‘Scotland’s reputation is being trashed by the brutal killing of wildlife’

Many thanks to Brinkwire for picking up on the recent blog post (here) about the Scottish Government’s failure to appoint a taskforce to consider additional powers for the Scottish SPCA.

The following article was published yesterday, with quotes from Mark Ruskell MSP, Environment Minister Ben Macpherson and the SSPCA’s Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn:

SNP ministers have been accused of years of delay over plans to hand more powers to the Scottish SPCA to allow it to better investigate wildlife crime, including the illegal killing of birds of prey. 

It came as it emerged a new task force expected to be set up last summer has yet to be established.

Campaigners said the issue has been “kicked into the long grass more times than is credible”, with increased powers first suggested a decade ago.

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell argues wildlife crime is rife, the police are overstretched and the role of the SSPCA needs to be extended.

This would allow the animal charity to investigate a greater number of suspected wildlife crimes, such as those where animals have been killed.

Mr Ruskell proposed further powers for the SSPCA as part of last year’s Animals and Wildlife Bill. 

But the Scottish Government instead committed to setting up an independently-chaired task force to consider the matter.

In June, Mairi Gougeon, who was then the SNP rural affairs ministers, said she expected this task force “to convene later in the summer and that they will be in a position to conclude their review and submit a report of their recommendations before the end of the current parliamentary session” in May this year.

She said that timeline “may be subject to change” due to the coronavirus crisis and preparations for Brexit.

Ben Macpherson, the current rural affairs minister, has now confirmed the task force has been delayed. 

In a written answer to Mr Ruskell, he said: “We now expect the task force to be established later this year and will provide further details in due course.”

Mr Ruskell, his party’s environment spokesman, said: “Giving the SSPCA powers to investigate wildlife crime and act on the brutal killing of raptors seems a no brainer, but the Scottish Government seems unwilling to even set up a task force to discuss it. 

“I note the Scottish Government delayed this task force meeting because of Covid but allowed grouse shooting to continue, even when the rest of us were told to stay at home.

“This idea was first floated a decade ago. There is nothing left to discuss. 

“It is completely unacceptable for minister after minister to continue to kick this can down the road when Scotland’s reputation is being trashed by the brutal killing of wildlife. 

“It raises serious questions about the SNP’s commitment to tackling wildlife crime during a nature emergency.”

Dr Ruth Tingay, author of the Raptor Persecution UK blog, said increased powers for the SSPCA were first suggested in February 2011. 

Her blog details the “extraordinary” timeline of delays that have occurred since then, with the issue “kicked into the long grass more times than is credible”.

Ms Tingay, who also runs the not-for-profit Wild Justice with television presenter Chris Packham and environmental campaigner Dr Mark Avery, told The : “Ten years and seven environment ministers later and we’re still no closer to letting highly experienced SSPCA investigators help the police tackle ongoing illegal raptor persecution. You have to ask why that might be.”

Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn of the SSPCA said it “welcomes the minister’s commitment to establishing this task force in 2021”. 

He said: “We already work very closely with Police Scotland and other agencies to protect wild animals from cruelty.

“We have the skills and expertise to assist and investigate wildlife crime. 

“The extension of these powers would put this expertise to use and allow us to provide even more support to our partners and reduce pressure on their resources.

“As Scotland’s animal welfare charity we believe we can do more to protect Scotland’s wildlife.”

Mr Macpherson said tackling wildlife crime has been a “long-standing priority for the Scottish Government”.

He said: “While we had initially anticipated the task force would be convened in summer 2020 this has not been possible because of the need to focus on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – a health crisis which has created an economic crisis – and preparations for EU exit. We now expect the task force to be established later this year.”


20 thoughts on “‘Scotland’s reputation is being trashed by the brutal killing of wildlife’”

  1. I have opined here several times on this issue but sadly find myself repeating my claim again that in fact the Scot Govt has little genuine interest in tackling wildlife crime and have a poor environmental record in general.

    1. Couldn’t agree more: in wildlife terms the only difference between the SNP and the Tories is the accent!

      1. Stephen Brown wrote:-

        “I have opined here several times on this issue but sadly find myself repeating my claim again that in fact the Scot Govt has little genuine interest in tackling wildlife crime and have a poor environmental record in general.”

        Yes, Yes, Yes ad infinitum !!

        Simon Tucker wrote:-

        “Couldn’t agree more: in wildlife terms the only difference between the SNP and the Tories is the accent!”

        Tories don’t pretend to be anything other than Tories.
        SNP pretend not to be Tories.

        Hypocrites who clearly favour siding with those who oppose protecting wildlife etc.

        Always better with people who do not speak with forked tongue. At least you are in no doubt where you stand with them. People who tell lies never change. They just find new ways to tell lies.

      2. I have been writing to Environment ministers and Cab Secretaries since 2003 on the issue. There has been glacial movement from Labour, LibDem (when they were the administration) and a fraction more from the SNP in Government. There is increasing pressure from the membership to get things done to ‘put the hems on’ the raptor killers (see the number of motions on the subject presented for National Conference).
        To keep making your silly comments about SNP members being “tartan Tories” etc is uninformed and insulting. I’m an SNP member – and very far from being a Tory.
        It’s time the admins limited your comments to things that further the campaign to stop raptor persecution rather than allowing tired Labour Party jibes.

        1. Hi kayakgreg,

          Just a point of clarification – comments are moderated predominantly to catch potential defamation, although moderation also extends to trolls and spammers, who get blocked as soon as they’re identified. However, comments that don’t necessarily further the campaign to stop raptor persecution are perfectly valid and others are free to challenge those views, as you’ve done here.


  2. Given the circumstances , those involved and the extraordinary delay endured, I can only suspect that the reach of their hegemonic powers, which I believe are frequently employed to further their interests, do not stretch as far as the SSPCA.
    I’ve struggled to formulate a different understanding to the extraordinary procrastination involved but there appears to me to be little alternative explanation. However if the Scottish Government or the bureaucratic entities which support them present a realistic alternative then I am more than willing to consider their offerings.
    However, as it is, I am inclined to think of it in terms of the systematic undermining of the democratic machinery which underpins and safeguards our society and ensures the will of the majority, and not an oligopoly of vested interests, which determibnes how to proceed in what, to many, wouls appear to be common sense.

    1. And, DGS licensing is/will be nothing more than the continuation of this disgraceful pattern of kick-it-into-the-long-grass behaviour. The future looks bleak but credit to the Greens for keeping the issue alive in the face of SG recalcitrance.

        1. Whilst I do not believe for one minute that DGS licensing will make any meaningful difference (in fact I think it will make things worse) to DGS and its appalling environmental consequences, I’ve signed your petition Les at it would be a stringent condition to meet and therefore make the licensing process more difficult to obtain and comply with. However, do I think it will a) be a criterion for a DGS license and b) if it does become a criterion be properly enforced? No and no, but I admire your determination Les and do let us know how it goes.

  3. “Ben Macpherson, the current rural affairs minister, has now confirmed the task force has been delayed.

    In a written answer to Mr Ruskell, he said: “We now expect the task force to be established later this year and will provide further details in due course.”

    Translated that equates to the SNP attempting to avoid making their decision (which will be bad news for wildlife et al) public prior to the May election.

  4. Ten years, is an appalling time to wait for this to occur. It’s just been allowed to trail in the dust.

  5. Why would the SNP government cede control of anything to an organisation they can’t control?

    It would be totally alien to them.

  6. Getting really sick of my ‘friends’ who are at least on the same side as me as far as Raptor Persecution is concerned. I thought maybe having a common aim, would unite us, but the usual suspects come on here regularly, making the same political remarks about the political party (SNP) of which I am a member as if that helps the case WE ARE ALL trying to make. It makes me concerned that no great comment is made about ANY other political party and I really have to say that sounding off actually divides people who should all be on the same side. I am beginning to think that this type of remark is made so often, that it is possibly the view of the people who run the blog. Now before anyone gets too huffy, I am saying that for effect, as of course, I do not believe that!. I like (I hope) everyone here are of the same view, but nothing is helped in our cause, by allowing constant negative comments about a political party, which has actually done a lot for wildlife in Scotland. I wrote once before here about the difficulty of getting evidence against the criminals who kill our wildlife and no one told me how to gather infallible evidence (you know; the kind which is acceptable in the courts) However, the law of Vicarious Liability was passed and of course, we can very seldom actually prove where the killing was done (although really, we all know it is the usual suspects). However the latest proposed legislation which will be passed if the SNP wins the next Scottish Parliamentary Election, by a majority, has the potential to be damaged by a campaign here, against that party, as no other potential majority party has even hinted at passing the Licensing legislation.
    By all means moan about how long things take to get done and I moan about it as much as any. Try reading in the website ‘They Work For You’ which details the activities of elected members of parliament, councils etc., and have a look at the speech Mairi Gougeon MSP made and read what she actually said, including explaining the parliamentary processes required for the enactment of wildlife protection laws and how long it actually takes to get, what she refers to as ‘Primary Legislation’ through parliament. The SNP actually by-passed the normal consultation period which could have taken as much as eight years (read it for yourself!). It’s not a lot to ask that critics check the facts, is it?

  7. The SNP have plenty of form when it comes to dealing with raptor persecution, Despite promises or farcical ideas such as the Cairngorms Special Constibles they have been completely ineffective, but then the tartan tories in their ranks wouldn’t want to upset the the lairds and establishment which the present Scottish Government are now very much imbedded with. The SNP to reform driven grouse shooting, dream on.

  8. To me its glaringly obvious why there has been no real movement on SSPCA powers – its because those running the police dont wont it and make that plain to any scottish government representative who approaches them on the subject. There is an element of collusion with the shooting industry but a lot of the problem is the police hierarchy jealously guarding their own corner – while not giving resources and backing to their own front line officers when it comes to wildlife crime.. This is such short term thinking, the SSPCA can resource their own work and take some pressure off the police [as they do to a huge extent with animal welfare issues] and would no doubt still give credit to the police on joint operations – the police will always be needed for “crowd control”/threats of violence issues and when such as firearms seizures were required…My belief is that most MSPs want action but back off when the police resist change…

    1. Nail. On. The. Head.

      The police scuppered it last time and unless the Government are willing to put up a fight this time there seems little point in setting up a new taskforce. Any taskforce would need the backbone to push past this inertia.

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