
Now, whilst Dee is undoubtedly overseeing some great conservation work on his own estate and hosts some breeding raptors that struggle in some other areas of the Angus Glens, his suggestion that ‘a few estates might still be breaking the law‘ is a good example of why the Government’s patience has run out and a licensing scheme will be imposed.
There’s no ‘might be‘ about it. The evidence is irrefutable – some estates are most definitely still breaking the law, with impunity, and while golden eagle populations are increasing in some areas, they are still absent from core parts of their range which just happens to be managed for driven grouse shooting. The same for hen harriers, the same for peregrines, the same for red kites. Scientific reports have shown this for years and years and years and current police investigations reflect the ongoing criminality.
I would suggest that the ‘fear of wider curbs’ is actually a fear of getting caught and losing the right to shoot grouse. Those who manage their grouse shooting estates within the law, as Dee Ward does, have nothing whatsoever to fear from a licensing scheme. It’s those who continue to flout the law, in pursuit of large grouse bags at any cost, who will have the most to fear.