Scottish Land & Estates has issued the following statement following publication of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill at the Scottish Parliament.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive, Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We are disappointed that after so many years of deliberation on the issue of grouse moor management, the Scottish Government has introduced a draft bill that proposes to take a legislative sledgehammer to a community which delivers very substantial social, economic, environmental and conservation benefits – many of which are recognised by Scottish Ministers.

“This legislation was originally considered to address the issue of raptor persecution – even though Scotland already has the most stringent laws in place to deal with such incidents. This Bill goes well beyond that by introducing punitive civil sanctions for other types of activity without justification. It is deeply regrettable that the Scottish Government appears not to have taken on board the massive strides that have been achieved in tackling raptor persecution over the last decade, resulting in incidents being at an all-time low.

“Serious questions now have to be raised about the legality, proportionality and workability of the proposed licensing scheme. It seems a licence to shoot grouse may be refused or revoked for reasons that are unconnected to raptors or indeed grouse moor management. We also have huge concerns about the lack of safeguards for licence holders, which are essential to good law.

“We also have deep concerns about the restrictions on muirburn which plays such a vital role in preserving habitats and preventing the spread of wildfire – something that is recognised by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.

“We will be making robust representations to the Scottish Government and opposition parties to ensure that the legislation is made fit for purpose.”

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