Scottish Govt dodges wildlife responsibilities

The Scottish Government has dodged its responsibilities on the nature and climate responsibilities by allowing destructive grouse moors to decide how they are to be regulated, the Scottish Greens have warned.

Having waited a year to respond to a review into Scotland’s grouse moors, ministers have now confirmed that the grouse shooting industry is unable to police itself, but indicated it will get to decide its own regulations.

In a statement to parliament environment minister Mairi Gougeon announced a further consultation on grouse moor licensing scheme will take place.

However, she also announced this consultation will involve close involvement of “the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Land and Estates, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation”, while no conservation groups were identified.

What’s more, Ms Gougeon announced protections for mountain hares won by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone this year will not come into effect until March 2021, allowing for another open season to take place.

Responding, Scottish Greens environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “It’s very disappointing that after 150 years of wildlife being mass killed on Scottish moors, delays to the watered-down Werrity report and the Scottish Government dragging its heels for another year, all we have is a consultation on licencing which will be drawn up by the industry. It’s like putting arsonists in charge of a fire station.

“Horrifyingly, by delaying protections for mountain hares to March, they’ve given the green light for the biggest mass killing of hares in the next open season.

“Although the SNP and Tories blocked the declaration last week, the evidence shows that Scotland has a nature emergency, with one in nine species at threat of extinction. In that context, it is outrageous that up to a fifth of Scotland’s land is kept barren for a bloodsport which causes enormous damage, kills other species and burns valuable peatland.

“Given almost any other use of the land would be better for the nature and climate emergencies and create more jobs in rural areas, it’s astonishing that the Scottish Greens are the only party committed to ridding Scotland of grouse moors, as last week’s nature emergency debate showed.”