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Smearing of grouse moors ‘undermining’ investigations into satellite-tagged birds

Scottish Land & Estates has issued the following statement in response to a RSPB media release on the alleged disappearance of a satellite-tagged golden eagle in Inverness-shire.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “RSPB has stated today that a young golden eagle fitted with a satellite tag disappeared three months ago in the Northern Monadhliath mountains. We have no hesitation in urging anyone who can provide information on the matter to contact Police Scotland.

“We are, however, deeply concerned by the assumption by RSPB that this eagle is most likely the victim of a wildlife crime perpetrated on a grouse moor. Yet again, we see RSPB acting unilaterally as judge and jury without waiting for those professional experts in the police and the procurator fiscals’ office to reach an informed decision as to the actual facts. We believe this continual smearing of grouse moors actually runs the risk of being counterproductive and directly impacting all the good, productive collaboration that has taken place in recent years.

“Incidents such as this absolutely do need to be investigated but it is for Police Scotland to lead investigations. They have very extensive powers to gather evidence as they see fit, and we would expect all our members to assist them in their enquiries.

“To be clear, we as an organisation – and on behalf of our members - condemn all forms of wildlife crime. We are not saying that wildlife crime never occurs on land managed for grouse shooting and acknowledge that in the past, there were practices, including raptor persecution, that are simply unacceptable but which have declined markedly in recent years and this trend is borne out by the Scottish Government’s own statistics. We also note that RSPB itself describes the area involved in this case as one where eagles have done well in recent years.

“Of course, more work needs to be done ensure the decline in wildlife crime continues and we are an enthusiastic member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS). It has been proven time and again that constructive collaboration gets the best results. Alongside this, we and numerous grouse shooting estates are active members of the Heads Up for Harriers project as well as being key drivers in the South of Scotland Golden Eagle reintroduction project. 

“Instead, what we have is a sustained effort to blacken the name of grouse shooting without evidence. It is perhaps no coincidence this is happening when the Scottish Government has instigated an independent review into grouse shooting which is ongoing at this very moment. Despite being a member in PAWS, we have seen absolutely no evidence or data from this eagle or from the recent case of Fred which disappeared in the Pentland Hills.

“We are fully supportive of the government review into grouse shooting as set up by the Cabinet Secretary, its practices, and the many environmental, economic and social benefits it provides across rural Scotland. We are also fully supportive of the proposals within the Poustie report that recommends the strengthening of penalties with regard to wildlife crimes.”


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