Invercauld Estate in Cairngorms loses appeal against General Licence restriction imposed for wildlife crime

Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park has lost its appeal against a General Licence restriction that was imposed on the estate in February 2022 (see here) after Police Scotland provided the licensing authority (NatureScot) with evidence of wildlife crime against birds of prey on the estate, notably the discovery of a ‘deliberately poisoned’ golden eagle lying next to a poisoned hare bait in March 2021 (see here).

[Photo of the poisoned eagle & hare bait found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

Regular blog readers will know that the three-year General Licence restriction on the Gairnshiel & Micras part of Invercauld Estate took effect on 9th February 2022, prohibiting the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 on the estate until 9th February 2025 (see here).

The estate submitted a formal appeal against NatureScot’s restriction decision on 25th February 2022 and the official ‘restriction notice’ was removed from NatureScot’s website. I looked today and the notice has been reinstated, which I take to mean that the estate’s appeal has failed, in the same way that Lochan Estate’s recent appeal against restriction also failed (see here).

Here is the map from Naturescot showing the area of restriction on the Gairnshiel & Micras area of the estate:

If you’re at all familiar with Invercauld Estate you’ll recognise that this restriction area is only a small part of what is a massive grouse-shooting estate in the Cairngorms National Park (data from Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website) rather than the restriction being applied across the entire estate, as seems to have been the case with other sanctioned estates:

I was curious about why the General Licence restriction was, well, restricted for want of a better term, to just the small area of Garnshiels and Micras, so I asked the licensing team at NatureScot about that decision.

The response from NatureScot was prompt (thank you!) and went like this:

‘…The decision was made on the basis that the evidence of crime provided [by Police Scotland] related to this one beat, rather than across the whole estate; and that the separate beats on this estate are managed independently of each other. Hence, the ultimate decision was to restrict to the beats where the evidence of crime occurred‘.

As many of you already know, the three-year General Licence 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).

We were even provided with first-hand evidence of its ineffectiveness when further evidence of suspected wildlife crime was detected on two estates that were already serving a General Licence restriction for wildlife crime! Raeshaw Estate in the Scottish Borders had its Individual licences revoked (here) and Leadhills Estate was given a three-year extension to its original three-year General Licence restriction (here), a decision which it subsequently appealed and lost (here).

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

5 thoughts on “Invercauld Estate in Cairngorms loses appeal against General Licence restriction imposed for wildlife crime”

  1. It is long overdue for NatureScot to radically overhaul the whole system of General Licences and the ineffectiveness of this procedure in dealing with the management issues relating to wildlife crime in the uplands.

    1. I suspect that job is down to the Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform (Màiri McAllan) which is a junior ministerial post (and who does not automatically qualify to attend Cabinet meetings) under the Environment and Forestry Directorate in the Scottish Government.

      NatureScot may advise, but Ministers/Cabinet decide the law.

  2. I have been wondering for a long time if NatureScot publish an annual report on the licensing scheme ie how many special licenses, reasons, restrictions etc and evaluation of effectiveness. Can you help?

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