In November 2020, the Scottish Government announced it’s long-awaited, and some would argue long-overdue, decision to introduce a licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting, in response to the Werritty Review and in response to the grouse-shooting industry’s utter failure to self-regulate and stop the illegal persecution of birds of prey on driven grouse moors (see here).
Mairi Gougeon, who was the Environment Minister at that time, said in her statement:
“If re-elected, this Government will bring forward the necessary legislation in the next Parliament to license grouse moor management and to strengthen the existing legislation on muirburn, including a range of appropriate penalties that could be applied in cases of non-compliance. Any new legislation will of course be preceded by full consultation in the normal way“
“I look forward to discussing these measures with members of this parliament and key stakeholders over the coming months“.
Six months on from making that commitment, Mark Ruskell MSP (Environment spokesperson for Scottish Greens) is not wasting any time in getting down to business in this new Parliament and is already applying the pressure.
He lodged the following Parliamentary Question on 14th May 2021:
S6W-00039 – To ask the Scottish Government when it will consult on the licensing of grouse moors.
This question was answered on 26th May 2021 by Graeme Dey:
ANSWER: The Scottish Government remains committed to implementing the licensing of driven grouse shooting and is currently developing proposals for a full public and stakeholder consultation with the aim of bringing forward legislation during this parliamentary term.
The timing of the consultation will depend on the legislative programme for the Parliament, which will be set out in due course.
Hmm. The first thing that struck me about this response was who it was from. Graeme Dey is the Transport Minister – his portfolio does not cover grouse shooting as far as I can tell. How very odd that it wasn’t answered by either the Environment Minister (Mairi McAllan) or either of the two Cabinet Secretaries with responsibilities in this area (Mairi Gougeon and Michael Matheson).
The second thing that struck me was the Government’s continued use of language that aims to demonstrate action but actually delivers nothing more than a holding statement. Yes, it’s a standard tactic but it’s oh so bloody tedious. I guess it’s just all part of the pantomime.
Well done Mark Ruskell MSP. Please keep pushing on this – there’s absolutely no reason why the public and stakeholder consultation on grouse moor licensing can’t be started now. Sure, the drafting and processing of new legislation will have to fit into the Government’s programme but there’s an awful lot of work to do before we get to that stage and there’s no legitimate excuse to delay that.
What the Government can be sure about, is that we won’t let it get away with the shambolic lack of urgency it has demonstrated on the parallel subject of increased powers for the SSPCA – a topic it has dragged its feet on since 2011 under a succession of now eight (yes, eight!) Environment Ministers (see here).