Don’t laugh, but here is the grouse-shooters’ consultation response to licensing

In October this year, the Scottish Government finally launched a consultation seeking the public’s views on its plans for grouse moor reform. Proposals under the Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill include provisions to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse shoots, muirburn licensing and increased regulation on the use of traps used to kill so-called ‘pest’ species on grouse moors. The consultation closes this Wednesday (14th December 2022).

A couple of days ago I wrote about the response that conservationists were planning to submit (see here), including a guide for your own response.

I mentioned in that blog that the grouse shooting industry was also corralling its members, seemingly in an attempt to flood the consultation with arguments designed to weaken the proposed licensing scheme. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, given the industry’s previously very public histrionics against licensing, as well as its denials that any sort of reform is even required (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here and here).

The landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has been quietly distributing a document amongst its members and supporters called ‘A Call to Action for Guns’ in which it goes through the Scottish Government’s consultation document and provides suggested responses. The full document is published at the end of this blog but I just wanted to highlight a few of the sections because if nothing else, they demonstrate the brass neck of this lot.

Here’s the opening statement:

Here’s their suggested response to Question 1 of the consultation:

The Scottish Government should laugh this response out of the door. High levels of wildlife crime on (some) grouse moors has been unequivocally demonstrated time and time and time again. Indeed, ongoing raptor persecution on some driven grouse moors is EXACTLY what has prompted the Scottish Government to bring in licensing, as stated repeatedly by successive Environment Ministers (e.g. see here and here). To pretend otherwise, at this stage of the game, simply highlights the industry’s intransigence and confirms why Ministers consider licensing necessary. It’s not as though the grouse shooting industry hasn’t been given multiple warnings and opportunities to reform (e.g. see here).

Here’s SLE’s suggested response to Question 10 of the consultation:

Again, the grouse shooting industry is asking for the status quo to remain because it knows how difficult it is to bring about criminal convictions for wildlife offences on grouse moors, given the remoteness of the locations, lack of witnesses, and the extraordinary lengths that the criminals will go to hide their crimes (e.g. see here). Even when sufficient evidence is gathered for a criminal prosecution, it is often ruled ‘inadmissible’ or ‘not in the public interest’ to proceed (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here). The odds have been stacked against the wildlife crime enforcers for decades and this proposed legislation seeks to address that imbalance. If I was a criminal gamekeeper or criminal sporting agent or criminal grouse moor owner, I too would be worried. Those who aren’t criminals should have nothing to fear.

And yes, the consequences of losing the right to shoot are significant – that’s kind of the whole point. If you don’t want to suffer the consequences, don’t break the law. It’s quite straightforward.

Here’s SLE’s suggested response to Question 14 of the consultation:

This is just trying to fudge the issue. I don’t think any informed person would argue that the illegal killing of raptors “occurs exclusively on grouse moors”. Of course it doesn’t. But there’s a massive weight of scientific evidence and crime statistics to demonstrate that illegal raptor persecution occurs disproportionately on some driven grouse moors, and THAT is what this licensing scheme is seeking to address.

And as for the “real risk of sabotage against sporting rights holders by those who oppose grouse shooting”, this argument that gamekeepers and estates may be ‘set-up’ was also used by SLE in 2012 when objecting to the introduction of vicarious liability for raptor persecution offences (see here). Ten years on, there hasn’t been a single case where this has been shown to have happened, but there have been plenty of cases where gamekeepers have been caught committing criminal offences as part of their daily routine.

I don’t have time (nor the will) to go through each of SLE’s consultation responses but if you’re interested, here it is in full:

For those of us who don’t want to see the status quo remain, and are sick to the back teeth of the grouse-shooting industry getting away with wildlife crimes, especially against birds of prey, there’s still time for you to participate in the public consultation (it is open to everyone). Even if you just tick the boxes (without needing to write additional comments), it all helps to demonstrate to the Scottish Government that this is an issue we care about. If you want to go further and add some commentary, you’ll find suggested guidance here.

The consultation closes the day after tomorrow (Weds 14th December 2022).

10 thoughts on “Don’t laugh, but here is the grouse-shooters’ consultation response to licensing”

  1. They are a pathetic bunch: like a naughty toddler caught with its mouth full of biscuits and claiming that it hadn’t taken them, stamping its feet in rage, and having a tantrum because they aren’t believed.

  2. It makes you laugh – there is a certain amount of delusionist beliefs if they think there is insufficient evidence to prove crime on grouse moors !!

  3. Laughable shite, this really does show that they still don’t “get it” and that they are either wilfully blind or have their heads in the sand or up their arses. Their responses should be consigned to the waste bin but there will be those who support them, we must ensure they are not listened too and are treated with appropriate derision.

  4. I have just completed the consultation. I found it frustrating in that if you answer No to a question then you can elaborate your argument but not if you answer Yes. It should have been open to either a Yes or No response to elaborate their arguments as to why a person or organisation holds that view.

    My belief is that all muirburn should end in the uplands and there was not an option for this view in the choices. However I did add it in the comments.

    Another concern I have about the consulation is that it only relates to the shooting of red grouse. The licence should regulate the shooting of all wild birds on the land over which it relates. Otherwise, are estates going to be able to continue to shoot red-legged partridge if a licence is removed.

    However I remain hopeful that this is another step along the road to improve the management of our uplands and protect its wildlife.

    1. You have a very valid point in that raptors are illegally shot on lowland shoots as well. Not all, but some and perhaps those that look after the other wildlife on their shoots not just the birds they are after should have recognition in the form of stars. Those shoots that fail to hold sufficient numbers of raptors could have a low star rating whether they have been proved to shoot them or not. Licensing will draw up publicically accessible borders that birders etc can cross reference when finding a low raptor count. Some of these estates up and down the country have barely any raptors whilst others have thriving populations and we know the reasons why.

    2. Totally agree with your first paragraph. Biased or what? No credible market researcher would accept this as valid. If the shooters expose themselves by their responses then let those agin it either demonstrate a reasoned rationale or otherwise. Balance is essential for an honest decision. And both sides should be available to public view.

  5. I filled in my response this afternoon. The step-by-step guidance from REVIVE was very helpful. Big thanks to you for drawing my attention to this, and giving links to both the consultation, and the REVIVE guidance. Let’s hope this really works for once, and that it is the thin end of a wedge that will see the end of the ludicrous activities of some of these people – many of which are already illegal.

  6. I hope that people understand that whilst the proposed licensing scheme will operate using the principles of civil law, with the burden of proof set at the lower threshold of “on the balance of probabilities”, there still has to be sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to be able to pass the necessary threshold test that there is a case to answer.
    The big issue in many cases is often the complete lack of evidence.
    I didn’t notice anything in the consultation which would indicate how better monitoring of shooting estates would be achieved, or whether the police or any of bodies such as the SNH, RSPB investigation team, or SSPCA would be given additional powers in relation to evidence gathering, such as covert surveillance or analysis of digital data which might help place a suspect within a particular location.
    I think we can be sure that if licensing is introduced and we arrive at a time whereby an estate is potentially going to to loose its licence, then the shooting industry will probably no doubt fund a very robust defense case, to test the law and set precedent.
    It would be an absolute tragedy if this licensing legislation was introduced, but then failed to deliver on protecting raptors by making shooting estates a place where criminal activity could still operate without severe risk of meaningful sanctions.
    If that happened, it wouldn’t help the wildlife the legislation was supposed to protect, it wouldn’t be in the publics interest, and neither would help all those estates which do operate within the law and find themselves having to compete against rogue estates for a market share of the shooting cliental.

    When responding to the consultation, in additional to all the pointers Ruth has provided, it might also be worth asking questions about how the Scottish government actually proposes to effectively monitor shooting estates for evidence of wrong doing, and whether there will be physical monitoring of estates to ensure any record keeping or reporting actually reflects what was really taking place.
    (Someone with a criminal mindset will simply be dishonest in any returns they are required to provide. This legislation is being introduced because current legislation has proved inadequate at dealing with the criminals. Those criminals are not going to vanish, they will simply become more devious in their behavior and exploit any weakness in the legislation).

    For legislation to be effective, it also has to walk hand in hand with better policing (monitoring) so that there is a greater probability that wrong doing will be detected. This better policing needs to be be firmly included within any licensing proposals.

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