Residential property
20 Dec 2019 News

Werritty Grouse Moor Management Report

The long awaited report by the Grouse Moor Management Review Group (chaired by Professor Alan Werritty) (GMMRG) was finally released by Scottish Government on 19th December 2019.  The full report can be accessed here

The remit of the GMMRG was to (i) examine the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices and in particular “the three Ms”  namely Muirburn, Medicated Grit and Mountain Hares and (ii) advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.  In doing so they were asked to balance the Scottish Governments commitment to tackling wildlife crime with grouse moor management practices so that this form of management continues to contribute the rural economy whilst being sustainable and compliant with the law.

The following principal recommendations have been made:

In relation to the three Ms..

  • Muirburn should be unlawful unless carried out under a licence.  There should be a general licence to allow muirburn to take place without seeking individual permission provided key requirements such as compliance with the Muirburn Code, training and record keeping are followed.
  • A legal obligation to report numbers of Mountain Hares where shooting takes place.  This data gathering exercise would be led by SNH and if the population status of Mountain Hares is found to be unfavourable (per EC Habitats Directive) a licencing system should be introduced.
  • A voluntary Code of Practice on the use of Medicated Grit overseen by SNH and prepared in consultation with stakeholders.  This would be coupled with further research into the health and environmental implications of Medicated Grit and additional training for prescribing vets.

In relation to the licencing of grouse shooting:

  • A licensing scheme be introduced for the shooting of grouse if, within five years, from the publication of the GMMRG report there is no marked improvement in the ecological sustainability of grouse moor management as evidenced by populations of breeding Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers and Peregrines on or within the vicinity of grouse moors being in favourable condition (per EC Birds Directive).
  • A framework Code of Practice on grouse shooting be produced reflecting regulation specific to the sector and advising on best management practices.

The report is comprehensive and makes a number of other recommendations in relation to land management practices, greater transparency and support for the higher tariff wildlife crime penalties recommended by the 2015 Wildlife Penalties review group.  It also rehearses many of the arguments for and against the licencing of grouse shooting which is helpful in providing a wider understanding of the debate.

Professor Werritty is at pains to point out that the GMMRG (comprising six people including Professor Werritty) was split on the question as to whether to recommend an immediate introduction of licensing of grouse shooting. He explains that there was an objection by two members of the group to him exercising his casting vote in favour such a recommendation.  Consequently the proposal to provide for a five year delay pending evidence of improved numbers of Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers and Peregrines on grouse moors was made to ensure that the recommendations contained in the report had the unanimous support of the GMMRG.

It is important to understand that while this is a report for Scottish Government it is independent and the Scottish Government will reach their own conclusions on the recommendations. We anticipate considerable discussion and lobbying from all sides of the debate.

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