The Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill (Scotland) is currently being debated at the Holyrood Parliament. The Trust is raising MSPs' awareness of the importance of this Bill. However members may wish to contact their constituency and list MSPs with some urgency, to express their views on the issues described below. At the time of going to press the date of the key final debate on the Bill appears to be the first week of March. This allows a month to find your MSPs, both constituency and ‘list’, at www.scottish.parliament.uk/msp. Click on the link at the top of this web page and search using your postcode. Alternatively contact the Scottish Parliament Public Information Service on 0800 092 7500.
Scottish Government had good intentions in using this Bill to ‘tidy-up’ some of the fragmented and old-fashioned game legislation in Scotland. I strongly support the proposed out-of-season licences for heather burning as research suggests it could have significant conservation benefit in the face of increasing damage by pests to heather.
However some proposed amendments to the Bill could pose real threats to the way that game and other species are conserved in Scotland. I support the Government’s plans to protect the right to release partridges and pheasants and to take brown and mountain hares outside close seasons. However there remains a possibility that late amendments could prevent both activities. I hope that any such suggestions are resisted and that the releasing of gamebirds and the taking of hares continue, so that they remain drivers of conservation effort in the Scottish lowlands and uplands.
I would also like to see proposals which would oblige shoots to report numbers of shot game rejected. The compulsory national need for such reporting has not been made scientifically and over-regulation runs a risk of suppressing investment and is expensive to operate. Voluntary approaches, such as the National Gamebag Census run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust are successful and already accessible by SNH.
Finally it is likely that amendments to ban snaring will be proposed. I feel these should be opposed as the game industry is adopting improved snare technology and training and the Scottish Government supports snare use. With research highlighting the role that predator control, including snaring, plays in protecting species such as wading birds, amendments to curtail snaring are a serious threat to Scotland’s rural economy and countryside.
We have had feedback from MSPs that their mailbags contain many letters from those who wish to see snaring banned but few from those who support it. At our Scottish Conference three years ago, then Environment Minister Michael Russell told a similar story and lamented the fact that so few GWCT members had written to their MSPs.
I hope you find this brief note useful in shaping any communications you may have with our political representatives. You may also find the contents of our Nature’s gain publication a valuable tool when informing politicians. Nature’s gain can be viewed via this link: http://www.gwct.org.uk/documents/natures_gain_summary_08.pdf
Dr Adam Smith