The GWCT remains sceptical that recently announced guidance on restricting access to General Licences in areas where wildlife crimes may have been committed will improve the conservation of birds in Scotland’s countryside.
The Minister for Environment, Paul Wheelhouse, announced in July 2013 that he had instructed Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to consider how activity taken under General Licences (GL) by all persons could be restricted on areas of land where wildlife crime was suspected. During the 2014 GL consultation, SNH asked stakeholders for their initial thoughts on the proposed removal of licensed activity from an area of land. Many stakeholders raised concerns with this new approach regarding the burden of proof required, and the GWCT was particularly concerned about the potential impact such a removal could have on other species of conservation concern who benefit from legal predator control.
The Minister announced at the beginning of October 2014 that restrictions on access to the GLs should be brought in where evidence of wildlife crime is presented by Police Scotland. We are pleased that for a GL restriction to be applied, it has to be: “based on evidence received from the Police of an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 having been committed in relation to wild birds”. So suspicion is not enough and the appeals process, both for affected areas and individuals, appears reasonably robust. Evidence will be back dated until 1st January 2014.
We’d like SNH to further clarify over what area the restriction will operate. Restrictions will be applied to a piece of land for three years, which may be extended if more evidence or crimes are reported.
For further information please see the SNH website.