Grouse Bill takes shape as Minister addresses Committee

Minister Gillian Martin says Scottish Government recognises the economic and biodiversity benefits of grouse moors

New Minister for Energy and the Environment Gillian Martin (above), who has taken responsibility for the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, appeared before the Rural Affairs Committee on 28th June to answer questions.


The SGA was encouraged by the Minister’s suggestion that she was ‘open’ to listening to potential mechanisms which could make tampering with traps a specific offence.


A long-time SGA commitment, we will be looking at such mechanisms with a view to relaying them to the Minister and the Committee ahead of Stage 2.

SGA NEWS photo

The Minister also stated Scottish Government wishes to explore further the proposal on humane snaring devices, put forward by the SGA Grouse Taskforce.

This proposal would see a mandatory phase-out of existing snare models, to be replaced with the more welfare-friendly devices, demonstrated, below:


The SGA reiterates its position that it is happy to meet with the Minister and relevant government bodies to discuss this proposal before a final decision is made on whether or not to prohibit snaring in Scotland.


During a Nature Emergency, with some ground-nesting species at risk of extinction within a few short decades, it is important skilled operators have a range of fit-for-purpose tools to manage abundant foxes but, also, that such devices are as welfare compliant as they can be.

If improvements can be made in that regard, this would seem a fitting and balanced position for Scottish Government to assume in the Bill.

A decision on snaring will be made imminently. 

SGA NEWS photo

On licensing, there was clear indications that the current 1 year licence would be modified to a longer time period, likely to be between 3-5 years.

Further powers for SSPCA was considered, with the Minister laying out specific circumstances where licensed charity officials, who had gone through an agreed training process and following an agreed protocol with Police, could gather evidence if they were already attending an incident covered under their existing powers, conferred in 2006.


Those 2006 powers gave SSPCA investigators the ability to enter land in situations where an animal was suffering. 


According to the Minister, if they were investigating such an incident but also discovered evidence of a wildlife crime, the new power would enable them to gather that evidence, in liaison with the Police, thereby avoiding a situation where evidence could be disposed of before the Police arrived.


She reiterated the new power was to help Police but that Police would retain primacy in investigations. 


Civil servant Hugh Dignon from the Government’s Wildlife team, confirmed the new measures would be the subject of a short public consultation.


In the muirburn discussion, the Minister indicated there may be some government ‘tweaks’ around the need for training and the licensing condition for muirburn which currently states that other vegetation control alternatives must have been tried first. 

The Minister indicated that the Government is likely to amend the wording to state that this condition could become ‘where practicable’ rather than it being an absolute specification.


Finally, the SGA was pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge the benefits of grouse moor management for the rural economy, for employment and biodiversity.

You can hear her response to a question by MSP Alasdair Allan on our Facebook and Instagram channels.


The SGA will be seeking to meet the new Minister over the coming weeks, to discuss elements of the Bill, further, and we will keep members up to date with all issues surrounding the legislation as they progress.

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