Scotland's grouse moors will be forced to take part in a new licensing regime after MSPs overwhelmingly backed strict legislation clamping down on raptor killing. 

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill was backed by 85 to 30, with only the Tories and SNP rebel Fergus Ewing voting against. 

The disgraced former health secretary, Michael Matheson backed the law, voting remotely. 

As well as the new licensing system, the Bill brings in bans on snares and glue traps and gives new powers to Scottish SPCA inspectors to tackle wildlife crime

It also strictly regulates the use of muirburn, the use of fire as a land management tool.

Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie said the bill was "a significant step in our wider journey to ensure Scotland’s environment is managed sustainably."

However, Scottish Tory rural affairs spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton said the legislation was “conceptually flawed” and reflected the “derision the Government has for rural Scotland”.

The legislation was tabled in the face of fierce resistance from shooting estates and gamekeepers. It was developed following a lengthy investigation and report by an expert group on grouse moor management, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty. 

That review was ordered after NatureScot found in 2017 that a third of satellite-tagged golden eagles had vanished in "suspicious circumstances".

The Herald: Golden Eagle numbers have reached new highs in the south of Scotland

Speaking in Holyrood, Mr Fairlie said the legislation would not have been needed if the practice of raptor persecution had been “shut down”.

He said there would be no “victory parade” in the Bill’s passing as he recognised the concerns of those who work “legally and responsibly” in moorland pursuits.

He said: “There are those who disagree with the principles of this Bill.

“But had the grouse shooting community shut down raptor persecution, had stopped killing our most iconic birds of prey, we would not have had to legislate in this way.

“But, sadly, they didn’t shut it down, so now it’s up to us to make sure that they do.

“This Bill has caused concern for folk who work legally and responsibly in moorland pursuits, and I completely understand that.

“I want to be clear there should be no victory parade here because this Government recognises the economic contribution and their efforts in combating biodiversity laws.”

Ms Hamilton disagreed. 

She said the bill, which passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday by 85 votes to 30, was "just a classic example of the Green tail... wagging the yellow dog and the antipathy of the Scottish Greens towards people that live in rural areas."

The Tory MSP added: “Country sports are like catnip for the Scottish Greens and we should be in no doubt that the disproportionality in this scheme is their doing, with SNP ministers too weak to say no – and again rural Scotland suffers the consequences.”

Ross Ewing, director of moorland at Scottish Land and Estates, said: “Licensing of grouse shooting represents a seismic change for rural estates and their employees, including gamekeepers and shepherds.

“The legislation goes far beyond the stated intention of deterring the persecution of raptors by introducing a broad range of relevant offences under which licences can be suspended or revoked. Many of these offences bear no connection to land managed for grouse shooting.”

He said the licensing scheme should be as “light-touch” as possible.

Wildlife campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham described it as a "gamechanger."