NEW legislation to tackle the killing of birds of prey on grouse moors has been published by the Scottish Government.

In the face of fierce resistance from shooting estates and gamekeepers, the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill looks to bring in a new licensing regime for land used for the shooting of red grouse.

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It would also ban glue traps and introduce licensing and training requirements for certain other types of wildlife traps.

It will also bring in new rules around muirburn, the use of fire as a land management tool.

If backed by MSPs it will also allow Scottish Ministers to extend the role of inspectors appointed under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 to investigate certain wildlife offences.

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Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: “The illegal killing of Scotland’s magnificent birds of prey cannot be tolerated.

“This Bill will seek to tackle the destructive minority who would continue to commit these wildlife crimes.

“I recognise that grouse shooting contributes to the rural economy and this Bill is not about stopping this activity.

“However, it is clear that grouse moors must be managed in a sustainable and responsible way ensuring any environmental impacts are minimised.

“The public consultation on the Bill, which received over 4,500 responses, made clear that the regulation and protection of our natural environment is an important issue for many.

“The views of both the public and stakeholders have been carefully considered in the formation of this Bill and I look forward to its passage through Parliament.”

However, some groups representing countryside organisations said they were worried about the implications of the Bill.

Jake Swindells, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: “We remain extremely concerned that the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill could undermine effective wildlife management, while also risking much of the investment associated with grouse shooting, which is vital for the management of precious moorland habitats and the livelihoods of many rural workers.

“Unless the government works closely with those who actually manage the land, they risk getting this very wrong.

“Much of the devil will be in the detail of the regulations and licensing regimes which will follow.”

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A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA will take some time to assess the ramifications.

“The Bill leaves some fundamental questions unanswered for our members and we will be seeking meetings with decision-makers in the coming days.”

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive, Scottish Land & Estates, said the government was taking "a legislative sledgehammer to a community which delivers very substantial social, economic, environmental and conservation benefits."

She added: “This legislation was originally considered to address the issue of raptor persecution – even though Scotland already has the most stringent laws in place to deal with such incidents.

"This Bill goes well beyond that by introducing punitive civil sanctions for other types of activity without justification.

"It is deeply regrettable that the Scottish Government appears not to have taken on board the massive strides that have been achieved in tackling raptor persecution over the last decade, resulting in incidents being at an all-time low."


However, Scottish Greens rural affairs spokesperson, Ariane Burgess said the Bill would "play a crucial role in ending the lawlessness and protecting iconic species like golden eagles."

She added: “Our iconic hills and wildlife are for all of us. Their management must serve local communities and the national interest rather than the interests of the few who pursue what has become a niche and elitist bloodsport."