Estates with sporting interests today reinforced their commitment to raptor conservation in Scotland.
A report issued by Scottish Natural Heritage has found a welcome increase in red kite numbers throughout much of Scotland but reported that the numbers were not as high as they could be in parts of the north due to a variety of factors including persecution.
Scottish Land & Estates said it would continue to work with government and other agencies in the fight against all forms of wildlife crime.
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “It is welcome news that the number of red kites in Scotland is increasing. Hard work from a range of partners has helped achieve a rise and our members are committed to further progress. We have seen partnerships such as Tollie Red Kites, which is a joint effort between one of our members, Brahan Estate, and RSPB Scotland, help grow reintroduced populations.
“We are however extremely concerned, as other partners are, that the growth in numbers could have been higher had it not been for several factors, including persecution. Landowners, including estates with sporting interests, are resolute in their condemnation of the illegal killing of birds of prey.
“Our joint effort to tackle all forms of wildlife crime must maintain momentum and our members will continue to play their part, as they did in April 2014 when they pledged a substantial reward of more than £15,000 after the incident in the Black Isle which killed a significant number of the red kite population and which has never been resolved.”
The research on red kite numbers was released on the same day as the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions committee today took evidence from petitioners seeking to introduce state regulated licensing for all types of gamebird shooting.
Scottish Land & Estates said that the calls for licensing overlooked the fact Scotland already has one of the most rigorous regulatory systems in place for shooting and the marked decline over the last five years in persecution incidents which may be linked to game management. It also appeared that those calling for such a licensing system had not considered or evaluated what the economic, social and environmental impacts might be of introducing such a system.
Mr McAdam continued: “The Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, is correct when she says that Scotland already has the strongest wildlife legislation in the UK which has been enhanced by new tougher penalties for those who commit wildlife crime. Scottish Land & Estates is clear in its support for many of the changes proposed to wildlife crime penalties.
“The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland), of which we are a member, has made significant progress in its work over the past five years. We also have a number of joint initiatives such as Heads Up For Harriers and the South of Scotland Golden eagle project, and an increasing number of estates are gaining Wildlife Estates’ Scotland accreditation – all of these demonstrate a wide commitment to self-regulation and driving up best practice.
“The evidence at today’s parliamentary session was heavily focused on grouse management yet licensing of all game shooting would affect thousands of land-based businesses, mostly unrelated to grouse.
“The petitioners have only the vaguest idea of how this system would work in practice. They have provided no detail on the cost to the public purse of any state regulated licensing system. They appear to have given little regard to the range of jobs that shooting supports, or to the substantial income from country sports tourism. They have paid scant attention to the extensive environmental and conservation work across Scotland that is undertaken at no public cost because of shooting and is dependent on the enthusiasm of private individuals which could only be harmed by unnecessary regulation.
“At a time when partnership is making a real difference to raptor conservation, we would urge all organisations to put their effort behind collaboration that can deliver for both wildlife and rural jobs.”