Scottish Natural Heritage today announced the changes to the General Licences, coming in from April 1st 2020.
Members should make themselves aware of the changes, by clicking here: https://www.nature.scot/professional-advice/safeguarding-protected-areas-and-species/licensing/species-licensing-z-guide/birds-and-licensing/general-licences-birds
and scrolling down to the links entitled: General Licensing Changes Summary and General Licensing Changes for 2020 FAQs.
In response to the changes, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The changes as regards SPAs are nothing other than a cave-in to Wild Justice who are motivated by causing as much disruption and frustration to shooting as possible.
“SNH itself has admitted there is no evidence to suggest General Licences are causing adverse impacts on SPAs but that ‘potentially’ they could.
“This is not justifiable or proportionate. There are lots of things in life that could ‘potentially’ happen. That doesn’t justify licensing everything. This is a response, in our view, motivated more by fear of legal challenge than the conservation of wildlife.
“We are forever told SNH’s licensing team is too stretched to deal with often routine licensing matters. If predators are hammering fragile species on an SPA and a land manager can’t act because SNH have staff on holiday, and can’t process a licence, then those species will take a step nearer the exit door.
The fact black backed gulls have been removed from both licences (GL1 and GL2) will cause real concern in some areas because, in some parts, they are the single biggest predatory problem land managers have to deal with to protect wildlife and livestock.
“In general, other than helping a bit with Greylag geese, this is all going one way. It is a General Licence of fear and makes protecting species like globally threatened waders even more difficult.
“On rivers, where salmon are struggling, the opportunity to look closer at predatory piscivorous birds has again been lost, despite predation being identified as one of the key factors imperilling this iconic species.”
The SGA has contributed to an industry wide statement from a coalition of
land management organisations. See below.
GENERAL LICENCE RESTRICTIONS POSE A THREAT TO CONSERVATION
Greater restrictions on the use of general licences - which allow certain birds to be controlled to prevent crop damage, predation of at-risk bird species and the protection of public health – could pose a threat to wildlife conservation efforts.
Following the announcement today of new restrictions on general licences by Scottish Natural Heritage, a joint statement was issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates.
The organisations said:
“The use of general licences has long been a vital tool to help preserve wildlife and precious habitats. While SNH has recognised that they are useful, legal methods, the land management sector is very disappointed that, yet again, we are being burdened with excessive and unnecessary regulation and red tape.
“We feel particularly let down over changes that will mean land managers having to apply specifically for prior approval from SNH’s licensing team to control certain birds on Special Protection Areas. The birds customarily controlled in these areas can be vast in number and any delay in approval being granted could well have a detrimental impact on protected at-risk species. This seems counter-productive.
“It is regrettable that SNH has taken this decision while it acknowledges there is no clear evidence that the use of general licenses have an adverse impact on Special Protected Areas.
“There has been insufficient engagement and communication with land managers who will have to implement these changes and our organisations are seeking urgent reassurance from SNH and Ministers that consents will be granted quickly and easily in the face of the likely impacts on Scottish biodiversity.”