Local MSP John Finnie Scottish Green Justice spokesperson has called on Police Scotland to play “the lead role in tacking wildlife crime”.
John Finnie said;
“As someone born and brought up in the countryside, now representative for an area which has seen extensive wildlife crime, I am acutely aware of how ‘traditional’ attitudes are changing for the better.
“It is clear that the public believe those responsible for wildlife crime, like the deaths of 40 eagles, have just cause to consider themselves above and beyond the law.”
“I say enough is enough and something must be done.”
John Finnie’s call comes with the announcement that scientists had found that about a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances. The report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) studied the movements of 131 young golden eagles over a 12 year period, and found more than 40 had disappeared in suspicious circumstances.
It also found there was no link between fitting satellite tags and the disappearance of the birds of prey and ruled out any connection with the position of wind turbines. The majority of cases were found where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.
Environment Secretary in the Scottish Government Roseanna Cunningham said:
“The continued killing of protected species of birds of prey damages the reputation of law-abiding gamekeepers, landowners and indeed the country as a whole. Those who carry out these crimes do so in defiance of the will of Parliament, the people, and their own peers. That must end.”
“This report identifies specific problem areas which will allow Police Scotland to adopt a targeted approach and I would also encourage members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the police.”
John Finnie commented:
“As a former rural police officer, I readily understand the challenges of policing large areas of countryside. Of course there are many demands on police time, however, the casual use of poisons by those criminals is a significant community safety issue.”
“I’m keen to see Police Scotland play the lead in addressing these deplorable crimes and I have written to the chief constable requesting a meeting to discuss how we can all progress this issue.”
“Recent events have also shown the pivotal role of the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service so I have also requested a meeting with the Lord Advocate.”
A package of new measurements is being set up by the Scottish Government. These are to:
- Set up an independently-led group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls, and to recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation
- Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern
- Increase resources for the detection and investigation of wildlife crime and work with Police Scotland to pilot the use of special constables in the Cairngorms National Park
- Rule out giving the Scottish SPCA more investigative powers, in light of legal advice
- Examine how best to protect the valuable role of gamekeepers in rural Scotland
- Commission research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity
Scottish Natural Heritage’s report written by Dr Phil Whitfield PhD and Dr Alan Fielding PhD. looked at 131 young golden eagles between 2004 and 2016, and found that 41 had disappeared in suspicious circumstances, with clusters of suspicious disappearances arising in six areas associated with grouse moor management.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame