Scottish Government announces draft bill on grouse moor licensing to be introduced this parliamentary year

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that, finally, a draft bill on grouse moor licensing will be introduced in this parliamentary year.

This proposed legislation is a direct result of the continued illegal killing of birds of prey on many driven grouse moors, that’s been going on for decades.

The grouse-shooting industry hasn’t just refused to kick out the criminals in its midst; it has repeatedly denied that the crimes ever take place, despite the weight of evidence that shows otherwise, and it has actively shielded those responsible. Raptor persecution doesn’t happen on grouse moors by accident, or by bad luck, but as a consequence of the industry’s failure to self-regulate (and the Government’s failure to take effective action).

This legislation was inevitable in response to the grouse-shooting industry’s arrogance and intransigence (a nod to Mark Avery for coining that term).

[A poisoned golden eagle on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

The announcement about the introduction of the draft bill was made in the Scottish Government’s 2022-2023 Programme For Government, published this afternoon, outlining the policies and actions that are expected to take place over the coming year as well as the expected legislative programme.

You can download the programme here:

The draft bill on grouse moor management is one of 18 bills the Government proposes to introduce by the end of June 2023. The statement on it is concise and short on detail but is nonetheless significant for those of us who have campaigned on the subject for years:

It’s been almost three years since the Werritty Review on grouse moor management was published (see here) and almost two years since the Scottish Government published its response (here), committing to developing a licensing scheme ‘immediately’, so the news that a draft bill is to be introduced in the now foreseeable future is a huge milestone in this long battle.

The fight is nowhere near over, of course. There will be various stages the bill has to navigate, which will take months, and the dark forces of the grouse-shooting industry will be hard at work chiselling away at any proposed measures of constraint (whatever they may be). But equally, conservationists will be fighting hard to ensure this proposed legislation has teeth, and importantly, strong enforcement support, which I’m told is also what the Scottish Government has in mind. Let’s see.

At this stage I’m not aware of any of the proposed detail of the draft bill so it’s impossible to comment on how effective / ineffective it might be, but the next ten months will be interesting and there’ll be opportunities for everyone to engage and influence the direction of travel.

To everyone who has worked so hard on this campaign, whether that be in recent weeks or over a period of months, years, or several decades, it hasn’t been in vain.

I’m having a drink this evening. Cheers!

27 thoughts on “Scottish Government announces draft bill on grouse moor licensing to be introduced this parliamentary year”

    1. Mitigation of Westminster austerity policies? Raising Child Allowance?
      And what is the U.K. Government doing about raptor persecution? What is the only other party in England with a chance (an outside chance) of becoming the government in Westminster saying they’ll do about raptor persecution and land reform?
      The BritNat rush to damn the SNP Scottish Government when their beloved English Parliament is doing sod all to stop the criminals in tweeds really is an example of a sickening colonialist attitude. Get your House in order – then criticise others.

      1. “The BritNat rush to damn the SNP Scottish Government when their beloved English Parliament is doing sod all”

        Why is there SNP representation in an English Parliament?

          1. That makes two contributors who do not accept that there is NO such thing as an English Parliament. Delusional, both.

            1. The biggest obstacle to the creation of an English parliament is the English themselves, or at least the majority of them who cling to the British thing, as represented by Westminster, with all the flummery and the inflated notions of their own importance which go with that. They would have to come to terms with being just plain ol’ English – admittedly not an attractive prospect for anyone…. But fear not, the UK is disintegrating anyway, and England will get its parliament in due course and also its independence and we won’t have you to kick around any more.

              1. As I said: delusional. The MAJORITY of Scots and Welsh have expressed their preference to stay in the Union because they recognise the overwhelming economic advantage.

                “and we won’t have you to kick around any more” Delusional AND deeply prejudiced.

                1. ‘You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more’ – Richard Nixon’s self pitying comment on announcing his departure from Office following Watergate. Maybe a slightly obscure reference but apposite in the circumstances and ironic rather than prejudiced. There is neither prejudice nor malice in pointing out that you belong to the most insular and delusional country in Europe and that the rest of us hope you will soon see sense and stop being a liability to yourselves and all of your neighbours.
                  And, btw, you have not the faintest idea about the preferences of the majority in Scotland or the economic issues involved but, like your colonial media, it probably won’t stop you thinking you can tell us what we want and what’s good for us.

            2. The very fact that on the morning of 19 September 2014, David Cameron announced that he would legislate for English votes for English laws (EVEL) WITHIN the UK parliament, thereby blocking any MP from the devolved nations from having a say on English matters, made the UK parliament a de facto English parliament.

              With EVEL, it effectively permitted a hierarchical status within a supposed parliament of equals, and allowed for a two-tier system system, with English-based MPs being automatically accepted into the higher tier, and those from the devolved nations ranked in the lower order.

              MPs from devolved nations have no say whatsoever on English matters, but English-based MPs can vote on matters affecting the devolved nations, to the extent that certain things can ne blocked completely by those based in England.

              It’s an English parliament in all but name.

              1. “English votes for English laws” is not law, but a Parliamentary arrangement *agreed with the devolved institutions*. These devolved institutions have agreed on a quid pro quo basis to balance the devolved powers only, because Westminster MPs cannot vote in the devolved institutions.

                That means that MPs from devolved nations CAN vote on English-only matters, but refrain from doing so. In return, Westminster – which still holds the constitutional power to pass law in all policy areas for the whole of the UK – now very rarely passes legislation solely for the devolved nations.

                On matters outside of the devolved powers, all of Westminster votes. Not an “English Parliament at all.

                1. MPs from the devolved nations can vote now, because EVEL was abolished last year.

                  However, it is still an English parliament in all but name. If you have a “union of equals” that has one of the nations with a far higher number of representatives than the combined total of the other three, then there will always be an imbalance in favour of England.

                  If it were truly a union of equals, then it would be along the lines of “one country, one vote”, which would give a fairer representation for each country. But we don’t have that, or anywhere near it.

                  The UK is a voluntary union, but for some unknown reason, the UK government is being completely undemocratic, and standing in the way of a Scottish independence referendum. Why should English-based MPs, most of whom don’t give a damn about Scotland, or the people of Scotland, be able to do that? Is that not passing legislation on an issue relating to a devolved nation?

                  It’s an English parliament masquerading as a UK one.

      2. Your comment is more than a bit disingenuous. The simple fact is that, thanks to the 1997 Labour government, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have devolved parliaments, but England doesn’t. As a result of Labour’s subsequent capitulation in Scotland, the UK parliament has a pretty much built-in Tory majority: i.e., the party of the landowners and wildlife criminals.

        Scotland has had the SNP in power for a very long time, they have promised and failed to deliver time after time – and they do not have the excuse that the Tories have. Even this latest, positive, step forward has a built-in mechanism for delay and who knows how strong the regulations will be?

        The antipathy to the excesses of the shooting industry is every bit as strong in England, if not stronger, as Scotland certainly doesn’t suffer the excesses of the pheasant & partridge shooting industries as badly as England does, but activists in England are rendered politically impotent by the lack of genuine local democratic representation and accountability.

        1. And your comment is more than a little pathetic if you think that your problems are the fault of Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. There is no English parliament because England has not demanded one and the built in Tory majority at Westminster is England’s problem alone. In any case the electoral arithmetic over decades shows that Labour victories were never dependent on Scottish votes. Daft assertions re ScotGov’s record don’t hide English failure, but no-one doubts that there are millions in England who want change. To get that however England will have to get itself out of the UK and face a few facts about itself as England alone, with no scapegoats.

        2. “As a result of Labour’s subsequent capitulation in Scotland, the UK parliament has a pretty much built-in Tory majority: i.e., the party of the landowners and wildlife criminals.”

          Eh, not so! The reason that the UK has a Tory government, is simply because the people of England voted them in. If every man, woman and child in Scotland had a vote, and they all cast their votes for the Labour Party at the last general election, the Tories would still have won with a comfortable majority. It was the same as the GE previous to that, and for the vast majority of elections going back to the 1950s, whatever party the people of England vote for, forms the government. Even with the Tony Blair years of governance, if you remove the Scottish vote in its entirety, the result stays the same.

          Don’t blame the people of Scotland for England’s lurch to right-wing politics, and its love of the Conservatives.

  1. A milestone, indeed. But how far to the destination remains to be seen. I do hope they properly deal with the enormously damaging draining and burning.

  2. The details of the regulatory scheme are of course critical, and no doubt there will be some serious battling over this. But just as important is who is going to inspect / monitor it on the ground, and how many people will be employed to do it? The whole thing could be undone (or not done) if there aren’t enough inspections & assessments by a qualified dedicated agency. I hope the licensing scheme will pay for the above with an appropriate fee for a licence levied each of the estate that runs a grouse shooting business. After all they can afford it – if premier scottish moors are in the same ball-park as english ones, then each brace of grouse in the 10yr bag average represents a capital value of about £5k. So I think each estate should pay a licence fee calculated on the bag average*, as this largely reflects the extent of the exploitation of nature.

    *and yes an inspector will have to ‘drop in’ here and there and be present on lots of shoot days and count the bag – because they cannot be trusted an inch to declare it honestly themselves.

  3. I’m hoping for something similar in Wales, too (as we appear to be semi-detached rather than independent in truth!)

  4. Yes, have a well-deserved drink!

    Hopefully the legislation will be robust, and won’t be littered with legal loopholes. Time will tell.

  5. When Scot Gov originally “banned” seal shooting and then passed laws “protecting” beaver and mountain hare they also quietly introduced licenses to allow people to continue killing the animals. For decades Animal Concern has been trying, unsuccesfully, to get a ban on the General License Scheme which allows land owners to kill unlimited numbers of about 20 species of native wild birds to protect non native pheasant and imported grouse released only to be shot by so-called sporting guns. It will be very interesting to see if the Licensing of Grouse Moors does anything more than create an extra hour of paperwork for those few people and corporations who control most of our land. we can but lobby and hope.

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