Grouse shooting licensing proposal a ‘seriously damaging blow’

Rural organisations said today that the Scottish Government’s announcement that it is to develop a licensing scheme for grouse moors will be a seriously damaging blow to fragile rural communities.

Following publication of Scottish Government’s response to Werritty Review of grouse moor management, the following  joint statement was issued by: British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates.

“We are dismayed that the Scottish Government has not listened to the voice of some of our most fragile communities which are at the heart of a world class rural business sector. People involved in grouse shooting have already embraced a huge amount of legislation, regulation and guidance to make sure the highest standards are met. This includes estates embracing many of the recommendations contained within the Werritty report. 

“Instead, the Scottish Government has paved the way for a very uncertain future for many rural people by announcing that it intends to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse moors which interferes with legitimate business activities and threatens to engulf the sector in a blizzard of red tape that is unprecedented and out of all proportion.

“Substantive work has already been done to improve Muirburn practices with more to come and we need to understand urgently what the Scottish Government envisages in terms of even further controls.

“We are not reassured that moor managers have ‘nothing to fear’. The Minister has herself described the potential withdrawal of a licence as a ‘serious sanction’ – there are real fears this could impact perfectly law-abiding shooting businesses.

“The Werritty Review group itself stated there is no scientific or evidential basis for introducing   licensing and we are disappointed that this has been ignored. The real weakness is that this measure misses the target in relation to wildlife crime – which is already at its lowest level – and Scotland already has the most stringent laws to deal with raptor persecution in the UK. A one-size fits all licensing scheme will serve only to play into the hands of those who are dedicated to banning shooting altogether, regardless of the consequences for communities and the environment.

“Grouse shooting plays a vital role in rural Scotland, sustaining communities and delivering substantial economic and environmental benefits. It would be bad legislation if the unsubsidised private investment that underpins these benefits is put at risk by this unnecessary proposal. We also have serious concerns about how such a scheme would work in practice and will be seeking an urgent meeting with Ministers to discuss the details.

“Every element of the Scottish economy will need as much help as possible in the foreseeable future and the proposal to introduce licensing for grouse shooting will do nothing to help achieve this. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Ministers to discuss how they see this being developed.”

Read our blog on what this announcement tells us about rural policy making in Scotland: Grouse shoot licensing: Exposing the fragility of Scottish Government rural policy