Lochan Estate in Strathbraan loses its appeal against General Licence restriction imposed for wildlife crime

Lochan Estate, a pheasant and grouse-shooting estate in the notorious Strathbraan region of Perthshire has lost its appeal against a General Licence restriction that was imposed on the estate in January 2022 after Police Scotland provided the licensing authority (NatureScot) with evidence of wildlife crime against birds of prey on the estate.

Regular blog readers will know that the three-year General Licence restriction on Lochan Estate took effect on 25th January 2022, prohibiting the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 on the estate until 25th January 2025 (see here).

NatureScot stated the restriction was imposed after the discovery of a dead hen harrier (named Rannoch) on the estate’s grouse moor in May 2019. Her foot was still caught in the jaws of a spring trap (see here).

[Photo by RSPB Scotland]

Lochan Estate’s response to the restriction came swiftly and an unnamed spokesperson was quoted as follows:

The estate categorically rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to the welfare of wildlife.

We made very robust representations five months ago and only received the notification this week, which we found surprising given the material we produced.

We will therefore be appealing this decision.”

On 1st March I noticed that the official restriction notice on NatureScot’s website had disappeared so I assumed that was an indication that the estate had formally appealed the decision (NatureScot’s protocol seems to be to retract the restriction during the appeal process). This was confirmed when I contacted NatureScot’s licensing team to query the missing restriction notice and I was told the estate’s appeal had been lodged on 22nd February 2022.

Yesterday, the official restriction notice re-appeared on NatureScot’s website, which I assume to mean that the estate’s appeal has been rejected and the restriction now stands until it expires on 25th January 2025.

This is the area of restriction:

As many of you already know, this restriction is barely worth the paper it’s written on, because the estate can simply apply for ‘individual licences’ (instead of relying on the General Licences) to continue its activities as before, albeit with the minor inconvenience of having to have a bit of a paper trail. This has been a major criticism of the General Licence restriction process ever since it began in 2014. This, combined with the shooting industry’s apparent reluctance to shun any estates where restrictions have been imposed for wildlife crime, means that the General Licence restriction is an utterly ineffective sanction (e.g. see here).

You may remember that last month Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell asked Parliamentary questions about this absurd so-called sanction (see here); more on that shortly.

Meanwhile, the General Licence restriction imposed on Invercauld Estate in January 2022 (following the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle and poisoned baits (see here) has also been challenged by the estate and a decision on that appeal is due imminently.

UPDATE 7th April 2022: Invercauld Estate in Cairngorms National Park loses appeal against General Licence restriction imposed for wildlife crime (here).

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