BASC engaged in scrutiny of Scottish grouse Bill

Dr Marnie Lovejoy

BASC highlighted the disproportionality and potential infringements of human rights of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament.

BASC was invited to take part in the Rural Affairs and Islands (RAINE) Committee scrutiny session, dealing with the specific issue of licensing grouse shooting.

Other organisations invited included Scottish Land & EstatesGame & Wildlife Conservation Trust, RSPB, Revive, Scottish Law Society as well as the licensing authority NatureScot.

BASC’s head of environmental law and evidence, Dr Marnie Lovejoy, spoke on several topics including whether the Bill would work, the length of the licence and the list of offences that should be included.


Dr Lovejoy described the Bill as “bad law” with the possibility of unlimited suspensions being enacted on the mere suspicion of illegal activity, not a definite conviction. The disproportionate nature will impede long-term management plans and infringe the rights of the landowner.

It was also noted that the Bill infringes on rights contained within the European Convention of Human Rights, with a warning to the Scottish Government that such infringement would inevitably ‘lead to court cases’.

Dr Lovejoy explained that the politicisation of grouse shooting will lead to further vexatious attempts to have licences suspended, through snare and trap tampering.

Ashley McCann from Scottish Land & Estates used the example that a farmer suspected of a wildlife crime would be free to continue his business, two miles down the road, a gamekeeper and grouse moor management would be forced out.

Licence length

There was broad agreement, from BASC, NatureScot, Professor Werritty and the Scottish Law Society that an annual licence was an administrative burden and unnecessary. There were calls for a three-to-five-year licence, if not longer, and BASC will be taking this case forward, pushing for annual licences to be dropped.


The second part of the session included questions to a range of new participants on muirburn. The Muirburn Code of Practice underpinning the Bill is yet to be published; a significant omission which concerned witnesses.

The importance of muirburn in reducing fuel load and wildfire risk was raised, with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service stating that muirburn plays a crucial part in wildfire mitigation. SFRS acknowledged that only 1cm of fire penetration occurs during muirburn, rendering the 40cm depth rule questionable.

BASC will be seeking to the amend the Bill to remove the arbitrary 40cm peatland depth rule.

Next steps

The fourth and final scrutiny panel will take place next Wednesday, 28 June, and will see MSPs question the Bill’s lead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon MSP.

BASC met Ms Gougeon a few weeks ago, where we outlined our opposition to the licensing of grouse shooting, muirburn and traps.