SLE statement on Werritty Report

SLE statement on Werritty Report

Press Release

Scottish Land & Estates, the rural business organisation, said today the recommendations of a government-led review into grouse moor management will have far-reaching and worrying implications for rural communities.

The main recommendations of the review, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, include plans to license and place further restrictions on important grouse moor management activities such as the controlled burning of heather (muirburn), the management of mountain hare populations and the use of medicated grit, which is used to maintain the health of grouse.

The Werritty report also recommends that an all-embracing licensing scheme should be introduced within five years unless there is an increase in the populations of specific raptors on grouse moors.

Sarah Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “This review has brought forward recommendations for a package of regulatory measures that amount to a real game changer for moorland management in Scotland. Placing additional burdens on grouse moor management in this way will jeopardise the viability of many shooting enterprises.

“It is a worrying direction of travel that will have far-reaching consequences for communities in remote parts of Scotland. At a time when the Scottish rural economy needs every bit of assistance, sporting estates face once again having to embrace more bureaucracy and legislation.

“Our members took a very constructive approach to the Werritty Review and put forward a number of proposals for further improvements to grouse moor management. We want to work with government and law enforcement agencies to ensure that wildlife crime is eradicated. We believe that can be achieved without taking steps that could help drive a rural business sector out of business. We therefore urge the Scottish Government to balance the interests of wildlife, the country’s cherished moorland and rural communities as they consider the review’s findings.”

“The report’s recommendations coupled with the threat that full-scale licensing of grouse shooting could still be imposed in the future may well force shoots to give up. They already operate under a strict regulatory and legislative system and the implementation of even more costs and administrative burdens may well be the last straw, particularly for small shoots. Surely, that is not in the interests of rural communities which depend so much on grouse shooting - something that has been recognised by successive Scottish governments?

“If the core intention is to help eradicate raptor persecution, there should be a balance struck.  Scotland already has the most stringent legislation in place to deal with wildlife crime and they are due to be strengthened further. Our members support increasing penalties for those who engage in this activity.  The last decade has seen significant progress in reducing these incidents and according to official statistics, they are now at an all-time low. We have also seen measures such as vicarious liability placing very real responsibilities on employers.

“We also believe that enhanced training and codes of practice covering muirburn, medicated grit and mountain hare control are the best way forward, rather than introducing burdensome licensing and regulatory controls. For example, the greater the restrictions on muirburn the more the maintenance of our treasured heather-clad landscape is put at risk.

“We welcome the fact that the review recommends greater transparency and independence around the satellite-tagging of birds of prey but these recommendations should be much, much stronger if they are to gain the confidence of the sector.”

You can read the full Werritty report on the Scottish Government's website.

We will be holding seminars in the new year to discuss this report. Members who have an interest are encouraged to book places as soon as possible.