Poisoned golden eagle: Cairngorms National Park Authority refuses to publish correspondence with Invercauld Estate

In March this year, a golden eagle was found dead, next to a poisoned hare bait, on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park.

Toxicology results showed the eagle had been illegally poisoned with a banned pesticide. Police Scotland conducted a multi-agency search, under warrant, of various properties on Invercauld Estate in May 2021 (here) and issued an appeal for information on what they described as a ‘deliberate’ poisoning (here).

The Cairngorms National Park Authority issued a statement condemning the deliberate poisoning (here).

Invercauld Estate also issued a statement, supporting the police investigation and denying that the deliberately poisoned eagle was found on land managed for grouse shooting – even though, er, it seems that it was (see here and here).

[The deliberately poisoned golden eagle, next to the poisoned hare bait, on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate, March 2021. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

The following week, the Cairngorms National Park Authority published a further statement, this time on behalf of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership (ECMP), a consortium of six estates, including Invercauld, supposedly working in partnership with the Park Authority since 2015 to deliver ‘coordinated and sustainable moorland management’.

The statement from ECMP (read in full here) confirmed that Invercauld Estate ‘had left the group‘. There was no indication whether Invercauld had been expelled or had resigned of its own accord or what process, if any, had been undertaken to reach a decision.

So I submitted an FoI to the Cairngorms National Park Authority to try and find out.

Here’s part of the response I received:

This response came as no surprise to me because the Cairngorms National Park Authority has form for covering up the consequences of alleged criminal behaviour on Invercauld Estate – e.g. see here, here and here. The Park’s Board also has a number of members with a clear association with Invercauld Estate – whether this had any bearing on the Park’s decision about what to release and what not to release can only be open to speculation, obviously, because the information is being withheld. Again.

Still, as long it’s being withheld to allow Police Scotland to ‘complete their investigation’, which of course the CNPA will know (or at least can predict) to be going absolutely nowhere, just like the other ~80+ raptor persecution crimes uncovered in the Cairngorms National Park since 2003 that, with a single exception, haven’t resulted in a prosecution.

Part of the material that the CNPA did release suggests that Invercauld Estate resigned and wasn’t pushed (see below) although without seeing the full correspondence between the estate and the CNPA I’d be wary of drawing any conclusion because it just doesn’t add up, given Invercauld’s protestations when the news first broke that this eagle had been found poisoned on that estate.

This is a copy of an email sent from the CNPA’s Chief Executive, Grant Moir, to the Board. It’s a bit difficult to read with such a tiny font so it’s transcribed below:

Dear Board Member

The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership will shortly be putting out the attached statement following a meeting of the partnership yesterday. At the meeting the partnership heard from Invercauld estate and Invercauld estate tendered their resignation from the partnership. After a good discussion the partners agreed to the resignation and have all agreed to the wording of the attached statement. It was also clear from the meeting that the remaining members are determined to make the partnership work.

NatureScot have also released a statement today which indicates they are looking at general licence restrictions for Invercauld Estate.

Throughout I have been keeping the Convenor of the Board up to speed on the issues and I will update the board further on Friday if there is any further information.

All the best


Grant Moir, Chief Executive, Cairngorms National Park Authority

So what of the Police’s ongoing investigation in to this deliberately poisoned golden eagle? No further news (but I trust they’ll be asking the CNPA for copies of the unpublished correspondence between Invercauld and the Park Authority because apparently it’s relevant to the police investigation).

Will NatureScot decide to impose a General Licence restriction on Invercauld Estate? No news.

What of the future of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership? A recent blog addressing this very issue from Nick Kempe writing for ParkswatchScotland is well worth a read (here).

And what of the Scottish Government’s promise to get to work on drafting the terms and conditions of a grouse shooting licensing scheme, whereby estates can lose their licence if raptor persecution crimes continue? No further news.

20 thoughts on “Poisoned golden eagle: Cairngorms National Park Authority refuses to publish correspondence with Invercauld Estate”

  1. Does that suggest the CNPA have something to hide in connection with this crime. Does his suggest a coverup on the poisoning of a golden eagle in a Scottish National Park.All very Line of Duty, but this is not entertainment, it’s organised serial killing of birds of prey and other protected species in a premier conservation area.

  2. Looks like the wagons are being circled to defend the xxxxxx [Ed: rest of comment deleted as libellous]

  3. Just keep chipping away, youll have everything soon, no grouse, no keepers ,no Curlews, no Capercailie, loads of foxes, hoodies, and such likes

    1. We had all of those, in natural numbers long before there were keepers. Yes please do keep chipping away

    2. Keepers with their mass releases of industrial scale alien pheasants & partridges bring diseases which can spread to native wildlife, maybe capercaillies.

    3. Raymond you should have read the excellent Parkswatch article which there’s a link to in the article. Utterly, utterly laughable that you mention capercaillie as under threat IF grouse moors are lost. Please tell us how many caper you get on grouse moors exactly, they are after all grouse too aren’t they? The conservation plan for capercaillie at Balmoral consisted of NOT culling enough deer so that forest could begin regenerating without deer fences. Oh no that might affect the stalking so deer fencing was the core element of helping caper at Balmoral even though when it’s marked they can still die by flying into it. And then within the fenced areas the total dearth of grazing means you get an unnaturally dense understorey that’s not much better for caper than the overgrazed areas outside of it. Rather awkward mitigation measures have to be used to try and compensate for that. Being a traditional estate they like predator control at Balmoral, but according to an article in a Scottish Ornithologist Club newsletter which was co written with a retired game keeper caper have a notorious tendency for sticking their heads through snares. Why did the keeper feel he had to wait till retirement before bringing this to public attention I wonder? Yet funny how certain people keep trying to blame its poor situation in Scotland on the RSPB.

      It’s interesting that since the RSPB stopped shooting foxes at Abernethy the decline of capercaillie has at least been arrested – the theory is foxes cap pine marten numbers. At Strathspey both black grouse and caper numbers increased when proper (i.e non Balmoral) habitat management was carried out, and again there was no predator control. In fact the goshawk and pine marten returned during the conservation work and it was felt the interactions between a growing list of potential caper predators was a key element of the project’s success. The employee who stated this publicly got dogs abuse from a certain group. I’ve heard that caper are also doing well at Glenfeshie as the trees return and the remaining deer can grow bigger under shelter rather than shiver to death on open hills. The factor responsible for pushing the change of direction at Glenfeshie (which some ‘community leaders’ said would create a jungle) has recently reported he actually received death threats at the time for culling enough deer so there could be trees AND deer!

      Anywhere in all that where the traditional work of gamekeepers is helping capercaillie? There isn’t and in fact it’s the direct opposite. About 40% of the Cairngorms National Park is grouse moor, a massive chunk out of the biggest National Park in the UK and one of the biggest in western Europe. Returning at least part of that to what it was and still should be – forest – means habitat for caper and so much else. And don’t worry about the curlews too much which actually don’t do well when the ‘management’ of grouse moors gets more and more intensive anyway. The waders might do even better at RSPB Insh marshes if beavers were released there so scrub could be held back without the need for volunteers and contractors. It would reduce flooding to homes and farmland downstream too. Mind you many keepers don’t like beavers either, didn’t the lovely SGA offer up its members as volunteers to eradicate all the beavers on the Tay when their presence was first publicised? Bless!! Here is the original document for the piss poor attempt to save caper at Balmoral – https://www.amberwebdesign.co.uk/castle_2010/pdf/capercaillie_management_on_balmoral_estate.pdf It came as no surprise that the Parkwatch article shows it was an abject failure.

  4. In my opinion only one group of people are responsible for the continued killing of our raptors and they are the Scottish Government and they are the ones that should be in court for dereliction of duty

    1. Responsibility exists in layers and there are no parties involved in the crimes who are innocent.
      The foot soldiers who do the “dirty” work cannot claim to be only obeying orders (where have we heard that one before). Their employers are clearly candidates for the high jump.
      Ultimate culpability lies with the Holyrood mob who have chosen to avoid taking meaningful remedial action.

  5. Do we know from Police Scotland whether their enquiries have concluded?

    If so Cairngorms National Park Authority are clearly engaging in a smoke and mirrors exercise. As a public body, they should be working for the local community in particular and Scotland in general – not a few commercial interests. Their banner “An outstanding National Park, where people and nature thrive together” is a joke! Perhaps a it should read “A place where the status quo is maintained so a few commercial interests can continue to abuse this iconic place at the expense of natural environment for generations to come”

    If Police Scotland have concluded their investigation there is no reason why more information can be released, I suggest another FOI request at that point.

    Well said Les Wallace; some interesting points. Basically the Yellow Stone wolves on a smaller scale – with the predators moving the ecosystem towards equilibrium – something gamekeepers (grouse farmers) will never do since their prime motive is to breed as many grouse as possible.

    1. More fundamentally – and from my own personal experience of the bullying mentality of Gamekeepers – I believe their prime motive is to be the top predator themselves.

  6. Another toothless tiger….the killing of raptors will will continue unchecked unless some bold action it taken by Sco Govt, Pol Sco land managers and groups with a vested interest.
    The current situation appears to have no real consequences for offenders, who will continue to poison and kill raptors in favour of sporting estates and grouse management 😡

  7. Presumably the police will be keeping all the forensic evidence so that they can match it with future discoveries. Either the next dead bird or the results of a raid on a gamekeepers secret cache. I hope.
    If the police close the case… Then CNPA need to be clear that the estate is no longer a partner and there is no need to protect a relationship that no longer exists.

  8. Foxes capping pine marten numbers? Must be pretty brave foxes around Abernethy – and pretty agile to boot! Having been bitten by a ferret once I really would not fancy being bitten by a pine marten (a ferret writ big!) and I doubt a fox would either. Personally I think they’d respect one another as neither predator could afford the sort of injuries each might inflict on the other.

  9. The irony is that any progress that has been made concerning raptor persecution has come about due to public pressure.
    These partnerships don’t appear to have achieved anything at all and yet they are working hard to ensure that those estates were there ongoing and known issues are offered protection by the refusal to publish what must be ‘incriminating’ conversations, why else would they be so keen to hide the correspondence?

    Have you appealed the decision and will you take it further to the information commissioner? Surely what they are proposing going completely against the point of having the FOI system?

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