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!