Many thanks to Alison Johnstone MSP for raising the issue of Golden eagle Fred’s highly suspicious disappearance, at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliamentary chamber this lunchtime.
Here’s what Alison said, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s response:
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): In 2017, a rare and beautiful young golden eagle was raised in the Scottish borders by the only pair of breeding adults there. He was satellite tagged, and last month he left home for the first time. Less than a week later, he disappeared in the Pentland hills near Currie. His tag stopped sending data for three days, then started again, this time in the North Sea off St Andrews. RSPB Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK regard the disappearance as highly suspicious, and I believe it is likely that the young eagle has been illegally killed.
Donald Dewar described the persecution of birds of prey as “a national disgrace”, but it is still going on. What is the Scottish Government doing in response to the reports? Will the First Minister finally commit to a licensing regime for game bird shooting?
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): First, I agree that the persecution of birds of prey is unacceptable, and I absolutely associate myself with the comments that Alison Johnstone has made in that regard. The Government treats this and sees it as an extremely serious issue.
As Alison Johnstone will be aware, a group was set up following a report on the issue that was commissioned and published last year, and it is looking at various aspects such as licensing and the impact of grouse shooting. I—and, I am sure, Roseanna Cunningham as the responsible minister—will be happy to meet Alison Johnstone to discuss that work in more detail. I am sure that all of us across the chamber are united in agreeing that this is unacceptable and requires to be tackled robustly.
The video of this exchange may be viewed on Scottish Parliament TV here (starts at 12.33.20).
It’s not the first time in recent months that illegal raptor persecution has been discussed at such a high level Parliamentary session. Last May, Richard Lochhead MSP raised the issue of video inadmissibility in the case of the shot hen harrier on Cabrach Estate and the Crown’s decision to drop criminal proceedings.