Amendment 13 would introduce a licence for the keeping of falcons. Forty years ago, there were about 1,000 falconers in the whole of the UK, but that number has increased more than thirtyfold. We have no idea how many falconers there are in Scotland, because there is no need for falconers to be registered or licensed. People need to be registered by DEFRA to keep most kinds of British birds of prey, but that is bird registration, not licensing.
Registration does not apply to foreign birds of prey. Harris hawks, which are the birds most widely used by the growing number of falconers, are imported from America and require no registration. Recently an eagle owl escaped from its tied perch in Linlithgow. The eagle owl is the biggest of all European owls and is quite capable of attacking dogs and cats, but it requires a registration document only if someone plans to use it for movies or commercial purposes. Movies apart, people can keep owls in their garden shed
Consider this: a 15-year-old with wealthy parents can apply for an import licence, have a martial eagle—the largest eagle species in the whole of Africa—trapped and, after it is quarantined in the UK, pick it up totally unrestricted. Apart from the fact that the martial eagle is suffering a huge decline in Africa, these are birds that can kill antelope. Our 15-year-old could be seriously injured, as could a small child, by a giant eagle, yet no registration is required for the species. People do not have to be licensed to fly it or to charge the public money to watch it hunt.
There is regulation and regulation. When requests for regulation come from the industry, it is sensible for the Parliament at least to listen to them.
It is uniquely difficult to keep falcons in good health—people really need to know what they are doing. Uncontrolled falcons also have the potential to cause cruelty to other wildlife and, possibly, to domestic pets, so it is vital that they are kept and operated by responsible owners. The other day, a professional falconer wrote to me as follows:
"practised well, falconry deserves its status as the sport of kings, practised poorly it can be an ugly thing."
I submit that, too often, it is an ugly thing in Scotland at the moment. I do not believe that the measures in the bill are specific enough to control what is clearly a potential cause of bad welfare among birds of prey.
I move amendment 13.
"leave out <an activity which> and insert— <( ) any activity which involves the keeping of falcons".
No one listening to that drama would have been led to believe that. Of course, the three-act drama was not necessary. Anyone who has read section 24 will realise that it encompasses all animals and therefore all birds. To insert falcons into the wording would leave us with a construction that might allow the inference to be drawn that the section covered only falcons and no other birds. In
Amendment 13 is wholly unnecessary. Section 24 is deliberately widely drawn to grant licensing powers for all activities, so I urge Parliament to reject amendment 13.
Division number 14
For: Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fraser, Murdo, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Petrie, Dave
Against: Adam, Brian, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Campbell, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Turner, Dr Jean, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor