Two Scottish estates lose right to use general licences

A legally-set multi-catch crow cage with hooded crow decoy. Used under terms of general licence.

A legally-set multi-catch crow cage with hooded crow decoy. Used under terms of general licence.

A legally-set Larsen trap with a crow decoy. Used under terms of general licence.

A legally-set Larsen trap with a crow decoy. Used under terms of general licence.

I listened yesterday on BBC Scotland Out of Doors to an interview of Robbie Kernahan of Scottish Natural Heritage on the restriction of the use of General Licences on the lands of two estates in Scotland. These are the first restrictions imposed by SNH and I doubt they will be the last. SNH’s website shows the area covered by the restrictions, and their terms. The document is worded:

In line with Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) published General Licence restrictions: Framework for Implementing Restrictions we hereby give notice that a restriction has been applied to the land outlined in red overleaf. This restriction prohibits the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 on that land between 13th November 2015 and 12th November 2018. Please note that this restriction does not imply responsibility for the commission of crimes by any individuals.

These General Licences permit authorised persons to undertake the following activities for the purpose of conserving wild birds; to kill or take certain wild birds; to attempt to kill certain wild birds, where the attempt results in injury to the bird concerned; to take, damage or destroy the nests or eggs of certain wild birds; to keep or confine wild birds for use as decoy birds in traps. In simple terms the licences allow actions that would otherwise break the law.

The combined list of birds in the three licences are: great black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, carrion crow, hooded crow,  jackdaw,  jay, rook, woodpigeon, collared dove, feral pigeon, ruddy duck, magpie, Canada goose.

The website does not identify the estates to which the restrictions apply but Robbie Kernahan named them as Burnfoot Estate near Stirlingshire and Raeshaw Estate near Peebles. It was hardly a surprise as I could identify them in any case from the maps and from the many poisoned birds of prey found on each over the years.

So no-one on these estates will now (legally) be able to utilise a multi-catch crow cage or a Larsen trap to reduce the crow population. No-one there will (legally) be able to shoot a carrion crow or a woodpigeon if it comes within shotgun range, or will (legally) be able to put a shot through a carrion crow’s nest to destroy the eggs. These seem paltry offences compared with shooting or poisoning a red kite or peregrine. If a criminal is audacious enough to carry out these serious breaches of the law will he be bothered by these new restrictions?  This remains to be seen, though it is worth bearing in mind that the penalties available to the court for all of these offences are the same: a fine of up to £5000 and/or 6 months imprisonment.

This is a good start by SNH. I wonder if the next estate to have a restriction order may be Glenogil, Angus, Millden, Angus, Glenlochy, Inverness-shire, North Glenbuchat Estate, Aberdeenshire, Leadhills, Lanarkshire or Edradynate, Perthshire? All of these have seen their share in recent years of recoveries of poisoned baits or shot or poisoned birds of prey, incidents that bring shame on game shooting.

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