The article by Rob McLaren “Gamekeepers urged to report unscrupulous owners” (January 8) repeats some very dangerous assumptions. The death of the golden eagle “Fearnan” has been subject to police investigation for over a month and there has been no indication that it resulted from the actions of a gamekeeper or that it was related to grouse moor management. Anything more than was included in the police press release of 19th December is speculation.
The gamekeeper Colin Mair, whose purely personal comments are repeated in the article, admits that he “didn’t have pressure applied to him to use poison during his career” and merely speculates that others might have done. To be quite clear, landowners do not put pressure on gamekeepers to use poison or break the law, indeed any gamekeeper would have full protection of employment legislation if that should happen. In the few cases where gamekeepers have been convicted for using poison to control predators, there has been no indication that they were told by their employers to do so and particularly no evidence that poisons were supplied by shoot managers, as the article alleges. Since 2011, the already strong laws on employer liability have been tightened further by a “vicarious liability” offence whereby a land owner, manager or employer can be held liable for wild bird offences carried out by another person even if he was not aware of them. Any estate employing gamekeepers now has to make it doubly clear that no illegal activity can be condoned.
If anyone, including a gamekeeper, has specific evidence as to who was responsible for the death of the golden eagle, it should be reported to the police immediately. This case needs to be resolved as soon as possible, not least to put an end to speculative comment of the kind repeated in this article.
Director, Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group