Extension of General Licence restriction at Leadhills Estate confirmed as pitiful 8 months

Yesterday I blogged (here) about the extended General Licence restriction that has been imposed on Leadhills Estate after further evidence of wildlife crime had come to light since an original three-year restriction was imposed (to run 26 Nov 2019 – 26 Nov 2022).

[The grouse moors of Leadhills Estate. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

However, there was some confusion from the licencing agency, NatureScot, as to just how long this extension was applicable.

Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot’s s Director of Sustainable Growth was quoted in a NatureScot announcement saying ‘…there is enough evidence to suspend the general licences on this property for a further three years‘, which should have taken the restriction to November 2025 but when I looked at the actual detail of the extension on another part of the NatureScot website, the expiry date of the extension was given as 8th July 2023.

I contacted NatureScot’s licensing team this morning and asked them to clarify the apparent discrepancy. I am grateful to Licensing Manager Liz McLachlan for a prompt and clear explanation, as follows:

We have amended the statement on our web-pages as we accept there was some ambiguity in the original wording which you have picked up on. To clarify, the 3 year extension to the restriction is from the date of the most recent (additional) offence, as recorded by Police Scotland, which takes the restriction to July 2023.

For completeness the restriction is from 8 July 2020 to 8 July 2023‘.

I have looked at the amended statement from Robbie Kernahan which now reads:

In this case we have concluded that there is enough evidence to suspend the general licences on this property until 2023‘.

So effectively, this ‘three year extension’ isn’t actually a three-year extension at all. Technically it might be, but in effect it’s actually only an eight month extension because the estate is already serving the original General Licence restriction up until 26 November 2022, so imposing another restriction for the period 8 July 2020 to 26 November 2022, on top of the one already being served, is utterly pointless.

The 8-month extension from 27 November 2022 to 8 July 2023 is the only part of this ‘extended’ restriction that will have any real effect.

And apparently the estate has already served 14 months of the extension, given that it began in July 2020! Why has it taken 14 months for NatureScot to publicise this extended restriction? When was the estate notified of this further restriction? And has it made any difference whatsoever to the estate’s activities, given that the original restriction was already underway (since November 2019)?

And if this extension was in place since July 2020, then why the hell did NatureScot give Leadhills Estate special privileges last year when it granted an out-of-season muirburn licence in September 2020??

What sort of idiotic ‘sanction’ is this? An eight month General Licence restriction for the shooting of a short-eared owl, which is the alleged offence that this extension is based upon. Well that’s really going to put the fear of God up other would-be raptor killers, isn’t it?

It’s a pitiful response.

I don’t know if it’s a result of legal limitations (e.g. can this legal sanction be lawfully applied several years after the original offence?) or if it’s a result of professional incompetence by NatureScot.

I have submitted an FoI to NatureScot to ask for details of the decision-making process in this case and will blog when I receive a response.

[Short-eared owl by Amy Lewis]

16 thoughts on “Extension of General Licence restriction at Leadhills Estate confirmed as pitiful 8 months”

  1. Once more the import of the consequences fail to justify the rhetoric framing them. As usual they are speaking to the public and not the specialists knowing fine well the naivety of the first mentioned in htis field will imply a deterrent of consequence to them.

  2. Its hard to take the governments statements seriously on cracking down in regards to Raptor persecution and DGS when the likes of Leadhills continues to be indulged

    1. “Its hard to take the governments statements seriously on cracking down” …….. They are all a bunch of toxic double dealers.

  3. At the level of this Robbie Kernahan type of chap I doubt that there a many whose loyalties are by inclination or intellect with the grouse industry. So I do wonder how they feel as individuals when they reflect on the near useless practical utility of their ‘powers’ and all the taxpayer money and faith that has been invested into it. Do they feel they are part of the solution, or the problem? Or perhaps like most of us, are just waiting on their next months wages to pay the mortgage. As usual the problem rests with a few hundred powerful and influential people* among a country of 60 odd million, and on those we elect who are far too shy of standing up to them and won’t put their energy or reputational currency into running the country without licking the arses of these parasites.
    *many of whom may likely have enjoyed the ‘gift of grouse’ (a ‘gift’ at the expense of anyone who gives a shit about the natural world…and at the expense of the lives of tens of thousands of birds and beasts each year, protected or not) as guests on moors run by some of the big name ‘grouse guru’ Agents that are often in our minds. Anyway, rant over…off to work now if the garage still has fuel.

  4. Great work – naturescot again comes out of this very badly – hard to understand why they are so ineffective and emasculated. This kind of post is fabulous for keeping the focus on this organisation

    1. “naturescot again comes out of this very badly – hard to understand why they are so ineffective and emasculated.”

      Understanding is facilitated if you consider that there would be no naturescot if they were not categorically doing what those in authority above them commanded. From naturescot the short puppet strings lead to the Holyrood mob who bear responsibility for the reprehensible state of affairs that is endlessly illuminated on Raptor Persecution.

  5. When I read about things such as this, it makes me truly question how the government can claim raptor persecution is national wildlife crime priority.
    Unless I am totally mistaken, tackling raptor persecution is only going to succeed when all the various partnership agencies including the Police, NatureScot, Natural England, DEFRA etc work, not only together on joint enterprises, but to the best of their abilities as individual organisations.
    The ability of organisations such as NatureScot, Natural England to impose meaningful and proper sanctions on those they suspect of being responsible for raptor persecution has to be part of the overall strategy in tackling raptor persecution crime.
    So why does this appear not to be happening?
    Why is it that what is reported here, appear to be just another example of the failure of those agencies tasking in delivering wildlife crime priority strategies, to actually do something that would really make a difference?
    Having followed this blog for sometime, I am sure most readers have their own ideas on why?
    But what upsets me, is what appears to me to be the dishonesty behind the statement that “raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority”.
    This apparent dishonesty is allowing the continual killing of some of this nations most magnificent birds by criminals who seem to have no fear of ever being brought to justice.
    This is totally unacceptable in nation which apparently is subject to a democratic rule of law!!
    Thank goodness there are those like Ruth who work tirelessly to expose what is going on, and never give up, despite what at times must be feel like banging their heads against an impenetrable brick wall!!!

    1. “When I read about things such as this, it makes me truly question how the government can claim raptor persecution is national wildlife crime priority”.

      A good question. In England (perhaps less so in Scotland?) the extent to which it is a genuine priority is clearly revealed by the steadfast refusal of the government to countenance any change in its approach despite continued evidence that the persecution continues with impunity. If something is genuinely a priority you change tack when you find the current approach is not working.

  6. There needs to be a complete review [Public Inquiry?] into the failure of our legal system and parliament to protect nature in our Uplands…and question why those laws that took decades to be put into place, are not being fully applied. The disrespect shown for democracy by the wildlife killers and their employers is a national disgrace.

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