Scottish grouse Bill will damage the countryside, says BASC

Red grouse

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has warned the Scottish government of the “ruinous” impact the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill will inflict on the country’s biodiversity and rural economy.

BASC Scotland has warned that the rural community will be picking up the pieces for years to come after the bill passed in the Scottish Parliament today. Due to receive Royal Assent in the coming months, the bill imposes licensing schemes for grouse shooting, muirburn and certain traps.

Throughout the passage of the legislation, BASC has lobbied MSPs for the required changes, and were successful in securing substantial movement on the bill, such as the removal of disproportionate suspension powers which contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.

Extensive lobbying from BASC also saw several amendments passed at Stage 3 of the bill, ensuring the following:

  • NatureScot will have to provide reasons for refusing, modifying, suspending or revoking licences for wildlife traps.
  • NatureScot will have to provide reasons for refusing, modifying, suspending or revoking a licence to shoot grouse.
  • A Sheriff hearing an appeal can make interim orders in respect of grouse shoot licenses, strengthening the statutory right to appeal.
  • Prospective appellants have a full 21 days to decide whether to appeal a licensing decision, extending the statutory right to appeal.
  • A new licensable purpose will allow muirburn to reduce wildfire risk on non-peatland habitats.
  • The ability to use muirburn out of season under licence if it is necessary, providing land managers with greater flexibility.

Despite these amendments and substantial movement on earlier stages, BASC maintains its position that the bill is unworkable for gamekeepers and land managers.

The shooting and conservation organisation wrote to the Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity, Jim Fairlie, ahead of the final vote, urging him to make the necessary changes which would reflect the needs of the sector.

These changes included the removal of provisions to add further game bird species to the section 16AA licences, removing the extension of powers of investigation for the SSPCA, and the narrowing of the range of ‘relevant offences’. BASC will now seek legal opinion to potentially challenge parts of the bill, as these changes were not adopted.

BASC Scotland Director Peter Clark said:

“BASC has made substantial progress in mitigating the worst effects of the draft bill.

“Unfortunately, not all of these changes were adopted, despite the fact that these changes were informed by the collective expertise of those on the ground who protect our natural environment.

“So it is vitally important that we look at the proportionality and validity of the final format of the bill.

“We believe the final draft still poses a risk to sustainable grouse moor management, predator control and muirburn and will be ruinous to the rural economy and the species that gamekeepers work to protect.”

Find more news from BASC Scotland here.