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.