Sporting Estates Under Fire

Author:Mr Jim Drysdale and John Mitchell
Profession:Anderson Strathern LLP

The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament recently issued its Stage 1 Report on the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill.

The Committee recognised the importance of the shooting industry both economically and culturally and in terms of bio-diversity. The Bill contains a number of measures which will affect the farming, conservation and shooting industries. The Stage 1 Report recommended that the Government reserved powers to itself to make the changes to the Bill at a later stage, in a number of areas by way of later secondary legislation.

The main points of the Report affecting the sporting industry in general and estates in particular are five-fold.

Wildlife Crime

The Committee was particularly concerned about the levels of wildlife crime concluding that there had been "no significant reduction in the level of persecution of raptors". The Committee accepted that a principle of vicarious liability should apply to wildlife crime, under which estate owners and their factors face prosecution and penalties, including imprisonment, if their employees are caught killing birds of prey. The Committee commented that "law abiding landowners should have nothing to fear from vicarious liability". The principle that an employer can have vicarious liability for acts or omissions of his employees is not, of course, new in Scots Law, both criminal and civil, but, clearly, this particular measure will provide an even greater incentive to landowners to clamp down on suspected wildlife crime.

The Committee sought to make it an offence for a person to be "concerned" in the use of illegal poisons for the persecution of raptors and other birds.

The Committee noted a proposal that before an employer can be prosecuted for the possession of a regulated substance by an employee, the employer had knowingly to cause or permit the possession of such a substance.

The Committee took the view that the evidence of a single witness should be consistent as between poaching and other offences, eg. raptor poisoning.

The Committee recommended that the Government should consider an enabling power to allow possible extension of SSPCA's powers to investigate wildlife crime where a dead animal is involved.


The Committee acknowledged that, if properly regulated and managed, limited and appropriate use of snares should continue to be permitted.

The Committee suggested that the Government should consider issuing a separate ID number...

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