Scotland’s statutory conservation agency, NatureScot, has today announced its decision to impose a three-year General Licence restriction on Lochan Estate, a grouse and pheasant-shooting estate in Strathbraan, Perthshire.
The statement on NaturesScot’s website reads:
‘In line with NatureScot’s published General Licence restrictions: Framework for Implementing Restrictions we hereby give notice that a restriction has been applied to the land outlined in red overleaf. This restriction prohibits the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 on that land between the 25th January 2022 and 25th January 2025.
Please note that this restriction does not imply responsibility for the commission of crimes on any individuals‘.
NatureScot has not published any further detail about the type of offence(s) uncovered on Lochan Estate or the date(s) of discovery. [See update at foot of blog]
Whilst I commend NatureScot (and Police Scotland, on whose evidence the decision to restrict the use of the General Licences has been made) for imposing the restriction, it’s frustrating that once again, the detail has been suppressed from the public domain. It is surely in the public interest to know what criminal activity has been uncovered on this estate, even though the alleged offences can’t be pinned on any named individual.
I have submitted an FoI asking for these details and I’ll publish the response here in due course.
For those of you unfamiliar with the geography, Lochan Estate sits in the Strathbraan area, a region recognised in a Government-commissioned report as being a raptor persecution hotspot (here). Lochan Estate was also within the boundary of the heavily-criticised Strathbraan raven cull back in 2018:
[Map of the raven cull area in Strathbraan in 2018. Yellow line = cull boundary; white line = areas of driven grouse moor where the raven cull was permitted until it was successfully challenged by the Scottish Raptor Study Group]
This three-year General Licence restriction means that the estate cannot kill magpies, carrion crows, hooded crows, jackdaws, jays, woodpigeons, feral pigeons, Canada geese, Greylag geese, or rooks either by shooting, removing nests, pricking eggs, oiling eggs, targeted falconry, or by using traps to capture and then kill them.
Unless of course the estate has applied for, and been granted, an Individual licence, which permits them to do what they were doing before as if the alleged offences never took place. Great, isn’t it?
Way back in December 2019, Ian Thomson (RSPB Scotland) and I gave evidence to the Scottish Government’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) committee where we argued that General Licence restrictions were wholly ineffective as sanctions for wildlife crime, especially (but not limited to) this ridiculous escape clause of being able to apply for an individual licence (see here).
In response, then Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon said that the Government was ‘actively considering’ the need for further, additional sanctions (see here).
It’s all gone deathly quiet since then.
UPDATE 15.07hrs: Lochan Estate penalised after discovery of illegally-killed hen harrier on grouse moor (here)
UPDATE 27th January 2022: Lochan Estate says it will appeal General Licence restriction (here)
UPDATE 22nd March 2022: Lochan Estate in Strathbraan loses its appeal against General Licence restriction imposed for wildlife crime (here)