A landowner whose gamekeeper was convicted of trying to kill protected birds of prey has had his farm subsidy cut.
The Scottish Executive has lopped nearly £8,000 from the European grant due to James McDougal, who employed George Aitken on his Borders estate near the Southern Upland Way.
Aitken placed dead pheasants containing poison along with traps holding live pigeons on the moorland at Lauder in Berwickshire. He was sentenced to 220 hours’ community service.
However, the Guardian newspaper has revealed, using disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act, that the executive has, for the first time in Britain, used European law to punish the landowner for environmental crimes committed on his estate.
Dead ravens were found near the Southern Upland Way, one of which had high levels of toxic chemicals in its carcass. Investigations led to the discovery of dead pheasants laid as bait, containing carbofuran, a banned poison.
James McDougal is a large recipient of subsidy, under the single-farm and beef-calf payments schemes. The Scottish Environment Minister Mike Russell has asked officials to use their powers more often. He told the Guardian: “It's absolutely wrong for individuals to have money from the public purse and to commit, or allow to be committed, illegal acts.”
The Southern Upland Way is Scotland’s longest trail, stretching for 340km (212 miles) from the west coast of Galloway to the North Sea. The section around Lauder crosses the Lammermuir Hills.