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Animal Concern Advice Line News

SNH General Licences for the free–for–all slaughter of native birds

To all Scottish Government Ministers and all MSPs

Dear Member of the Scottish Parliament,

As you know earlier this year Natural England suspended some of the General Licences it “issued” to permit the killing of wild birds. They were suspended due to a threat of a legal challenge over the fact that the licences were not applied for, considered and then issued only if thought justified. Instead they were simply published on the internet allowing anyone who reads and complies with them to go ahead and kill unlimited numbers of the species of birds covered by the licence. Natural England have now revised their General Licensing scheme and made several changes, though they might still face a legal challenge.

I wrote to the Scottish Government and Parliament at that time asking for a suspension of the equivalent licences issued by Scottish Natural Heritage in Scotland. I also requested a review of the General Licence system in Scotland. I made it very clear that what was needed was a full review of the whole principal of the General Licence scheme, not just the regular review of what birds to add to or take off the licences.

SNH refused to suspend the licences but they and the Scottish Government made much of the decision by SNH to bring forward a planned consultation on the General Licence scheme. However when that consultation was launched SNH made it explicitly clear it was not a review of the whole scheme but, just as I had predicted, it was only the regular review of what birds to add to or remove from the scheme.

Last month I wrote once more to the Scottish Government and Parliament and asked yet again that the whole General License system be reviewed. Attached is the reply of 4th November sent on behalf of Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

As you will see my request for a review has again been refused. The first statement in the reply is “All wild birds are protected”. Total nonsense. It is still permitted for anyone, after reading a signed licence on a website, to kill unlimited numbers of several species of native wild birds without telling anyone why they want to kill them or how many they kill. They don't have to provide any evidence of damage caused by the birds or prove their competence in the humane killing of the birds.

It is still permissible in Scotland for people to trap birds in their back gardens and kill those birds by bashing their heads against a wall. It is still permissible for gamekeepers to kill unlimited numbers of several native species of wild birds to “protect” non-native pheasants and other birds which are intensively reared and then released to be shot for “sport”. This might be permissible, but it is no longer acceptable.

If you do think this is acceptable in the 21st century please check to see if you have a new 50p piece in your pocket. That's the coin which replaced ten bob notes and that's Queen Elizabeth 2 on the front, not Queen Victoria.

I have to ask a very basic question. Who makes decisions on the General Licences? The Government employees at SNH or the politicians elected to take such decisions?

As the Scottish Government does not intend taking SNH to task on this I ask the Scottish Parliament to take action to have this out of date policy reviewed and replaced with one more suited to the 21st rather than the 19th century.

Yours sincerely,

John F. Robins,
Animal Concern Advice Line


General Licence 1 allows the user to kill Magpie, Carrion crow, Hooded crow, Jackdaw, Jay, Rook, Ruddy duck, Canada goose and Great black-backed gull by the use of any firearm, (including semi-automatic firearms, shotguns and air guns); targeted falconry; the destruction of eggs and nests; the pricking or oiling of eggs. Various types of Larsen traps and multi-catch cage traps can be used to catch birds before killing them. If all of the above become boring they can also catch and kill them by hand.

General Licence 2 allows the user to kill Collared dove, Feral pigeon, Woodpigeon, Carrion crow, Hooded crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Rook, Canada goose, resident Greylag goose (during July and August only) and the Great black-backed gull. Permitted killing methods are the same as under General License 1.