Kenneth Gibson MSP has welcomed a decline in crimes against wildlife in Scotland.
The number of recorded crimes fell from 284 in 2014/15 to 261 in 2015/16. However, the number of crimes involving hunting with dogs rose to its highest in five years.
The Wildlife Crime in Scotland report showed 44 ‘hunting with dogs’ offences in 2015-16, up from 20 the previous year.
“These figures deserve to be cautiously welcomed. Nevertheless, we know from the report published earlier this year that not all wildlife crimes are reported and it is likely that golden eagles and other raptors are being illegally killed every year. Where there is no body or tag to be found, for example in remote rural areas, these losses do not make it into the recorded crime figures.
“The SNP Government has set out new measures to tackle the issue of missing raptors, including the establishment of an independent group to examine grouse moor management practices and a new pilot scheme to use special constables to tackle wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park.
“I am delighted that SNP Ministers are determined to put an end to raptor killing and combat wildlife crime.”
Susan Davies, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, welcomed the fall in recorded crimes, adding:
“Wildlife crime comes in many forms from uprooting plants to baiting badgers or hare coursing, to poisoning or persecuting raptors and damage to protected sites. These crimes are unacceptable in modern Scotland, and it’s vital that a broad range of methods are deployed to combat them.
“These should include greater public awareness of wildlife crime, developing better scientific techniques to improve detection, standardised recording of incidents, increased penalties, and increased rates of prosecution and conviction.”
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, commented:
“The SNP Government has introduced some very stringent legislation which has undoubtedly helped address the incidence of wildlife crime. This is supported by a real desire by people working in land management to make progress.
“We and our members, who are enthusiastic participants in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, are committed to help address ongoing wildlife crime issues and we intend to put forward constructive suggestions to the forthcoming independent review of grouse shooting.”
The SNP Government is currently reviewing fox hunting laws, which allow foxes to be flushed from cover and shot dead for pest control. Kenneth Gibson is amongst those MSPs who support tighter legislation.