The Scottish Parliament has voted to give further protection to mountain hares in Scotland following the last-minute amendment proposed by Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone. The timing of this amendment was heavily criticised by senior MSPs from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and SNP.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC’s director in Scotland, said: “In voting for this amendment, some members of the Scottish Parliament have effectively ignored the positive association between grouse moor management and mountain hare conservation.
“However, it is clear that Scottish Ministers recognise the need for a licensing system and BASC, on behalf of seven land management organisations, submitted licensing proposals to the Minister yesterday.
“We will be continuing to work with Government to ensure licensing of shoots provides sustainable management of mountain hares.
“The decision may be classed as a win for the Green Party but without licensing it will categorically not help conserve the mountain hare.
“At a time of national and biodiversity crisis, it beggars belief that the Green Party are politicising wildlife management issues by fast-tracking ill-judged legislative amendments.”
The amendment introduced at the third stage of the Animals and Wildlife (Scotland) Bill passed by 60 to 19 votes.
The amendment will give mountain hares in Scotland year-round legal protection.
In responding to the amendment, the Minister Mairi Gougeon said that there would be a delay in the introduction of this protection and that consideration would be given to a licensing system. This follows the recommendations made in the recent Werritty Review with respect to mountain hares.