Critical BASC amendment accepted on Scottish grouse Bill

grouse over heather

The second day of MSP voting on the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill has seen a vital BASC amendment accepted, ensuring that grouse shooting will continue in Scotland.

MSPs in the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee today, 21 February, entered the final day of voting on amendments to the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) BillThe Bill seeks to introduce grouse shoot, muirburn and trapping licences.

Today’s vote removes disproportionate licence suspension powers, an issue BASC has lobbied MSPs and ministers on over the last year. Without its removal, licences could have been suspended or revoked based purely on an allegation with no evidence of wrongdoing, for a range of so-called “relevant offences”.

BASC has repeatedly said that it would be completely unreasonable for the initiation of an ‘official investigation’ to be the trigger for licence suspension, a power which could have potentially contravened articles within the European Convention on Human Rights.

The scale of financial loss for rural businesses could have been catastrophic, resulting in the loss of jobs and livelihoods, due to a vexatious allegation being made.

Amendments on licence duration and snares

The extension of grouse shoot licences from one year to five years in duration is welcomed, an amendment which places the Bill in a more workable position. However, BASC made it clear that for sustainable grouse moor management, a 10-year licence would be more appropriate for investment and planning. 

The previous committee session two weeks ago saw the Scottish government pass a ban on the use of snares, which BASC had opposed.

The organisation is looking to challenge the Bill, if key concerns on expansion of the SSPCA’s powers, the total ban on the use of snares without a licensing scheme, and the inclusion of more ‘relevant’ offences are not removed at Stage 3.

Overall, the Bill has some way to go before being reasonable, particularly with regards to muirburn licensing, according to BASC Scotland director Peter Clark.

Mr Clark said: “It is evident that our work to engage with and lobby MSPs and ministers throughout the progress of the Bill has resulted in the removal of an inherent flaw in future legislation.

“The power to suspend licences, even when NatureScot was not satisfied of any wrongdoing, was simply absurd, and we are glad our political pressure has seen this aspect taken out.

“BASC will be lobbying MSPs ahead of Stage 3, the final stage, to make further improvements to the Bill.”

Read more news from BASC Scotland here.