The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds from persecution, but general licences can be obtained from the regulator to kill and control some bird species such as carrion crows, jays and jackdaws in certain circumstances.
Last month, SNH imposed a three-year general licence restriction on Leadhills Estate following evidence provided by Police Scotland that wildlife crime had taken place on the South Lanarkshire grouse estate, including the killing of a short-eared owl, two buzzards and three hen harriers’ that were ‘shot or caught in traps’ since 2014.
The regulator stressed that the restriction “does not infer responsibility for the commission of crimes on any individuals”.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)
08 May 2018
But last week the estate, owned by Lord Hopetoun chair of the Scottish Moorland Group, appealed the licence ban, forcing the regulator to reinstate the estate’s general licences under its appeals process.
The reinstated licences permit the estate to continue using three of its general licences until a decision is reached by SNH. This includes general licences 01 (which permits the killing of certain birds to conserve wild birds), 02 (to prevent serious damage) and 03 (to preserve public health).
An SNH spokespersons said that the regulator's framework document sets out the "right to appeal and the lifting of restrictions" during the appeal process.
She added that appeals should take around one month to be concluded and depending on the outcome, the restriction would then be applied from the original date.
A Holyrood report on the environmental impacts of grouse moors was submitted to government last month by the Grouse Moor Management Group, but its findings have not yet been published.
Challenges to the legality of general licences in England were brought by Chris Packham’s legal outfit Wild Justice this year. In September, DEFRA launched a review into how its discretionary bird-kill regime was being used.
Leadhills Estate has been contacted for comment.