NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Laws aim to beat Scottish wildlife crime

Peregrine falcon chicks
Image caption The illegal targeting of wild birds of prey is a major issue

New laws to tackle the growing problem of wildlife crime have been presented to the Scottish Parliament.

Reports of incidents - from hare coursing to wild bird persecution - increased by more than a third last year.

Now, for the first time, a specialist prosecutor for wildlife crime is taking cases on in the courts.

Alex Prentice QC told BBC Scotland it was an area the public increasingly wants tackled.

He said wildlife crime impacts on society as a whole.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "Scotland's natural environment covers a staggering 95% of our land and contributes around £17bn to our economy every year.

"Yet some of the laws governing what people can and cannot do in that environment have been unchanged since the 1800s and many more remain ambiguous in a modern age.

"As millions of people enjoy our environment for sport and recreation in ever changing and diverse ways, the laws governing how best to protect our wildlife need to be updated to adapt to modern pressures."

Last week two men were charged amid claims of birds of prey being illegally poisoned on a Highland estate.

Figures show deer and hare coursing incidents have risen significantly in the past 12 months in Scotland.

The illegal targeting of wild birds of prey is also a major issue.

RSPB Scotland gave a mixed response to the bill, criticising deer legislation, but welcoming other restrictions.

The bill is available at www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/bills/52-WildNatEnv/index.htm

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