‘Werritty’ Review Group publishes findings
We support the recommendations relating to regulation of muirburn and better safeguards for mountain hare populations, however regret that panel behind the report has not been bold enough to recommend the immediate licensing of driven grouse moors.
Previously Scottish Government Ministers have publicly stated that driven grouse moor owners are ‘in the last chance saloon’, and we now expect these commitments to be honoured.
Given the overwhelming evidence of serious organised crimes perpetrated against our birds of prey, as well as the harm caused to upland habitats and species by grouse moor management practices, we will be asking the Cabinet Secretary to consider the ‘wider societal views’ mentioned by Professor Werritty and make the necessary ‘step change’ to grouse moor licensing, conditional on legal and sustainable practices, and to ensure that this is done as soon as possible. A licensing framework would in our view set a new direction for the legal and sustainable management for large areas of our upland landscapes, as well as providing a meaningful deterrent to wildlife crime.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We commend Professor Werritty and his panel for pulling together such a significant volume of scientific evidence and stakeholder testimony which we will consider in detail. However, we are concerned that more urgency is now needed to address the criminality and poor land management practices on Scottish grouse moors that have been highlighted for decades.
“It is very important to remember that the background to this review was the overwhelming evidence base of the link between serious organised wildlife crime and grouse moor management; the ever-intensifying management of this land to produce excessive grouse bags leading to the killing of protected wildlife; as well as public concerns about huge culls of mountain hares; and burning of heather on deep peatland soils. Addressing these issues is now even more essential to combat both the climate emergency and nature crisis, which were confirmed as priorities by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this year.”
Duncan added: “The illegal killing of Scotland’s birds of prey simply has to stop. Those perpetrating these criminal acts have shown no willingness over decades to change their criminal behaviours. Letting this issue languish for another half decade will not help, and we fully expect more prevarication. Even whilst this review has been underway serious and well-publicised wildlife crimes have continued unabated, and delay fails to acknowledge the most urgent circumstances which led to its commission. The Scottish public have had enough. It is now vital that the next steps by Scottish Government are sufficient to bring closure to these appalling incidents, which blight Scotland’s international reputation.”