27 Nov 2020

Trust welcomes stronger regulation of driven grouse

Scottish Government to introduce licensing system to tackle raptor persecution and muirburn on grouse shooting moorsGrouse moor eastern highlands detail

Scotland’s Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, has pledged to fast-track a new licensing scheme to protect wildlife and habitats on driven grouse moors. She has also promised to regulate the practice of muirburn and enforce a  ban on peatland burning. Together, the package of measures could lead to the biggest change in grouse moor management in 150 years.

This comes after a two-year review of the industry published the Werrity Report, which recommended introducing a licensing system in 2025 if there is no marked improvement in the populations of breeding golden eagles, hen harriers and peregrine falcons on and around grouse moors.

Welcoming the announcement to introduce the scheme within a shorter timescale, Mike Daniels, Head of Land and Policy for the John Muir Trust, said: “We believe this is an important step forward towards more responsible management of Scotland’s moors.

“We await the detail of how the new regulatory approach will work in practice, but we would expect the scheme to include a sanction to remove the rights of estates to shoot grouse where there is evidence of illegal activity such as the killing of birds of prey.

“Self-regulation of Scotland shooting estates – both grouse and deer – has left much of Scotland’s uplands ecologically impoverished, and we would urge the Scottish Government to follow up this announcement with a pledge to introduce new deer management legislation so that the recommendations of the Deer Working  Group report can be implemented in full."

Read more on Deer Working Group report 

Announcing her decision, Mari Gougeon said: “Having given full consideration to the recommendations of the Grouse Moor Management Group, alongside a wealth of other evidence and research, I have concluded that greater oversight of the practices associated with grouse moor management is necessary.

“The majority of those tasked with managing land already follow best practice guidance and care deeply about the countryside and the land that they manage. I cannot, though, ignore the fact that some of the practices associated with grouse moor management, such as muirburn and the use of medicated grit, have the potential to cause serious harm to the environment, if the correct procedures are not followed.

“Neither can I ignore the fact that, despite our many attempts to address this issue, every year birds of prey continue to be killed or disappear in suspicious circumstances on or around grouse moors.

“The changes that I have announced today strike what I believe is the right balance. They are not designed to bring an end to grouse shooting. Indeed, those businesses which comply with the law should have no problems at all with licensing. But, crucially, where there is clear evidence that this is not happening, where agreed standards are not being adhered to or there is evidence of illegal raptor persecution, there will be a range of effective and transparent mechanisms in place to allow us to address such behaviour."