Wild animals and plants are natural resources belonging to no-one, but landowners on whose property these species are found have specific rights and responsibilities regarding their management. The sustainable management of wildlife can bring a range of economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits. However, management activities could also have negative impacts on conservation status and welfare. Many species of wild plants and animals are therefore protected by law, whether through national or European legislation.
If you intentionally or recklessly carry out any act which results in the disturbance of a protected species or, the obstruction, damage or destruction of their resting or breeding sites (e.g. birds’ nests), you may be committing a criminal offence.
In order to manage our wildlife in a balanced way it is necessary to have access to the appropriate physical and legislative management tools. Certain activities which would otherwise be unlawful, may be permitted under a licence where there is a justification for the activity in question. Licensing is provided for in legislation but the procedure and conditions depend upon the type of activity to be licenced and the species concerned. Since June 2011, the administration of most forms of licensing has been delegated by Scottish Ministers to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Licences can be either general or specific.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, ensures protection for a wide range of plants, animals and birds. However, it is recognised in the Act that there are circumstances where it is desirable to allow appropriate authorities to licence acts which would otherwise be illegal under the terms of the legislation.
General Licences cover certain types of activity relating to birds. For example, you may use a General Licence to kill or take certain birds for the conservation of wild birds, or for the prevention of serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables or fruit. Users do not have to apply for a General Licence but are required by law to abide by the licence conditions. Persons operating under the General Licences must have read and understood them. The Scottish Government issues General Licences on an annual basis and these should be checked by users of these licences every year. Such licences are reviewed each year and Scottish Land & Estates is consulted in this review process every year.
More information is available on the Scottish Government website
Wildlife in Scotland is protected by a range of national and international legislation. These laws are designed to protect rare and vulnerable species as well as their breeding and resting places. However, it is also possible under the existing legislation, for example, to prevent serious damage to agriculture or livestock, to obtain a licence for acts which would otherwise be illegal. An example would be to obtain a licence to shoot ravens to protect agricultural livestock. Scottish Land & Estates believe that there are serious problems with the current system in which the game management and shooting industry are treated in a different manner to other land management sectors. We are committed to making this process work in a more balanced manner and will continue to work with industry colleagues and Government on this issue.
Following delegation of licensing functions, SNH has published guidance on species licensing , Protected Species Licensing: Legislation, Appropriate Authorities http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/B876258.pdf. While final interpretation of legislation is for the courts, this guidance note provides a useful summary of the law and outlines the process used by SNH in considering licence applications.
Scottish Land & Estates recognises the vital role that snaring has as a management tool for protecting game and wider conservation however it is the responsibility of all those involved in the use of snares to ensure their methods are legal, humane and carried out with sensitivity and respect for other countryside users. Snaring is subject to legal restrictions and, when properly practised, is an effective and humane form of fox control.
Snaring was recently subject to new regulation as part of the Wildlife & Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.
Scottish Land & Estates fully endorse the industry good practice guidance contained in Snaring in Scotland a practitioners’ guide