The decision seems fairly low-key but it seems that on two grouse moors, Burnfoot Estate (near Stirling) and Raeshaw Estate (near Peebles) the revocation of their General Licences to control certain species of birds, suspended because of an appeal, is back in force. The SNH website has two notices (see http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1867756.pdf ) stating
‘General Licence Restrictions Restriction 01/2015 (and 02/2015) DECISION NOTICE 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 infer responsibility for the commission of crimes on any individuals’.
Two things surprise me. I thought that SNH might have blasted this news from the rooftops, firstly as an embarrassment factor for the estates concerned and secondly to inform as many people as possible who may be taking access to these estates to keep an eye open and to inform the police if they suspect an infringement. The second surprise is that the revocation takes effect from the original date, despite a couple of months having passed when the estates could have been controlling what they would no doubt have referred to as ‘vermin,’ or at best ‘pest species.’ This is now only a penalty for two years and ten months rather than for three years.
So this is good news, and at the very least will be an inconvenience to the estates concerned, both of which are suspected of being involved in a variety of crimes against wildlife over many years. Whether it will be much more than an inconvenience only time will tell. In the meantime police would be unable to search the estates concerned unless there is reasonable suspicion that an offence is taking place or has taken place – all the more reason for the revocation of the licences being well-known to the public. To assist in the policing of the revocation it would be hugely beneficial if a general power of entry and search of the land subject to the revocation be granted to the police concomitant to its duration. I’m sure this would be welcomed by wildlife crime officers, who are all well aware of the estates in Scotland (and in England for that matter) where wildlife crimes, particularly towards birds of prey, are discovered with disgraceful regularity.