SNH revokes licence on hunting estate after suspected wildlife crime


Police Scotland are investigating potential offences on a Scottish estate after Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) revoked a licence to control wild birds at Raeshaw Estates, Borders, as a result of ongoing concerns about wildlife crime.

SNH imposed a general licence restriction on Raeshaw Estates in 2015 on the basis of clear evidence provided by Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on the estate. The latter challenged the restriction through a judicial review, but it was upheld in March this year.

During a compliance check this month, SNH staff found multiple instances of breaches of conditions of an individual licence that had been granted to cover essential management activities on the estate. These breaches may also constitute offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so SNH has reported the details to Police Scotland. One infraction was outlined in a petitioner’s letter dated 10 July 2015 where reference was also made to a number of set spring-traps attached to a cage containing a live pigeon found on land managed by the estate; a gamekeeper was then found in possession of homemade traps identical to that containing the pigeon.

A disused spring-trap, similar in design to that found on the estate in question (Sylvia Duckworth (commons.wikimedia.org)).

General licences allow landowners or managers to carry out certain management actions with minimal bureaucracy, largely relying on trust that land managers will carry out any such activities legally. This includes controlling common species of wild bird such as Magpies and crows to protect crops or livestock.

However, those land managers in which SNH has lost confidence can have their general licences removed, as was the case at Raeshaw. The estate is then allowed to apply for individual licences to control wild birds, which gives SNH more control and oversight of the activities being carried out.

Robbie Kernahan, SNH’s Head of National Operations, said: “After discovering several failures to comply with the terms, we have no other option than to revoke the licence. In cases like this, we have to take breaches of licences very seriously and will work with Police Scotland as they investigate this case.

“We hope this also spreads the message that we will take action to stop wildlife crime whenever possible. We’re committed to working strongly in partnership with Police Scotland, and other members of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS), to stamp out wildlife crime in Scotland.”