The general licence restriction applies to the Leadhills Estate. Photo: Iain Russell CC-BY-SA-2.0

The general licence restriction applies to the Leadhills Estate. Photo: Iain Russell CC-BY-SA-2.0

A Scottish Government agency has restricted a licence on a shooting estate in the Lowther Hills after evidence of wildlife crime in the area.

Scottish Natural Heritage has suspended general licences on the Leadhills Estate for three years.

Such licences allow land owners and managers to control wild birds in actions that would otherwise be illegal, to protect livestock or crops.

The agency, the Holyrood government’s official advisory body on the outdoors, said this week’s decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

Nick Halfhide, SNH’s director of sustainable growth, said: “There is clear evidence that wildlife crimes have been committed on this property.

“Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on this property for three years. They may though still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.

“This measure will help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, albeit under tighter supervision. We consider that this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.”

The agency said restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land, which covers 7,890ha (19,500 acres), west of the M74 near Wanlockhead, for three years. It added this period can increase if more evidence of offences comes to light.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds. General licences permit authorised persons to carry out actions that would otherwise be illegal. They cover certain types of activity relating to birds, such as preventing damage to crops or livestock, preserving public health or air safety, and preventing the spread of disease.

General licences cover situations which are seen as relatively commonplace and where there is unlikely to be any great conservation impact. General licences avoid the need for people to apply for individual licences for these specific circumstances. They are subject to strict conditions, and abuse of them or failure to comply with the conditions could constitute an offence.

In May this year, a hen harrier died after being caught in an illegal trap on the Leadhills Estate. Two gamekeepers from the estate had previously been found guilty of wildlife crimes.

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