Scots landowners call for licence to kill birds of prey

image captionLandowners want licences that would allow the targeted cull of common species such as Buzzards

A group of landowners is calling on the Scottish government to allow them to kill some birds of prey to protect stocks of grouse and other game birds.

The Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) said similar arrangements were already in place for farmers.

The call comes in a BBC documentary looking into the illegal trapping, shooting and poisoning of birds.

The RSPB Scotland has described the call as "bizarre".

Every year up to 30 protected birds are found dead, including rare species such as Golden Eagles and Hen Harriers.

Existing powers allow ministers to sign off on the killing of some birds of prey by sporting estates, but the powers have never been used.

Now landowners want to be granted licences that would allow the targeted cull of more common species such as Buzzards and Ravens.

The owners of some sporting estates have argued that without careful management, stocks of game birds can be wiped out by predators.

Illegal slaughter

Farmers and other land interests have been allowed to kill some protected birds in the past.

Doug McAdam from the SRPBA, which represents many landowners, told BBC Scotland that he wanted to see the same principle applied to sporting estates.

He said: "The government has seemed reluctant to grant licences in this area and that is regrettable, and I would hope that the new administration would really grasp this nettle because it can only help the problem.

"Legal management tools always help and clearly where there's areas of criminality, we have got to look at what are the causes of those crimes, and undoubtedly in some cases there may be frustration.

"I think all the game industry is asking for is to be treated on a level playing field with other industries, this can only help the problem."

Responding to his comments, the RSPB said any legal killing would be wrong while the illegal slaughter of birds of prey continued.

Duncan Orr Ewing, the charity's head of species and land management, told the BBC: "I find this particularly bizarre and I think this is holding society to ransom.

"What people are effectively saying is 'you know we will obey the law if you give us the right to kill protected species'.

"Society has decided that these birds need protection and are vulnerable."

Conservationists believe that the real scale of the killing is much greater than the official figures show and point to recent scientific evidence that seems to suggest there are fewer birds of prey around some grouse moors than would be expected.

The BBC Scotland documentary, called 'Fair Game? Scotland's Sporting Estates' looks into the illegal killing of birds of prey and examines claims that the law is being flouted across Scotland.

It also features allegations that estates are the victims of an organised campaign and that dead birds are being planted on the hills to incriminate them.

The documentary is due to be broadcast on BBC Two Scotland at 2100 BST and is available for viewers elsewhere in the UK on the iPlayer.

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