‘Golden opportunity to tackle bird of prey killings & stop peatland burning in Scotland’ – RSPB blog on grouse moor licensing

RSPB Scotland has published a blog about the importance of contributing to the Scottish Government’s consultation on grouse moor reform.

The blog can be found here and is reproduced below:

An illegally-poisoned Peregrine Falcon. Photo by RSPB.

The Scottish Government’s Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill consultation closes tomorrow. Duncan Orr-Ewing, our Head of Species and Land Management explains why we must make sure Scotland’s uplands and the wildlife which rely on them get the protection they need.

Scotland’s mountains, moors, hills and valleys should be full of life but increasingly these places have fallen silent. Centuries of unsustainable land management practices, including burning on peatlands, overgrazing by livestock such as sheep and wild deer, and the illegal and systematic killing of large numbers of our iconic birds of prey have forced nature to the fringes of some of Scotland’s most unique places.

Right now, as we face the nature and climate emergency, we need these places restored to their full potential. When healthy, they can serve as a habitat that is the last refuge of some of our most at risk and iconic species such as Hen Harrier, Black Grouse and Curlew, as well as also provide natural solutions to flooding and wildfires, whilst restored peatlands and regenerating native woodlands can store huge amounts of carbon.

However, in the past few decades many grouse moors we have seen intensification of land management practices, with more burning; more medication of red grouse and more predator control, all designed to deliver ever higher numbers of grouse for sporting clients to shoot, limited only by ineffective and voluntary codes of practices which are often widely ignored.

With this in mind, the Scottish Government has recently launched a public consultation on a Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill. We believe that the proposed legislation should have a huge impact in addressing the long-term public concern around the illegal killing of birds of prey and more widely in asserting the public interest in the way in which grouse moors are managed (covering about 10-15% of Scotland’s land area). The legislation proposes licencing for grouse shooting and moorland burning, banning burning on deep peatland soils, as well as reform of trapping and we believe that land managers and owners that operate their businesses within the law have absolutely nothing to fear from the proposed reforms. Furthermore, the Scottish Government is also considering options for giving the Scottish SPCA small additional powers which would allow them to better investigate and report wildlife crimes, working alongside the Police.  

RSPB Scotland has long campaigned for better protection of birds of prey, including meaningful sanctions against those who break wildlife protection laws.  We also want to see our uplands managed sustainably and to deliver a wide variety of public benefits sitting alongside private sporting interests. In November 2020, following the Werritty Review of  Moor Management, the Scottish Government committed to bringing in new legislation to protect birds of prey and to address other unsustainable land management practices associated with the most intensive “driven” grouse shooting,

This consultation stage is an important part of the law-making process and provides an opportunity for everyone to have their say on what they think new legislation should contain. We strongly support the Scottish Government proposals, however there is still work to be done to ensure it properly protects Scotland’s nature and it is vital that the public’s voice is heard. The more people that respond to the consultation seeking progressive reform, the greater the chance that it will help nature. The consultation closes tomorrow, 14 December. 

You can respond to the Scottish Government consultation here.


If you’d like some guidance about how to respond to the consultation, please see here.

It closes tomorrow!

7 thoughts on “‘Golden opportunity to tackle bird of prey killings & stop peatland burning in Scotland’ – RSPB blog on grouse moor licensing”

  1. All well and good, but it’s FAR too late for the RSPB to ask people to contribute ‘by tomorrow’.

    Have they been nodding off?

    1. In the newly revamped “The RSPB Magazine” – Autumn/Winter 2022 – they published five full pages devoted to the illegal persecution of birds of prey: “Driven grouse moors must be licensed throughout the UK to create accountability”.

      This was preceded by two full pages of adverts for birding in Scotland.

      Yet not a single mention of the Scottish Government’s call for *comments* on their proposed grouse moor licensing consultation! Just… “we’re delighted that grouse-shoot licensing will soon be implemented in Scotland.”

      In the intervening period between the Scottish Government’s call (October 26th), and the deadline of 14th December, I received two emails from the RSPB about the RSPB Christmas Shop. But – unless I am very much mistaken – not a squeak about the consultation.

      Why? ‘Golden opportunity’ – to harness membership support – missed, I’d say.

      1. Your so right,l love some of the articles in the RSPB mag but what are they doing? This is one of the most important moments for bird watchers to show how much they could support this unlawfull killing of such iconic birds,they should be hanging there heads

  2. I absolutely agree that peat burning should be stopped. It’s also a golden opportunity to stop the construction of huge wind farm developments on peatland in Scotland. Hundreds of thousands of acres of biodiverse and complex ecosystems of carbon-capturing peatland are being lost to these developments every year, with raptors, and other species, being driven out of their habitat or being fatally injured.

  3. Whilst on the other side there are ‘opinion’ pieces by representatives of the VED in the Scotsman and P&J on how terrible licencing will be for this put-upon law-abiding community. Apparently they are drowning in regulation already and raptor persecution is almost negligible nowadays.

  4. I have recently (last week) been on on an peatmoor in the Highlands. This moor burns rank old heather, I counted 60 Black cock, 21 Red grouse, numerous Stonechats, meadow Pipits , 4 Hooper swans,several Buzzards and a Golden Eagle. Certainly not the empty moors I have just been reading about.

    1. Hi David, nice to hear of an estate that is still easygoing and moderate enough in management style to let it’s heather get rank and old. But I wish they would mow or use swipe instead and bypass the controversy. And 60 is a lovely lot of black grouse. I might take in that area on a little lekking tour I’m planning in the spring, what is the locality? Cheers

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