Press Release

‘Ground-breaking’ conservation legislation passed by Scottish Parliament

RSPB Scotland has heralded game-changing progress for conservation as MSPs passed into law the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill today.

Posted 5 min read

The new Bill, which will soon now become law following Royal Assent, includes provisions to licence grouse shooting, regulate both the use of traps and the practice of muirburn.

Anne McCall, Director RSPB Scotland said “The overwhelming support given by MSPs in passing this Bill is absolutely brilliant news. We have been campaigning for decades for better protection for birds of prey and, over the last decade as the evidence for widespread criminal activity became ever more clear, for the regulation of the grouse shooting industry and for more powers to be given to Scottish SPCA inspectors to help investigate it.”

“I commend the Scottish Government, its ministers and other MSPs for acknowledging the evidence that has repeatedly demonstrated the clear links between the illegal killing or disappearance of hundreds of birds of prey and land intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

“This new legislation delivers on what we were looking for, and we welcome the scrutiny given to it by members of the Parliament and the amendments lodged by various MSP’s that have improved it.

“We now look forward to continuing to help with the development of the codes of practice for grouse shooting and muirburn, to contributing to the ongoing review of species licensing being undertaken by NatureScot and to assisting the statutory agencies in ensuring that any landholdings who persist in killing protected species face the full range of newly available penalties.”

In future, the right to shoot grouse will be dependent on legal management practices, and estates that kill protected raptors or commit a range of other wildlife crimes will now face the potential sanction of the loss of shooting rights.

RSPB Scotland believes that this will provide a meaningful deterrent to those who continue to break the law and poison, shoot, trap or destroy the nests of Scotland’s birds of prey.

The Bill will also see licences and training required for the use of traps, while the use of snares will be banned. The legislation also gives Scottish SPCA inspectors increased powers to investigate wildlife crimes.

There are also changes to the regulations around muirburn, where fire is deliberately used as a vegetation management tool. This practice will require a licence and practitioners will need to have had accredited training. The end of the muirburn season has been brought forward to the end of March to protect early breeding moorland bird species, while peatlands are given added protection by reducing the depth definition above which burning for sporting or agricultural purposes is prohibited.