BASC urges MSPs to vote down unworkable Scottish grouse Bill

Red grouse on a post

BASC has urged all MSPs to vote down the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill in a debate taking place tomorrow, 30 November, in the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs will be debating Stage 1 of the bill following publication of the Rural Affairs and Islands (RAI) Committee’s report on the proposed legislation. The committee’s report makes recommendations to the Scottish Government on a number of aspects of the Bill, which are:

  • “Ability to suspend a licence – strong concerns were expressed to the committee by potential licence applicants around NatureScot’s power (as the licence administrator) to suspend or revoke a licence, despite it not being satisfied an offence has been committed. The Committee calls for greater reassurances that this power would not be used in response to vexatious complaints.”
  • “Wildlife trap licensing scheme – The Committee agrees there is a case for a specific offence of trap vandalism to be included in the Bill.”
  • “Annual grouse moor licensing scheme – in response to strong representation from stakeholders, who described the idea of an annual licence of land for killing and taking of birds as ‘frankly idiotic’, the Committee recommends that the proposed licensing period should be extended.”
  • The Committee did not agree a position on snares.

Vote down the Bill

BASC remains opposed to the implementation of grouse shoot licences, muirburn licences and licences for certain traps. 

In light of the committee’s report, BASC is asking MSPs to vote down the Bill, given our significant concerns over workability and infringement of basic rights within the European Convention on Human Rights.

If the Bill does pass at Stage 1, BASC has called for the following key amendments through extensive lobbying of MSPs:

  1. A removal of the unworkable annual grouse shoot and muirburn licence, to be replaced with, at minimum, a 10-year licence.
  2. A removal of the powers which would allow Scottish ministers to add further bird species to the red grouse shooting licence.
  3. A complete overhaul of proposed powers around suspending and revoking a licence.
  4. Significant amendments to the muirburn licence, removing the ‘last resort’ clause and amending the definition of peat depth.

BASC Scotland director Peter Clark said: “The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill is some distance away from being at all practical or workable for our members, land managers and gamekeepers.

“BASC has continually voiced our concerns about how grouse shooting, muirburn and trap licensing will work in practice. 

“This Bill, in its current form, poses a substantial risk to the viability of an already fragile rural economy, as well as public safety. On public safety and muirburn especially, we have grave concerns over how a licensing scheme and its overbearing powers will affect any future ability to mitigate large-scale wildfires, the risk of which is being heightened by climate change.

“We ask MSPs to vote down the Bill to ensure the Scottish Government goes back to the drawing board and reconsiders the range of evidence presented by rural stakeholders.

“As Scotland’s largest shooting and conservation organisation, we will continue to present the facts and evidence to MSPs in the months ahead as to why this Bill is fundamentally flawed.”