The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament on 21 March 2024 and will soon become law.

What does the new legislation mean for organisations operating in the rural sector?

Our previous update explains the two key concepts in the Bill:

  1. The first relates to wildlife management and contains a ban on the use of snares and glue traps, a licensing scheme for the use of specific traps and a licensing scheme for the killing of red grouse.
  2. The second part relates to muirburn and contains provisions to extend the licensing system for muirburn.

The primary focus of commentary around the Bill has been the prohibition on the use of snares and glue traps together with the new licensing regime. In this context, the key provisions are:

  • Making it an offence to use or purchase glue traps to kill, take, or injure any animal or other invertebrate.
  • Prohibiting the use of snares to kill, take, or injure any animal other than a wild bird.
  • Making it an offence to use, sell, or possess spring traps to kill or take animals.
  • Requiring those intending to use traps to kill or take a wild bird or animal to have a wildlife trap licence.
  • Requiring those intending to kill or take red grouse on their land to have a specific licence.
  • Extended powers of investigation for SSPCA inspectors.

Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie said: "We have struck the right balance between improving animal welfare, supporting rural businesses and reinforcing a zero tolerance approach to raptor persecution and wildlife crime.”

Views in the sector will vary as to whether an appropriate balance has indeed been struck. For instance, the introduction of a licensing regime in relation to red grouse has been the subject of much scrutiny and discussion. What is clear however is that the licensing regime in Scotland, controlled by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), will take heightened importance. It will be vital for sector organisations to (1) obtain correct licences and (2) comply with licences conditions. SNH have been robust in revoking licences where there are concerns around licence breaches relating to wildlife crime. We can expect to see that trend continue.

In addition, sector organisations should review their current practices in relation to the use of traps and snares, and make changes necessary to ensure compliance with the Bill. We can expect to see the authorities take enforcement action in the event of breaches. We can also expect to see media coverage of any incidents. Accordingly, it's vital for sector organisations to act now to ensure compliance and protect their reputation.

The Bill marks significant reform in the regulation of wildlife crime. Sector organisations will need to take a pro-active approach in order to ensure compliance.


Ramsay Hall

Legal Director