Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

– in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd March 2011.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill. Members should have the bill as amended at stage 2, which is SP bill 52A; the marshalled list, which is SP bill 52A-ML; and the groupings, which I have agreed.

The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds. Thereafter, I will allow a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate. All other divisions will be 30 seconds.

Section 3—Protection of game birds etc and prevention of poaching

I refer members to the marshalled list of amendments. We come to group 1. Amendment 39, in the name of John Scott, is grouped with amendments 40 to 42 and 46 to 50.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I will speak to all the amendments in the group. The chief purpose of the amendments is to seek to extend the period for catching up for pheasants and partridges from 14 days, as is currently proposed, to 28 days. Catching up is the practice of collecting male and female pheasants and partridges to use as breeding stock. It is traditionally carried out by gamekeepers and game rearers immediately after the end of the shooting season, usually during the whole of February.

The extension of the period from 14 days to 28 days would give greater flexibility, particularly if there is severe weather, such as the snow that we have experienced during the past two winters. Furthermore, shoots, particularly commercial ones, shoot right up until the end of the season, which means that staff are usually very busy and preparations for catching up cannot begin until the shooting season has ended. Commercial shoots and game rearers often catch up a large number of birds during a sustained period, and a 14-day period is not sufficient to allow that to take place.

I acknowledge concerns about the possible catching up of grouse and mallard, which is why amendment 39 would remove those species from the provisions.

After discussions with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation Scotland and RSPB Scotland, I understand that the amendments in group 1 offer an acceptable approach and deal with the concerns that both sides raised at stage 2. Because of that, I trust that the amendments will find members’ support.

Amendment 42 would permit the catching up of red grouse for disease control during the close season. The practice is well established and thousands of red grouse are caught each year for direct dosing and worm monitoring. The practice ensures the effective monitoring and treatment of grouse disease and helps to deliver a healthy, productive and stable red grouse population, which, in turn, boosts the rural economy, given that a great deal of income and employment depends on grouse shooting.

Some people have suggested that the practice might have environmental implications, but the same drug, delivered in the same way, is used to reduce disease in Scotland’s hill populations of sheep and cattle, with no perceptible effects. The activities that amendment 42 would enable are important and uncontroversial and are undertaken by the Langholm Moor demonstration project, with Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Buccleuch Estates as partners.

I commend all the amendments in the group. I move amendment 39.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Ministers’ initial attempts to establish clear parameters for dealing with the need for catching up at the end of the season were genuine and well motivated, if a little arbitrary. Concerns were expressed about the appropriateness of a 14-day limit, given that in certain conditions the limit might be the earliest point at which the process could even begin.

John Scott’s amendment on the matter at stage 2 had the benefit of simplicity, although it was perhaps no less arbitrary than the approach that it sought to replace, but it prompted the RSPB and others to express concern about what could be perceived as a de facto extension to the shooting season.

The amendments that John Scott has lodged at stage 3 take a pragmatic approach to the issue, perhaps with the exception of amendment 42, on which we have not heard evidence. I appreciate the reason for proposing the change, but I am concerned that the issue has emerged so late in the day, given that it relates to an established practice, as John Scott said. In principle, that is not a sensible basis on which to make policy, and I invite the minister to address the concerns that I know have been expressed to her by the RSPB and other people.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Members should be aware that the catching up of game birds in the close season is currently illegal. However, it happens, and in effect a blind eye is turned to the practice. Our view was that that is not a sensible way to proceed. I commend the stakeholders who raised the issue at stages 1 and 2 for taking a constructive approach and coming to reasonable agreement on the appropriate time periods for catching up in the close season.

I hope that the inclusion of grey partridge in the 28-day period will, in a practical way, support and encourage an increase in grey partridge numbers. Therefore, I am happy to support amendments 39 to 41 and 46 to 50 inclusive. The Government does not see a difficulty with amendment 46.

I turn briefly to amendment 42. Licences could be granted for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease. However, the approach in the amendment seems practical and appropriately limited. The animal health and welfare considerations that currently apply to such treatment, whether in open season or under licence, would equally apply under the amendment. The same is the case for ensuring the appropriate withdrawal periods before treated birds can enter the food chain. Those issues do not specifically relate to medicating in the close season.

I am content to support John Scott’s amendment 42, together with the rest of the amendments in the group.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I thank the minister and, indeed, Liam McArthur for their support. I will press the amendments.

Amendment 39 agreed to.

Amendments 40 to 42 moved—[John Scott]—and agreed to.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

We come to group 2. Amendment 61, in the name of Peter Peacock, is grouped with amendments 52, 54 and 55.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

A concern has arisen about whether licences will be granted to kill raptors to protect a species that is bred for the purpose of its being shot for so-called sport.

I have made it clear that I think it ridiculous that it might ever prove possible to get a licence to kill a valued, protected species to protect a species that is bred in huge numbers solely for the purpose of shooting. I lodged an amendment at stage 2 to seek to resolve that matter and make it impossible for a minister to issue a licence in such circumstances.

Since stage 2, the Parliament has approved the code that governs the raising of such birds for shooting. That statutory code makes it clear that it is up to those who rear the stock to protect it adequately. That strengthens the case for there being no need ever to issue a licence to kill raptors to protect birds that are raised specifically to be shot quickly thereafter.

I have lodged a similar amendment today, taking out the reference to mallard, which was one of the points that concerned the minister when the proposal was debated at stage 2. However, I have also gone further and lodged another amendment that would completely remove any doubt about the matter. It would remove the power for a minister to issue a licence in such circumstances in relation to species that are specified in a schedule. A schedule can be relatively easily amended if there is a case to extend the number of species—for example, to include the likes of goshawk, sparrowhawk or tawny owl—or, indeed, to remove any that are listed.

I welcome the minister’s indication in previous debates that a high test would always remain to be passed before any licence was issued, namely that there was no alternative measure to manage the situation. The more that one thinks about it, the harder it is to envisage any circumstance in which a licence could be issued. Indeed, no such licence has been issued since the provisions were put into statute many years ago.

We could put the matter to bed once and for all by removing the power for a minister to issue such a licence—a power that has never been used.

I move amendment 61.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I speak against Peter Peacock’s amendments in this group. Their purpose, as far as I can perceive, is to prevent licences from being granted for the limited control of specific wild birds to protect stocks of reared game birds. While such reared birds are dependent on their keepers for food and the like, they should be classed as livestock in the same way as any other kept animal.

The amendments are also unnecessary. The way in which the Government has operated sawbill duck and raven licensing for fisheries and agriculture since 1981 shows that there is no risk of such licences leading to mass culls of sensitive birds of prey and/or loss of conservation status.

Licensing always requires an applicant to show SNH that measurable impacts are largely due to the raptor in question, that alternatives to lethal control have been tried, and that all parties are clear that the conservation status of the raptor will not be affected. Those matters can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, or even a regional basis. Therefore, I urge members not to support Peter Peacock’s amendments in the group.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Peter Peacock has rightly highlighted the almost absurd position in which a licence might be granted to shoot a protected species in order to protect a non-native species raised as livestock. During stage 1 and again at stage 2, we considered whether there were any circumstances in which we could foresee such a decision being justified. On the back of that, we discussed whether there was a need to raise the bar higher or remove the option entirely.

I take more than a little comfort from knowing that, despite encouragement from some quarters, no minister has yet seen any reason to grant such a licence, as Peter Peacock suggested. On that basis, I remain to be persuaded of the need to change the law as it currently stands. There is an argument for saying that a line could be drawn under the issue, that the need to try to devise criteria by which any such licence might be granted could be avoided, and even that ministers could be prevented from being put in a difficult position. All those aims are legitimate, albeit that they are not all equally laudable. Moreover, Peter Peacock is to be congratulated on raising the issue in a way that will, I hope, discourage any inappropriate use of the power to grant licences in future.

However, on balance, I am disinclined to support amendments 52, 54 and 55. Similarly, although I appreciate the sentiment behind amendment 61, I am not convinced that it would not create a wider set of difficulties for those who will follow in Peter Peacock’s footsteps.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

As I said at stage 2, I have not issued any licences to do what Peter Peacock’s amendments seek to prevent, but I acknowledge that the issue is difficult. I will not repeat the entire debate that we had in the committee, but we must note that we are talking about a balancing issue. On the one hand, we must note the economic benefits and the benefits relating to biodiversity that shooting often brings to rural Scotland; on the other hand, as Peter Peacock has pointed out, it is difficult to reconcile the licensed control of native species such as buzzards and sparrowhawks with protecting non-native species such as pheasants and partridges. It is already the case that a variety of other options must be fully exhausted before licences are considered, including the relocation of pens or the use of deterrent devices and diversionary feeding.

I cannot ignore the backdrop to the debate, which is wildlife crime. It is clear that the actions of a few are adversely affecting the majority, but the amendments would provide a relatively inflexible basis for moving forward.

Amendment 61 would essentially prevent any such licences for the protection of game birds from being issued, given the requirement for “secure housing”, as people will know if they are aware of what the actual practice is in rural Scotland.

Amendments 52, 54 and 55 would send a strong message about the birds that Parliament deems untouchable for the purposes of preventing serious damage to livestock. That would stymie any further balanced discussion of the issue. I accept that amendment 54 refers to the “power to vary Schedules”, but would that ever be used in practice, save perhaps to add the birds that Peter Peacock may have erroneously omitted?

The brief discussion that we have had today again confirms to me that the right decision has been taken to date. Given that, I wonder why members cannot continue to leave the matter to the discretion of ministers.

For those reasons, I do not support the amendments in the group.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I hear what members have to say, but they will not be surprised to hear that I take a contrary view. When we were in Langholm during the early stages of our consideration of the bill, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association argued for a greater opportunity to get licences to deal with the problem. We are aware that the association has lobbied on that point, and there is an attempt to agree guidance on the circumstances in which a licence might be offered. That is quite a reasonable thing to do, given that the power to issue licences exists in statute. However, it also sends signals to people that such guidance might be the beginning of a relaxation, and I want to ensure that that does not happen. Therefore, I press my amendment 61.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The question is, that amendment 61 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division. As this is the first division, I will suspend the meeting for five minutes.

14:04 Meeting suspended.

14:09 On resuming—

We now come to the division on amendment 61.

Division number 1 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 45, Against 78, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 61 disagreed to.

After section 4

Amendment 43, in the name of Peter Peacock, is grouped with amendments 44 and 45.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

We are having this debate because there is a persistent problem in Scotland with bird persecution, which has come to be one of the main debating points in the bill, notwithstanding the fact that the bill did not contain provisions on the matter at the start of the process. It ought to be a matter of national shame that a minority of Scots persistently and routinely shoot, poison or otherwise trap or illegally kill some of our most magnificent wild creatures. Anyone who has had the good fortune to study our predator birds at close quarters can testify to their magnificence. Those creatures have evolved to hunt; they have penetrating eyes and are able to soar to great heights. Some have a wingspan that inspires awe.

What kind of people seek to destroy them by laying poisoned bait, setting traps or shooting them? There is no evidence that such things are done for some kind of perverse pleasure; it appears to be an approach to managing certain grouse moors on some of our big estates. I am by no means talking about all our big estates, but there are too many examples to pretend that the practice is not being used routinely in some localities.

Recent studies of golden eagles and hen harriers—a report on which was done only last week—look systematically at areas of land in which the absence of certain species is only plausible and explicable by those species being persecuted as a result of certain management practices. Such practices are specifically designed to remove those species from the territory in pursuit of an economic objective. The pressure that underlies such actions is to increase the supply of grouse for shooting—that is their economic purpose. Some estates seem to believe that they can operate with the required level of shooting only if they remove some of our most iconic species. Today we have the opportunity to do more to eliminate that evil practice.

Many people in Scotland are dismayed that although we know that the practice goes on and have a fair idea of where it does so, we have been unable to stop it happening. Part of that must be to do with how that set of crimes is prioritised at the local level, but part of it must be to do with inadequacies in our law. A vicarious liability has been introduced in the bill. I welcome that and think that we should take it further. We need to fight crimes that have an economic purpose with severe economic consequences. That is what lies behind my amendments today.

The amendments have been developed over several months of parliamentary debate and today is our last chance to deal with them. I have broken my approach into three separate amendments.

The first, amendment 43, provides those in Parliament who are not prepared to go along the road as far as I would with the ability to go some way towards bearing down on such a nasty set of crimes. Amendment 43 seeks to allow ministers to formally indicate under certain clear conditions that they have reasonable cause to be concerned about what is happening in a specified area when that concern is scientifically formed on the basis of evidence, and provides for an appeal to challenge whether the minister is acting reasonably. If any appeal fails, the minister can then come to Parliament and, by order, formally register that Parliament should be concerned about what is happening. Parliament would then have the opportunity to agree or not. The prospect of that measure being taken might help to focus people’s minds and lead them to act against the crimes that we all want to be eliminated.

Being named and, I hope, shamed in that way would have an economic consequence for the estate that was managing its land inappropriately. However, if the estate was not deterred at that point, there would be further steps in the process, which is why I have lodged amendments 44 and 45. They would ratchet up the actions that the Parliament and ministers can take.

Why should those estates that are not prepared to end practices that eliminate some of our national treasures be allowed to continue with economic activity that motivates such crimes? At the least, the amendments would allow ministers and Parliament to formally express concern about what is happening in some areas and, moving further on, would remove from estates that are not following the approach that we all want to be taken the right to shoot on that land, with the severe economic consequence that such a move would have.

I move amendment 43.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Peter Peacock’s bid to be crowned master of pith lies in tatters as a result of this triple salvo of amendments. I fully appreciate that they have moved a long way from the licensing scheme that was initially envisaged in the amendment that Mr Peacock himself lodged at stage 2, but I remain concerned about the potential consequences, intended or otherwise, of what he is now proposing.

First, I reiterate my firm belief that the illegal persecution of birds of prey in this country is wholly unacceptable. Despite claims to the contrary in some quarters, far from improving, the situation for certain species in certain parts of Scotland is actually getting worse. Responsibility for this deplorable trend rests firmly with a small number of estates and land managers who persist in defying the law. That is why the vicarious liability provisions introduced at stage 2 must be made to work effectively through the targeted efforts of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the police. Indeed, I would welcome the minister’s assurance that she is willing to look at how the penalties and sanctions for those who are found guilty under the vicarious liability provisions might be toughened up, perhaps through further consideration by the partnership for action against wildlife crime in Scotland.

Of course, in expressing our abhorrence of these wildlife crimes, we must also acknowledge the fact that the majority of estates and land managers do not engage in such activity. Indeed, many share our frustration at the unwillingness of recalcitrants to desist, which is why we have supported the wildlife estates initiative, which can and must help to define and embed best practice. The process will be watched closely over the coming years; indeed, for some, it might well be viewed as the last chance saloon.

For now, however, I do not think that Peter Peacock’s amendments are justified. Despite the safeguards and appeals that he has proposed for each, I still believe that they will open the legislation up to legal challenge as well as offering considerable scope for mischief. Fundamentally, whatever our frustrations at the lack of progress in securing convictions, I do not believe that we can play fast and loose with the burden of proof.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I want to speak against amendments 43, 44 and 45. Although I welcome the intention behind them—namely tackling the illegal persecution of raptors—they represent a disproportionate and overly bureaucratic response to the issue. According to recent police statistics, the incidence of bird poisoning has reduced, and work must not be prejudiced by unnecessary legislative intervention at this critical stage, particularly at a time when the sector itself is voluntarily piloting a scheme to demonstrate and increase best practice in land management and conservation.

On amendment 43, given the ranges over which some of the species listed hunt and disperse, it would be a considerable task to ascertain all the relevant persons related to the area of land affected. I presume that in order to notify all the right people, SNH would wish to notify as many land managers as it could identify, but amendment 43 risks the serving of notices on those whose activities have no impact on the wild birds conservation status and any failure to respond could trigger a notification of concern order. At the very least, there should have been an obligation to notify the owner in all cases and then other such persons as ministers deemed appropriate. Furthermore, given recent debate about the hen harrier framework, it is improbable that ministers will be able to define “unfavourable conservation status” for any “wild bird” and “any area of land” without challenge, because the term “unfavourable conservation status” has a different definition from that in European and existing United Kingdom legislation.

Even though they seek to make some provision for appeal and consultation during the process, there are still major problems with amendments 44 and 45. For example, some of the time periods appear to overlap; the deadline for the first report on compliance seems to be the same as that for producing the management plan.

For all those reasons, I believe that amendments 43, 44 and 45 should be rejected.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I appreciate that Peter Peacock has taken on board some of my comments about his stage 2 amendment. However, the result is amendments that are twice as long. I am not being flippant; I believe that it was almost inevitable because he is attempting to untangle very complex land management and ownership arrangements. However, what we have been left with is a set of byzantine procedures; I am certain that even if the ministers of the day were inclined to use them, they would be unable to.

Perhaps in an attempt to deal with the concerns that I raised about the proposal for a sus law at stage 2, the trigger for the process relates to a link between recurring land management practices and unfavourable conservation status. However, that is just as problematic. Aside from the process being triggered by “reasonable cause to consider”—which is a lower standard of proof than even the civil standard of proof—the conservation status of a species is necessarily monitored on a large scale, either nationally or according to defined natural heritage zones, of which there are 21 in Scotland. In practice, a link between recurring land management practices on an estate that limited the presence of the birds that are listed by Peter Peacock—which, I note, do not include the goshawk, although that is one of the five raptors that are currently UK and Scottish wildlife crime priority species for persecution—and unfavourable conservation status would be unworkable, as John Scott has said.

I do not know how the issue could be resolved. Let us consider the western Southern Uplands and inner Solway natural heritage zone, which includes areas in Karen Gillon’s, Elaine Murray’s and the Presiding Officer’s constituencies—you may be interested to know that, Presiding Officer. Would all land managers in that zone have to be notified? I am sure that that was not Peter Peacock’s intention. However, if we cannot get over the first hurdle, amendments 44 and 45, which rely on the process, are equally unworkable.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

In a sense, what Peter Peacock is trying to achieve through amendment 43 is a naming and shaming, but I understand that provisions for that already exist. It would be helpful if the minister could observe why they have not been used more freely to date and whether there is scope for considering methods whereby naming and shaming might take place.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I was going to come on to the naming and shaming aspect of the debate. It is important that we are very careful when we move into that territory. Anyone is free to draw conclusions as they please, but the presence of a poisoned carcase is not irrefutable proof that those who are responsible for managing the land on which it is found were also responsible for the death of the bird. The investigation of crimes is the responsibility of the police and determining guilt is the responsibility of the courts. Under vicarious liability, the bill would allow the courts to determine the guilt of a land manager if his employee had committed an offence.

I take the intention of Peter Peacock’s amendment 43 in the broadest sense and fully appreciate the intention of those who have put forward proposals for additional measures to vicarious liability, whether as a safeguard or a threat. Indeed, as others, including Liam McArthur, have mentioned, the penalties associated with vicarious liability may not prove a sufficient deterrent. The bill does not deal with the existing penalties in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; however, PAW Scotland would have my total support for a review of the penalties relating to wildlife crime. Those penalties must be considered in the wider criminal justice context, however, and that should be borne in mind.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I welcome the minister’s latter point about a review of the penalties. That will be an important part of strengthening the law. I also welcome the vicarious liability provisions in the bill. Nevertheless, I think that vicarious liability will be as difficult to prove as almost any other offence relating to wildlife crime. That is partly why I want to go down the route that I have been trying to go down and make practical action against those who perpetrate these crimes much more effective.

I have taken something like 15 acts through the Scottish Parliament. I have stood where the minister is standing and have picked holes in many of the amendments that have come before me, explaining why they were technically flawed. It is one of the great benefits of being a minister that one has a legal department to provide one with the arguments. However, I was never wholly convinced that, on every occasion, I was not overegging the pudding.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Mr Swinney comments from a sedentary position, but he, too, is noted for overegging the pudding on many subjects.

In the end, it comes down to one thing. We must make up our minds, in Scotland, whether we are prepared to accept the crimes that continue to be committed no matter what legal provisions we have passed. It is all very well for us to come here and say that we find those things unacceptable but, sooner or later, we must define what we are going to do about the situation. The provisions in my amendments are what we want to do about it—it is time to stand up and be counted.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The question is, that amendment 43 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 2 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 76, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 43 disagreed to.

Amendments 44 and 45 not moved.

Section 5—Sale of live or dead wild birds, their eggs etc

Amendments 46 to 50 moved—[John Scott]—and agreed to.

Section 13—Snares

We come to group 4. I draw members’ attention to the pre-emption information that is shown on the list of groupings.

Amendment 5, in the name of Irene Oldfather, is grouped with amendments 14 to 18, 51, 20 to 24, 1, 1A, 1B, 1C and 2 to 4.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

Amendment 5 would remove the whole of section 13 and replace the measures with an outright ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares in Scotland. It includes limited exceptions to ensure that no one is unfairly prosecuted for being in possession of a snare for an innocent reason. The specific situations that are intended to be exempt are law enforcement situations that involve, for example, a Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officer removing a snare; education situations in which, for example, a teacher, lecturer or animal welfare organisation shows students how things were done in the old days; and scientific research, which would be subject to the same licensing arrangements.

There are two reasons why snares must be banned in Scotland. First, they cause unacceptable suffering to target animals, such as foxes, rabbits and hares, and to non-target species, such as badgers, otters, deer, other livestock and domestic pets. Secondly, they are indiscriminate. The UK independent working group on snaring has said that, in some circumstances, it might be impossible to reduce non-target capture to below 69 per cent. Protected animals, such as badgers, are often found suffering severely in snares, in the most distressing circumstances.

The dreadful impact of snares on the animals that they capture has been repeatedly described by veterinary experts. An independent report by the centre for animal welfare and anthrozoology at the University of Cambridge concluded that the welfare of vertebrate pest animals should be assessed in the same way as the welfare of any other vertebrate animal and stated that

“some pest control methods have such extreme effects on an animal's welfare that, regardless of the potential benefits, their use is never justified”.

I believe that snaring is such a method and I invite members to support my amendment.

I move amendment 5.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The issue of snaring is emotive and a compromise that would be satisfactory to all sides was never likely to be achievable. The passage of the bill, unlike the order that was introduced last year—the Snares (Scotland) Order 2010—has at least enabled us to have a more extensive and public discussion about the practice and the place that it has or should have in modern pest control.

Few people, even among those who advocate the retention of snaring, would argue that it cannot be unpleasant. However, like my fellow committee members, on balance, I was persuaded of the continued need for snaring in certain circumstances.

That said, I was also convinced of the need to challenge further and, where necessary, to constrain the extent of those circumstances. For that reason, I welcome the amendments that were agreed to at stage 2, including the requirement for a review.

Bill Wilson’s amendments 1 to 4 would help to tighten up further the timeframe for the review and would ensure that the exercise is repeated thereafter. That can help to maintain pressure on the gamekeeping industry and others to keep innovating in snare design and usage while also keeping the need for snaring itself under review. Although I believe that that focus is necessary, the timeframes that Elaine Murray proposes perhaps give insufficient time for the changes that the bill introduces to bed in.

I support Elaine Murray’s amendments 16 and 20. She and I shared a concern at stage 2 about the extent to which snares are simply used in large numbers with too few questions being asked about how and where they are to be used.

The introduction of identification numbers will be helpful, and Elaine Murray’s proposal, that they be issued only where a chief constable is satisfied that a snare operator has received suitable training on when snaring is an appropriate method of predator control, is sensible. I would welcome the minister’s thoughts on how training modules will be kept up to date, on how suitable independent advice on animal welfare issues will be built in and on how snare operators might be required to undergo refresher training sessions at appropriate intervals.

My amendments 23 and 24 follow on from attempts that I made at stage 2 to ensure that more accurate series of records are kept of snares that are used. Amendment 23 reflects the wording of the current practitioners guide on snaring, but it does no harm for that to appear in the text of the bill. OneKind observes:

“not only will this information help with law enforcement but will also prove useful in the review process as laid out in the Bill”.

I will therefore have pleasure in moving those amendments.

I have reservations about amendments 17, 51, 21, 15 and 18. Although there will continue to be those who argue for an outright ban on snaring, I believe that we have struck a reasonable balance based on the evidence that has been presented to us as a committee and as a Parliament.

For now, snaring remains a necessary if unpleasant method of predator control for farmers and other land managers. The measures that we are putting in place through the bill will ensure that its use is more limited, tightly controlled and subject to on-going scrutiny. I hope that, even among those who seek an outright ban—which, of course, would not eliminate illegal snaring completely—there is recognition of the progress that has been made, which must now be properly monitored and enforced.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

Irene Oldfather’s amendment 5 reflects Labour Party policy, as accepted at our annual conference and included in our manifestos for the 2007 and 2010 elections. In the Labour Party, we like to stick by our manifesto commitments.

If amendment 5 is not agreed to, the subsequent amendments in my name give members the opportunity to tighten up further on the use of snares. There is no doubt on this side of the chamber that holding a frightened animal without food, water or shelter for up to 24 hours, possibly in extreme weather conditions, causes suffering to that animal. The Humane Society aims to prevent unnecessary suffering, and practices that cause suffering should not be used unless there is no other method of control available that would cause less suffering. That is the purpose of my amendments.

Amendment 15 would require a person who is setting a snare to be assured that no alternative method of controlling or capturing the animal is possible and would require Scottish ministers to provide guidance on how that judgment should be made. Anyone setting a snare would have to consider alternatives before doing so. If they were found to have set a snare in circumstances in which it was not reasonable to consider that other methods would have been ineffective, they would commit an offence.

My amendments are alternatives to the ones that I lodged at stage 2, which required a judgment to be made by the chief constable, and which were felt by the minister to be overly bureaucratic for the police.

Amendment 16 would require the chief constable issuing a snare identification number to be satisfied that the applicant had received training, for example on what alternative methods of control might be available, before issuing that identification number.

Under amendment 18, failure to comply with the requirement to ensure that no alternative and preferable method can be used would constitute an offence.

Amendment 51 would require the chief constable to revoke the snare identification number if an offence had been committed. The bill as introduced will allow someone who has committed an offence to retain their identification number and to continue to use their snares. It is important that someone’s ability to use a snare is revoked if they are found guilty of committing an offence. That will help to concentrate the minds of the users of snares on the circumstances under which their use is permitted.

Amendment 17 would require the chief constable to consider whether an offence has been committed when an identification number has been issued.

Amendment 20 would empower the Scottish ministers to make provisions by order, describing the circumstances under which the use of a snare is considered appropriate.

Amendment 21 would allow such an order to include the conditions that would have to be met for an applicant whose identification number had been revoked after being found guilty of committing an offence to successfully reapply for an identification number.

We support amendments 23 and 24 in the name of Liam McArthur.

Amendments 1A, 1B and 1C would amend Bill Wilson’s amendment 1. His amendments 1 to 4 require a review of the snaring provisions to be undertaken by 31 December 2016 and further reviews to be undertaken every five years. That was the committee’s recommendation at stage 1. However, that would mean that no review would take place during the next parliamentary session, even if that session is increased to five years. My amendment 1A would enable the next Scottish Government to review the effectiveness of the snaring provisions. The date by which that would have to be done—30 June 2014—would give the next Government time to introduce new measures even if the session runs for only four years. My amendments 1B and 1C would reduce the period of review to every four years. In conjunction with amendment 1A, that would enable the provisions to be reviewed once in every session of Parliament.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am well aware that snaring evokes strong feeling among the public and members of the Parliament. Most of us do not like to contemplate predator control, but it is a reality and a necessary element of responsible countryside management.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

With respect, it might be advisable if the member waited until I said a little more before she tries to intervene.

Irene Oldfather does not go as far as saying that we should not control predators.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer, I wonder whether you will clarify for the minister that it was not in fact me who tried to intervene. She may want to apologise.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am sorry if I picked up the wrong person who was trying to intervene.

I ask Irene Oldfather to consider the consequences of amendment 5. Crofters, gamekeepers and farmers throughout Scotland need to be able to protect their crops and livestock. If amendment 5 is agreed to, they will still have to do that, but Irene Oldfather would leave them with no other option but lamping and shooting. Unfortunately, that would have one of two effects: either it would force crofters, gamekeepers and farmers to shoot in what might be less than ideal situations; or it would force them to stand by and watch the damage to, or destruction or death of, their crops and livestock. For some, the damage might cost them the viability of their business and their livelihood.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

The member has said that snaring is a necessity. Is she not aware of the estates in Scotland that manage perfectly well without snaring?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

We are persuaded by the evidence that we get from the vast majority of estate managers that snaring has to happen. It is not just estates, of course—there is a requirement to use snaring more widely. I am not prepared to put people in the position of having a much more difficult process for controlling predators to protect their livelihoods, so I do not support amendment 5.

The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee unanimously recognised the stark reality as part of its detailed consideration of the arguments in evidence. Therefore, we must shift our focus to ensuring high standards of snaring practice, with animal welfare at the forefront. Animal welfare should be central to accredited training. Ministers would seek the input of Government vets and the constructive input of the SSPCA in considering accredited training. In addition, I emphasise that, as new technology becomes available and workable, all operators will have to be trained in its use.

Liam McArthur’s amendments 14, 23 and 24, which provide for record keeping, are reasonable. There are obvious benefits to ensuring that unforeseen circumstances, such as those that he described, do not result in harm to animal welfare because of a lack of information about where snares are set. I therefore support amendments 14, 23 and 24.

I cannot support Elaine Murray’s amendments 15 and 18, as they would have the presumably unintentional effect of creating a thought crime. The amendments would not limit the consideration of alternative methods to only legal methods. Similarly, I do not support amendments 17, 21 and 51, which relate to the revocation of snare numbers following conviction, as they would amount to a de facto licensing scheme.

A licensing scheme was not consulted on by Government, not subject to evidence taking at stage 1 and not proposed at stage 2. It is an entirely new and significant issue for us to be first considering at stage 3 of the bill, given the scrutiny that has already been given to the snaring provisions. Amendments 17, 21 and 51 are not supported by any detail that gives clarity and assurance on how the scheme might operate, which means that it is all left to orders.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

Does the minister not find it a bit strange that there seems to be no sanction in the bill that would be applied to someone who consistently uses a snare inappropriately in order to prevent them from operating snares?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

As I said, the amendments are not supported by any detail that gives clarity and assurance on how the scheme might operate, which means that it is all left to orders.

What Karen Gillon and her colleagues propose would create a worse mess than we have at present. From the way in which the amendments are currently drafted, the only thing of which we can be sure is that they would cut across the courts’ sentencing powers. We have courts to do the type of things that members are talking about. The amendments would provide an additional layer of penalty, irrespective of the courts’ view of appropriate sentencing. I do not support amendments 17, 21 and 51.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

If members on the Labour side of the chamber do not think that the courts are the right place to make decisions about guilt or innocence, I am sorry to hear that.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Elaine Murray might wish to know that I support her amendments 16 and 20, because they leave to accredited training something that it was proposed at stage 2 should be in the hands of the police. That is entirely reasonable.

All the amendments on snaring reviews go much further than the committee’s recommendation, on which the Government has already acted by lodging an amendment at stage 2. Elaine Murray’s amendments 1A, 1B and 1C would provide, on the basis of the suggested timescales for training provided by the committee, a maximum of a year before a review. I consider that to be far too short a timescale in which to gather the relevant data, research and information for such a review. We should also note, given recent discussions, that we cannot be certain about future lifetimes of the Parliament.

In contrast, I am pleased to support Bill Wilson’s amendments 1, 2 3 and 4 to provide for future reviews of snaring beyond 2016. That is in keeping with what the committee recommended and with the amendment that I lodged in accordance with that recommendation, and it repeats the period of review. It is a sensible approach, bearing in mind the technological developments that will undoubtedly continue to emerge and the need to gather proper data and research. I should also note that amendment 22 in my name is a technical renumbering amendment.

I urge the chamber to act in accordance with the lead committee’s conclusions on the issue, to ensure that those crofters, gamekeepers and farmers for whom snaring is the only option to protect their livestock and crops are not stripped of their ability to do so by this Parliament, and to leave it to the courts to make the right determinations about guilt and innocence.

Photo of Bill Wilson Bill Wilson Scottish National Party

Snaring is a controversial issue. Those who argue for it state that it is an essential aspect of land management. The committee was provided with evidence from a range of sources that argued for maintaining the option of snaring, because it is important to land managers. However, many members, myself included, have a deep sense of unease when contemplating snaring as a management tool.

Two fundamental issues arise: the number of non-target species that are caught and the suffering that a snared animal may undergo. Those who argue for snaring accept those concerns and claim that the actions that they have taken to develop new types of snares, the code of practice that is proposed in the bill and the introduction of training programmes will significantly reduce the by-catch of non-target species and the suffering that trapped animals undergo.

I well understand why some members in the chamber cannot vote for a continuation of snaring under any circumstance. I believe that the issue is one of conscience. I am prepared to vote for a continuation of the practice, but I cannot do so without some conditions.

We need good-quality data, and we must be certain that suffering is limited and that non-target species by-catch is limited—I say “limited” because it is clear that both will always occur. For that reason, I lodged amendment 1. Regular reviews will ensure that we have the data to determine whether this management technique should be allowed to continue, and that there is continuing pressure on those who manage the land to maintain the highest standards of practice and to continue to develop improved techniques.

I must say to the minister that the reviews should be no rubber stamp. If they show that there is a substantial impact on non-target species, or if there remain significant concerns about the level of suffering of animals trapped in snares, or perhaps if there is evidence of widespread failure to check snares regularly within appropriate time limits, snaring should come to an end.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I rise to speak in support of Irene Oldfather’s amendment 5. I am very sympathetic to what I might term the fallback position posited by Elaine Murray in her amendments.

I say to Liam McArthur that I speak not just with my heart but with my head, which is no bad combination. I say to the minister that I fully acknowledge that pest control is a necessity of life.

I have a long-standing opposition to snaring, and it is not the result of blind prejudice. Indeed, I recently chaired a debate that the cross-party group on animal welfare held, when we had the gamekeepers and land managers on one side and the animal welfare groups, such as OneKind and the SSPCA, on the other. The debate was straightforward and it was held in a very civilised and informed manner. The result was 13 each—no white hats, no black hats.

The SSPCA in particular showed respect to the gamekeepers. It made it plain that much intelligence on animal cruelty and unauthorised pest control is brought to its attention by those very gamekeepers—who incidentally pled the succinct case that if there were a more humane means of fox control in particular, they would opt for it.

However, the evidence from, for example, veterinary pathologists who appeared at previous meetings of the cross-party group proved to me beyond reasonable doubt that snares can be indiscriminate and can cause severe distress and result in a prolonged death, not just for target species but for badgers, roe deer and domestic pets. I am not yet convinced that the stops and the regulations that have been brought in will prevent those instances. Regulation and licensing is better than what we have, but it is not enough.

Let us look at reporting and policing. How would a member of the public who came upon a dead or dying animal in a snare know whether the snare was licensed? They would not know.

I think that Parliament will accept that people with no scruples will lay illegal snares—or even legal snares—and not check them or even set them properly. In a previous debate, I asked who would go out in the various valleys in the pouring rain to check snares. Will everybody go out within 24 hours to check a snare? I doubt it.

For me, simplicity in law and enforcement are key tests. I therefore ask members to consider whether they accept that cruel, slow deaths will still occur, notwithstanding regulation and reviews. The simplest, cleanest and most enforceable thing to do is to ban snaring—no ifs, no buts.

Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour

I rise to support the amendments in the name of Irene Oldfather and Elaine Murray. As members will be aware, I lodged an amendment at stage 2 calling for an outright ban on the use of snares. I withdrew the amendment to allow for further public and parliamentary debate. At that stage, I highlighted the evidence of animal suffering that Irene Oldfather and others have outlined in the chamber and, importantly, the overwhelming public support for a ban on these outmoded traps.

If members support amendment 5, in the name of Irene Oldfather, they will show their humanity and reflect the views of the vast majority of people in Scotland. I cannot agree with the minister that snaring is a necessary part of land management. Like Christine Grahame, I am not convinced of the case that the minister made.

Snaring is cruel and indiscriminate and it is not supported by scientific evidence. I hope that members will support amendment 5 and, in so doing, represent the 77 per cent of their constituents who support an outright ban. Seventy-five per cent of veterinary surgeons also support an outright ban. Some 10,000 messages on this issue were sent to constituency MSPs the length and breadth of Scotland in the past three months.

I ask members to please search their consciences and support an outright ban on this outmoded and very cruel method of land management.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Like others, I am aware that snaring is a very emotive subject. I share the concerns of many who are opposed to snaring and am aware of the genuinely held views of people such as Christine Grahame, Marilyn Livingstone and Irene Oldfather.

However, the Scottish Conservatives continue to believe that snaring is an important tool for predator control for the reasons that the minister outlined, so regrettably we will not be supporting Irene Oldfather’s amendment 5, in line with evidence led before the committee and the committee’s conclusions.

We oppose Elaine Murray’s amendments because they assume that other effective means of control are available, which is not always the case. For example, the snare is the only viable fox-culling method in the field that has been assessed for humaneness against an international standard. That might be news to Elaine Murray and to the whole Parliament.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

John Scott misinterprets the purpose of my amendments, because if no other reasonable method of control was available, snaring would be permitted. That is the opposite of what he described.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I take Dr Murray’s point but, notwithstanding her intention, what I described would be the effect of her amendments.

We will not support Liam McArthur’s amendments 14, 23 and 24. I acknowledge that the principle of record keeping is good, but the industry code of practice, rather than the bill, is the correct place in which to include such provisions, because that would allow flexibility later if change was required. The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee discussed this morning the dangers of putting in bills provisions that preclude flexibility later.

We will support Bill Wilson’s amendments 1 to 4, which would make a valuable contribution to improving the practice of snaring by establishing a quinquennial review.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

The Scottish Government’s position on Elaine Murray’s amendment 51 is nonsensical. If it accepts that snaring must exist, sets up a system in which snares can be used and puts in statute a framework, that framework must be enforceable. The amendment says that, if a person is convicted of an offence that ministers have created, that person—who has been trained as the bill requires but has not done what the bill requires—is not fit to set snares.

Under the bill, surely the Parliament should require the chief constable to remove such a person’s right to set snares. Surely that is not too much to ask of the Parliament. If a person is convicted of not doing what the Parliament wants, surely they should no longer have the tags that allow them to set snares and we should remove their right to set snares under the bill. I ask members to support amendment 51.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

It is clear that views on snares are deeply held across the chamber. Many have said that snares are a necessity. I draw to the attention of the minister and others the words of a practising Glasgow vet and active Scottish National Party member, George Leslie, who has considerable experience in the matter. He said:

“Supporters of snaring ... say that they are a necessity ... no evidence has been produced to explain this ‘necessity’ or why the majority of landholdings in Scotland do not use snares and ... conduct programmes of sensitive wildlife conservation.”

RSPB Scotland, the John Muir Trust, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission—among a host of others—undertake such sensitive land management, and 10 member states of the European Union do not use snares.

Christine Grahame’s point about clarity and simplicity was well made. Even when snares are used legally, animal suffering cannot be avoided. Scotland should treat its beautiful wild animals with respect and accept once and for all that killing them in wire nooses is a technique that must be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 5 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 3 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

On amendment 5, there voted yes 56, no 72—[Interruption.] I apologise—someone was talking, so I will start again.

The result of the division is: For 50, Against 72, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

Amendment 14 moved—[Liam McArthur].

The question is, that amendment 14 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division—but would members who want to say “no” say it a bit louder and quicker, please?

Division number 4 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 104, Against 17, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 14 agreed to.

Amendment 15 moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 15 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 5 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 49, Against 74, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 15 disagreed to.

Amendment 16 moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 16 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 6 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 107, Against 16, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 16 agreed to.

Amendment 17 moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 17 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 7 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 49, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 17 disagreed to.

Amendment 18 moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 18 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 8 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 49, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 18 disagreed to.

Amendment 51 moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 51 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 9 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 49, Against 74, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 51 disagreed to.

Amendment 20 moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 20 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 10 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 107, Against 16, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 20 agreed to.

Amendment 21 not moved.

Amendment 22 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.

Amendment 23 moved—[Liam McArthur].

The question is, that amendment 23 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 11 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 106, Against 17, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 23 agreed to.

Amendment 24 moved—[Liam McArthur].

The question is, that amendment 24 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 12 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 104, Against 16, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 24 agreed to.

Amendment 1 moved—[Bill Wilson].

Amendment 1A moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 1A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 13 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 47, Against 75, Abstentions 2.

Amendment 1A disagreed to.

Amendment 1B moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 1B be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 14 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 48, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1B disagreed to.

Amendment 1C moved—[Elaine Murray].

The question is, that amendment 1C be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 15 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 48, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1C disagreed to.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendments 2 to 4 moved—[Bill Wilson]—and agreed to.

Section 15—Non-native species etc: code of practice

We move to group 5. Amendment 6, in the name of John Scott, is grouped with amendments 29, 9 to 12, 35 and 38.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

In essence, the amendments in the group are drafting amendments, which make minor consequential corrections to amendments in my name that were agreed to at stage 2. I commend the amendments.

I move amendment 6.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Given the commendable brevity of John Scott’s remarks, it would ill behove me to speak for longer. We support the amendments in the group.

Amendment 6 agreed to.

Section 18—Licences under the 1981 Act

Amendment 52 moved—[Peter Peacock].

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 52 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 16 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 73, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 52 disagreed to.

We move to group 6. Amendment 53, in the name of Peter Peacock, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Amendment 53 was lodged following concern that the provisions in the bill do not fully match the requirements of the relevant EU directive. There are species, such as the water vole and the red squirrel, that deserve more protection. That was debated at stage 2, and I am clear that the Government shares the concerns to protect those species adequately and that it believes that it has sufficient powers to do so.

Nonetheless, concerns remain in some quarters that the provisions are not as strong as the EU directive implies. I am sure that the minister does not share that view. The amendment is lodged in the spirit of providing her with an opportunity to make it clear on the record that there is nothing to fear in the wording’s being different and that the effect is the same.

I hope that the minister can give the necessary reassurance and we can all save ourselves a vote.

I move amendment 53.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Peter Peacock’s amendment 53 deals with two distinct issues, so I will address it in two parts, both of which relate to animals only.

The first part seeks to replace the new licensable purposes in the bill with the wording of the habitats directive. At stage 2, I asked for practical examples of how the new licensable purpose would fall short to justify such a change. I have received no practical examples. Therefore, the problem that the first part of amendment 53 seeks to address is, as far as I can tell, totally theoretical.

I can understand that it might appear appealing to some people to have the same construction in European and domestic legislation, but the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 does not transpose the habitats directive; that is done elsewhere. Therefore, it would be unwise to accept an amendment that suggests that that is what the 1981 act does.

Peter Peacock is correct in that the policy objectives behind the new licensable purpose in the bill are the same as those that are contained in the directive. I hope that he will take some comfort from that.

The second part of amendment 53 seeks to change our licensing system in relation to animals, and its significance as part of the amendment should not be overlooked. No justification for the change has been given that is based on actual problems with the current system and I do not accept that it would not impose an unnecessary burden. Any change to the current and well-established legal position of species licensing on animals that was not consulted upon is bound to introduce a new burden. In addition, it would require considerable work by SNH to establish favourable conservation status for all the animals that are covered.

The second part of amendment 53 would affect every animal licence issued and may even, in the short term, bring current systems to a grinding halt. We have heard no justification for it as part of the Parliament’s scrutiny of the bill. I do not support the amendment.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

The minister made it clear that the policy intention behind the bill’s provisions is to secure the same outcomes that I seek. On that basis, I will not press the amendment.

Amendment 53, by agreement, withdrawn.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to group 7. Amendment 25, in the name of Elaine Murray, is grouped with amendment 36.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

At stage 2, I raised concerns over the delegation of licensing powers to local authorities in the bill. That was not a power that local authorities seemed to want—those that responded indicated that they did not particularly wish for the delegation—and concerns were expressed that it could lead to inconsistencies between local authority areas if, for example, different views were taken on the issuing of licences to take protected species.

At stage 2, I received assurances from the minister that the intention referred only to planning issues and local authorities’ planning responsibilities. My amendment 25 makes that clear in the bill.

I move amendment 25.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I will support Elaine Murray in this group of amendments.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Elaine Murray is correct in saying that we would consider the delegation of licensing functions to local authorities only where they relate to planning, so I have no issue with supporting amendments 25 and 36.

Any delegation would follow consultation with all interested parties. However, I am a little nonplussed by those local authorities that say that they do not have the expertise to deal with species licences. Where a development affects European protected species, they are bound to consider whether any disturbance to the species will be authorised by a licence granted by the Scottish ministers for the purposes of the derogation in article 16 of the habitats directive. I hope that the local authorities that are in that position will have a look at their processes.

I support both amendments in the group.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I am pleased to have received support from John Scott and the minister. I press amendment 25.

Amendment 25 agreed to.

Amendments 54 and 55 not moved.

After section 19

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to group 8. Amendment 26, in the name of the minister, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Members will have noticed the commendable restraint with which the Government has approached stage 3. Amendment 26 is the first major Government amendment that we are considering this afternoon.

Members are well aware that, during consideration of the bill in the Parliament, there was much discussion about and frank exchanges of views on wildlife crime. It seems that members would value a regular account of wildlife crime, and amendment 26 will deliver that in a flexible and appropriate way.

There are two points to make about amendment 26. First, it will allow ministers to provide an annual account of the scale of wildlife crime, to relate that to the UK wildlife crime priorities in Scotland, and to explore other issues of concern at the time. There is flexibility to ensure that the key issues of the day can be addressed in the annual report. We need to remember that, in 10 or 20 years, the landscape of wildlife crime could be very different. Indeed, given the on-going work to address priority issues, I hope that the same issues will not continue to blot Scotland’s landscape.

Secondly, the report could be much more than a short set of statistics. I think that we all agree that we would want to see crime figures from the police and an account of prosecutions, but the report could and should go further. Relevant and timely research that provides context and advice that provides direction to all those who are involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime would be welcome inclusions in the report.

I move amendment 26.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I will be brief. I welcome amendment 26. There is cross-party condemnation of wildlife crime. A report, as suggested by the minister, would help to inform future legislative proposals and it is very much to be welcomed.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

At earlier stages, it was suggested that such a report would perhaps elevate wildlife crime to a more exalted status than other types of crime, but I do not think that that will be the case. The Parliament has a fairly good track record of shining a spotlight on all types of crime, and ministers regularly report on the latest figures and the steps that are being taken to address trends and aspects that are the subject of concern. I do not wish to overstate the comparisons in that regard, but the approach that the minister has set out in her amendment is sensible and will provide a focus for an issue that, as Elaine Murray has said, we have all agreed remains stubbornly resistant to the measures that successive Governments and Parliaments have taken to address it. I welcome that approach.

Amendment 26 agreed to.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to group 9. Amendment 7, in the name of Liam McArthur, is grouped with amendment 27.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Members will recall that, at stage 2, I lodged an amendment that was similar to amendment 7 to seek to extend the cause-or-permit provisions to offences in part 1 of the 1981 act. Those sections do not currently have such a provision attached, and that inconsistency of approach to different offences requires to be addressed. The minister expressed sympathy for that approach at stage 2, but invited further discussion ahead of stage 3. I am grateful to her for the input that she and her officials have provided, and I hope that amendment 7 finds favour throughout the chamber.

Amendment 27 may prove a little less straightforward. Before I decide whether to press it, I will give some brief background information. The vicarious liability provisions that we have already discussed and which enjoy cross-party support do not currently apply to section 1(2) of the 1981 act. It is argued that that means that the measures are too narrowly defined, not least because it is the offence of possession with which many who are accused of bird of prey persecution can potentially be charged.

As the RSPB states in its briefing, its staff regularly assist police in inquiries in which illegal killing has taken place but

“often in the absence of admissions, there was no provable link to a suspect to connect them with the offences uncovered prior to the warrant. The only charges libelled are as a result of what is found on that one day. Without the inclusion of this offence, there is a risk that the new provisions will have only limited benefit.”

As I said, my proposal might well be a step too far for the minister at this stage, but I invite her to consider whether the partnership for action against wildlife crime might be asked to look at it, with a view to making recommendations ahead of a future criminal justice bill.

I welcome the minister’s assurance in her recent letter to the committee that she plans to add to PAWS’s already hefty workload by asking it to look at the issue of “concerned in” the use of. During discussion of my amendment on that at stage 2, the minister argued that an additional provision in the bill was not necessary as the matter was already covered by art and part. However, in response to questioning from Karen Gillon, she conceded that no successful prosecutions had been brought for wildlife crime under those provisions, so although I have no interest in adding to the toolbox another tool that will not be used, I believe that an assessment needs to be made of how the existing provisions can be made more effective in the fight against raptor persecution and other forms of wildlife crime. In that regard, the minister’s assurances are welcome.

I move amendment 7.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I welcome amendment 7 but, as amendment 27 would introduce a further unwelcome and unnecessary offence and would add to and widen the scope of vicarious liability, which I oppose, it will come as no surprise to Liam McArthur that I oppose it.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I appreciate the impetus for Liam McArthur’s amendment 7, so although I believe it to be of limited value in widening the scope for prosecutions under the 1981 act, I am content to support it. I also appreciate that there may be a desire to tinker with the Government’s vicarious liability provisions to see whether they could somehow be stretched further.

However, the vicarious liability provisions have been carefully constructed to target only those offences that are relevant to raptor persecution, which means that extending them to offences under section 1(2) of the 1981 act is problematic. That would not provide the right fit with the other underlying offences that the vicarious liability provisions cover. Section 1(2) is more likely to apply to those who take birds or eggs from the wild for breeding purposes than to those who kill or take wild birds. There is not the same link to persecution on which the vicarious liability provisions are predicated.

Extending the scope of the provisions in the way that Liam McArthur has proposed would go beyond those people and scenarios that vicarious liability is aimed at. I can understand that he may have been advised that extending the provisions to offences under section 1(2) of the 1981 act would provide an important addition to the fight against bird persecution, but that was not the conclusion that we reached with the police and the Crown Office during the development of the vicarious liability provisions. Apart from anything else, the complexity involved in developing due diligence guidance for a much wider group of people would be hugely increased.

The trade-off between the very small chance of an extra charge being brought under section 1(2) of the 1981 act, in addition to the offences that are covered by vicarious liability, and the possibility of unintended consequences arising from that change is not a good one, and I am not willing to take that risk. However, I agree to the proposal that PAWS should in future review vicarious liability and look at art and part. We are conscious that the issue will have to be constantly monitored.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I welcome the welcome for amendment 7, which I will press. I take on board the minister’s concerns about amendment 27 and welcome the suggestion that PAWS will be invited to look at art and part.

Amendment 7 agreed to.

Before section 20

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to group 10. Amendment 56, in the name of Peter Peacock, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Amendment 56 relates to the powers of the SSPCA, which were fully debated at stage 2. I understand the concerns that some members have about the issue.

The minister pointed out that the offer by the SSPCA—which, in my view, was a generous offer—to deploy resources to help fight wildlife crime raised important issues that should be properly consulted on before any decisions are made. I agree with that point. My amendment seeks to make provision for such consultation before the enactment of the powers that it contains.

The minister has indicated an alternative approach, whereby a criminal justice bill might provide a vehicle for change at some point in the future, and it would seem from earlier debates that a majority of people may prefer to follow that route. I understand that. The reason for amendment 56 is to reiterate my belief that the SSPCA could have an extremely important role to play in gearing up our ability to fight wildlife crime, particularly when police budgets are under such pressure.

However, amendment 56 has also been lodged to entice the minister to go a bit further than she has done before and indicate that the Government is committed to moving towards consultation at some point in the not-too-distant future. Such a consultation would allow all the necessary issues to be explored. If the minister is in a position to indicate that policy, I do not intend to push the issue further today.

I move amendment 56.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Scottish Conservatives remain strongly opposed to amendment 56, which would allow significant powers to be given to private, campaigning or single interest bodies that might have little or no accountability, as well as to the SSPCA. The answer to tackling wildlife crime lies in recruiting more police or special constables. There is, of course, nothing to prevent members of the SSPCA from becoming special constables as a means of channelling their zeal for the cause. Indeed, I am sure that the police would welcome such recruits. I trust that members will agree and will oppose amendment 56.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I have concerns about including a provision in the bill that could extend police powers without there having been any consultation. The significance of such a step should not be underestimated. At stage 2, I outlined issues of accountability, impartiality and independence that would require serious and considered deliberation. However, anything that might aid the enforcement of wildlife crime legislation is worthy of proper consultation so, in response to amendment 56, I give this Government’s commitment to consult on the issue in the future. I therefore ask Peter Peacock to withdraw amendment 56 and to allow for further consideration and proper consultation on this important issue.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I am grateful for the minister’s generous offer and I readily accept it. Whether she will have the chance to do anything about it is another matter, but I accept the offer in the spirit in which it was made. I seek leave to withdraw amendment 56.

Amendment 56, by agreement, withdrawn.

Section 20B—Liability in relation to certain offences by others

Amendment 27 not moved.

Before section 22

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

In group 11, amendment 28, in the name of Robin Harper, is grouped with amendments 30 to 33, 8 and 34.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

Red deer numbers are a major factor determining the nature, quality and extent of many of Scotland’s most important habitats and iconic species and the economic benefits, such as tourism, that they support. In the absence of natural predators, red deer numbers are determined by the management measures that we deploy. It is widely recognised that, in the past, such measures were not in the best interests of the natural environment. Formerly the Deer Commission for Scotland and now SNH have begun to address the issue. The measures that are already in the bill deliver a large number of the Deer Commission’s recommendations.

However, one of the Deer Commission’s key recommendations, which the Government supported in its first consultation, is missing: a general duty to manage deer sustainably. Amendment 28 seeks to rectify that omission. The amendment might not make a huge legal difference but placing sustainability at the forefront for the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 sends a strong message to deer managers and to those who will draft and agree the code of practice that the Parliament expects them to act with sustainability in the front of their minds and not just as a desirable afterthought.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

On one of the estates in my constituency, the National Trust for Scotland slaughtered many deer. Does the member consider that to be sustainable management? Is that a prime example of what he is talking about?

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I am not privy to the details of that particular incident. I must declare an interest here, which is my election to the board of the National Trust for Scotland. [Applause.]

The view is shared by all the non-governmental organisations involved in deer management including the John Muir Trust, the National Trust for Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland; it was the view of the Deer Commission, the Government’s adviser on deer at the time; and it is the view of the Government’s current adviser, whose chief executive recently wrote to the convener of the LINK deer task force, saying:

“We maintain the view that a duty on individual land managers to comply with a code of sustainable deer management would be beneficial in encouraging collaborative deer management”.

At stage 2, the minister reiterated that adviser’s comment, caveating it with a reference to “legal problems”. However, legal opinion has since been sought on those matters and I believe that amendment 28 would address any such concerns. It creates no specific offences and any criminal charges would be derived from other sections of the 1996 act.

Amendment 28 seeks to set a context and purpose for all the activities that are undertaken by SNH and other public bodies under the 1996 act and to put sustainability at the forefront of things. Instead of simply having an unwritten objective for all the processes that the bill establishes, the amendment seeks to set a clear and definitive outcome that those processes can achieve.

I move amendment 28.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Throughout our consideration of the bill, I, like other committee members, was made aware of the divergence of views over the need for a general duty on sustainable deer management. On balance, I remain of the view that the Government probably took the right approach in its backstop powers and that Robin Harper’s revised proposal in amendment 28 still goes too far.

Nevertheless, there are strong arguments for strengthening the code of practice and ensuring that it can and will be made effective. Although a voluntary approach might well be desirable it is clear that to date it has been too easy for those so minded to frustrate efforts to manage deer sustainably, however that is defined and to be achieved. Amendments 30 to 33, in my name, which cover ground that we touched on at stage 2, seek to address that matter.

Amendments 30 and 31 seek to require the code of practice to cover practice for sustainable deer management and collaboration on such management. It might seem inconceivable that that would not happen but, as I said at stage 2, even the possibility that such aspects might be absent from any code undermines confidence in its ability to achieve its objectives.

Amendment 32 returns to the issue of seeking to ensure that the code specifies arrangements for setting and implementing cull targets. Given that the greatest environmental risk from poor deer management stems from overgrazing, such a requirement seems logical. Circumstances in which there is no such risk—or, indeed, where additional numbers of deer are seen as desirable—can still be reflected in the code, but it should nevertheless be able to provide clear guidance on how cull levels are determined and, where necessary, on how they should be implemented.

Amendment 34 again seeks to deal with a matter discussed at stage 2 and, in lodging it, I have sought to deal with some concerns that the minister expressed in her response at that stage. A failure by the authorities, in this case SNH, to act where there has been a breach of the code would, I suspect, strike most people as a flaw in the system that we are putting in place. Given the extent of the powers that are available to SNH to act, that could and should not be on the basis of a technical or administrative breach. However, any failure to carry out management work required by the code or a management plan agreed in accordance with the code would seem to merit a response.

If amendment 34 is not acceptable to the minister, I would welcome at least clarification that the powers which SNH has at its disposal under sections 7 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are not limited to use in relation to sites of special scientific interest. That suggestion has been made by some stakeholders and any assurance that that is not the case and that those powers will be more widely applicable will go some way to allaying fears in that respect.

Finally—and self-evidently—for any code of practice to remain credible it will require to be updated. Amendment 8 is a modest affair that seeks to ensure that the code keeps pace with best practice and developing technologies.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Amendment 28 seeks to place a duty of sustainable deer management on public bodies and private individuals by requiring compliance with the deer code of practice. That is not appropriate, given that the code will contain guidance rather than duties or obligations with which a person will have to comply.

The amendments in the name of Liam McArthur would place obligations on SNH to set out in the deer code of practice certain matters such as recommendations on sustainable deer management provision and collaboration on deer management. As drafted, the bill gives SNH discretion over what it includes in the code. The latter is the better approach, as the bill should not be prescriptive about the code.

As a result, the Scottish Conservatives will not support the amendments in this group.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

We have considerable sympathy for the intentions behind the amendments. The committee was concerned about what happens when a landowner simply does not engage with the deer management group or ignores the code. The sanctions that are available when that happens have not been made clear. Both Robin Harper and Liam McArthur have attempted to strengthen the bill, and I welcome that very much. I also welcome the fact that Robin Harper proposes to state in the bill the need to manage deer sustainably. That is an omission, as we have not made that intention explicit in the bill. I am, therefore, happy to support the amendments in the names of Robin Harper and Liam McArthur.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Amendment 28 provides a vision for the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996. As admirable as that vision might be, it nevertheless neglects the other issues that the 1996 act covers. The amendment has the benefit of not engaging European convention on human rights issues, but that is because—with the best of intentions—it is meaningless. However, it is not benignly meaningless. It has the potential to create disputes between deer managers in the belief that they should take certain actions, and such disputes could ultimately end up in court. Amendment 28 would not add any clarity to the current deer management structure. I re-emphasise what I said at stage 2, which still applies despite Robin Harper’s attempts at refinement: the code cannot be a one-size-fits-all code; it will apply in different ways to different people in different circumstances. Amendment 28 should be resisted and I do not support it.

I turn to the amendments in the name of Liam McArthur on the code of practice. I am aware that there is some anxiety about what the code might cover. Since August 2010, SNH has been developing the code of practice with input from a wide range of stakeholders. The views that have been expressed in Parliament and among the different interests support the need to move forward on the code so that it can provide the clarity that we all seek. I have, therefore, asked SNH to provide ministers with a code of practice no later than six months from today. That will give Parliament the opportunity to consider the code and proceeds toward approval in autumn 2011. I hope that that satisfies Liam McArthur. It is with that in mind that I do not support amendments 30 to 33.

The bill currently provides a good steer as to what is expected of the code and those who are currently involved in its development. I do not think that making that compulsory, as amendment 30 would do, or setting out further areas for inclusion, as amendments 31, 32 and 33 would do, would add anything to the process. The code will include recommended practice for sustainable deer management. That clearly includes collaboration, which is mentioned in amendment 33, as well as consideration of whether culling is needed and, if so, the need for an agreed cull plan, which is dealt with by amendment 32. The code should also address other management measures such as deer fencing.

I am happy to support amendment 8, which provides for review of the code of practice by SNH from time to time.

However, I do not agree with the premise behind amendment 34, which would fundamentally change the intervention processes and shift the focus from outcomes and impacts to process. Either the process has not worked and an adverse impact is likely or has occurred, in which case section 7 will be engaged anyway, or no adverse impact is likely or has occurred, in which case a failure in process alone should not be a ground for intervention. If there is no adverse impact, why would a failure in process be used as justification to intervene? I do not support amendment 34.

I understand that there are concerns that the newly refined intervention powers in sections 7 and 8 of the 1996 act are limited to application on SSSIs, but that is not the case. SNH can consider using the intervention powers that are contained in sections 7 and 8 on any land, as defined in the 1996 act. In the past, the Deer Commission was hampered in its use of intervention powers by clunky procedures without clear timelines. The bill improves those powers and I expect that they will allow SNH to take action as and when required. I mentioned at stage 2 that the merger of the Deer Commission with SNH made me optimistic about the future of deer management. That feeling has been bolstered by a positive reaction from deer management groups on the approach that has been taken in the bill. They are fully seized of what is expected of them in the coming years.

I support amendment 8 but not the other amendments in the group. I hope that Liam McArthur is satisfied with what he has heard in respect of the issues that he is concerned about.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I have tried for the past 12 years, at various stages of various pieces of legislation, to introduce some kind of vision into the legislation. Amendment 28 represents my penultimate attempt to do so, and I intend to press it.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 28 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 17 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 28 disagreed to.

Section 22—Deer management etc

Amendment 57, in the name of Jamie McGrigor, is grouped with amendment 58.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The purpose of amendments 57 and 58 is to help to address concerns about sika deer in Scotland. [Interruption.]

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I am sorry, Mr McGrigor. There is far too much noise in the chamber.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Native to east Asia, sika have escaped from parks since the late 19th century and have become established in the wilds of Scotland. Their populations can reach higher densities than those of any other species in a similar habitat and they can cause significant damage to trees and agricultural production.

The main concern in relation to sika is their ability to interbreed with our native red deer and produce fertile offspring. Research into the matter was recently carried out by a team of international researchers in Kintyre and was published in the Journal of Animal Ecology in 2009. Professor Josephine Pemberton, of the University of Edinburgh, whose laboratory undertook the research, said:

“It is possible that a new type of deer with new ecological impacts will emerge … the ‘Mongrel of the Glens’ is a real possibility.”

The fact that, according to the Scottish Government’s own figures, sika now occupy more than 40 per cent of the red deer range underlines the seriousness of the problem.

I welcome the fact that some refuges for red deer that are free from sika deer genes have been established on west coast islands. However, it is my firm belief that we have an obligation to do much more to protect the genetic integrity of what is arguably Scotland’s most iconic animal. There are robust ecological, heritage and economic reasons to act. For visitors coming to Scotland, few experiences match the thrill of spotting a red deer stag on the hillside. However, the appeal of our tourism product will be markedly lessened if we cannot guarantee that what looks like a red deer is a red deer. Similarly, for people who come from across the globe to stalk and hunt our famous red deer, the appeal of doing so would undoubtedly be lessened should there be uncertainty about the purity of the red deer stock.

Last August, when I asked the minister, in a written question, about the Government’s aim with regards to sika, I was told that SNH had a statutory duty, under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 to

“further the conservation ... of deer” —[Official Report, Written Answers, 25 August 2010; S3W-35553.]

and that that applies to all deer in Scotland, including sika and hybrids.

Although any widespread efforts to eradicate sika would be neither desirable nor achievable, I believe that SNH should be developing a robust strategy to deal with sika in areas in which hybridisation is widespread. A statutory duty to conserve all deer would appear to militate against any such strategy.

The effect of the amendments is to remove the duty that is placed on SNH to conserve all deer and to replace it with a duty to conserve native deer. That is an important first step if we are serious about protecting the genetic purity of our native red deer.

I move amendment 57.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Sika deer, which were introduced to this country in the mid-1800s, can, as Jamie McGrigor has identified, interbreed with our native red deer to produce hybrids, which poses a significant threat to the native red deer. In addition, where populations are high, they can have a serious impact on woodlands and can cause accidents on roads. The risk that they pose to our native red deer has resulted in the Scottish ministers establishing refugia islands for red deer on the islands off the west coast.

I understand that the current structure of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 has not presented SNH and its predecessors with any obstacles in dealing with sika where they are causing adverse impacts. That said, amendment 58 is sensible and reflects the current practical situation on the ground. Furthermore, it does not change the species that are relevant to the remainder of the 1996 act. For that reason, and noting the consistency with the approach in the bill on invasive non-native species, I support amendments 57 and 58.

Amendment 57 agreed to.

Amendment 58 moved—[Jamie McGrigor]—and agreed to.

Amendment 29 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.

Section 23—Deer management code of practice

Amendments 30 to 33 not moved.

Amendment 8 moved—[Liam McArthur]—and agreed to.

Amendments 9 to 12 moved—[John Scott]—and agreed to.

Section 24—Control agreements and control schemes etc

Amendment 34 not moved.

Section 25—Deer: close seasons etc

Amendment 35 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.

Section 26—Register of persons competent to shoot deer etc

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

Group 13 is on the establishment of a register of persons competent to shoot deer—consultation. Amendment 13, in the name of John Scott, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Amendment 13 requires consultation to be carried out on regulations that set up the register of persons competent to shoot deer. As it stands, the bill simply allows ministers and SNH to set out the criteria for competence, with no assurance that the industry will be consulted. It is vital that work is done with the industry to develop the criteria, which should be sector led rather than top down. A lot of work is already being undertaken to develop competence on a voluntary basis, and the criteria that are being developed as a result of that work should be replicated if regulations are ever made under the bill.

I move amendment 13.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I support this important amendment. The industry feels that such consultation is extremely important, and it would be helpful if the minister could acknowledge that a great deal of work has already been done over the years, not least by estate managers in my constituency—on Deeside in particular—to ensure that people who are competent to shoot deer are recognised through obtaining the relevant vocational qualifications. The minister visited Glen Tanar estate in my neck of the woods, where this very point was put directly to her. I hope that she will feel able to accept the amendment, so that ministers consult those who have already done a great deal of work in this regard.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The decision on whether a compulsory competence system should be introduced, and on what form it should take, is ultimately one for ministers rather than anyone else. However, it is important that there is industry input into the process. Therefore, I support amendment 13.

Whether ministers ever get to the point of considering compulsory competence is very much in the hands of those organisations that wrote to me, offering to further competence on a voluntary basis. I understand that they have conducted discussions with organisations such as Lantra, which is a positive step. I am happy to endorse Mike Rumbles’s comments regarding stakeholder involvement and the work that they have done.

Any compulsory system should be based on existing qualifications and should include a practical element. There should be a system of recognition for equivalent foreign qualifications. I see no point in reinventing the wheel. Uptake is the key issue. I very much look forward to seeing the industry make good progress.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The game and wildlife management industry group of the sector skills council—Lantra—has responsibility for improving national occupational standards. There is serious concern that the process of setting standards that cover all necessary skills and of developing vocational qualifications that are appropriate to employers’ needs could be undermined if the regulations were made and criteria for competence were determined solely by SNH. I welcome the support from Mike Rumbles and the Liberals and from the minister.

Amendment 13 agreed to.

After section 26B

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

Group 14 is on deer injured by motor vehicles. Amendment 59, in the name of Jamie McGrigor, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Anyone who regularly drives through areas such as Glen Coe often sees the carcases of deer by the side of the road. That is the case elsewhere in the north of Scotland. I have no doubt that the flashing warning signs that were recently installed in Glen Coe following lobbying by me and others have reduced the number of such collisions. However, accidents involving red deer remain too frequent.

It has been my distressing experience on occasion to come across deer that are badly wounded and obviously in great pain as a result of being hit by vehicles and left to die. I am concerned that many people are not aware of what to do if they hit a deer and cripple it or if they find a deer in the circumstances that I have described. I am grateful to the retired Dalmally policeman Christopher Gillespie for giving me his experience on the issue. He found that people would bring wounded deer to him at the police station. He informed me of something called the SHAMPOG pool that is taught at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan. SHAMPOG stands for sheep, horses, asses, mules, pigs, ox and goats. People must report to the police any accident involving an animal on that list, but it does not include deer.

That adds to my theory that wounded deer are left lying in pain at the side of the road. In my view, that situation should be changed. The answer is clearly a matter of education. I therefore urge SNH to look into the matter and to address what is undoubtedly a gap in the code of good practice regarding deer welfare. Amendment 59 seeks to clarify in the bill that SNH can take measures to ensure that drivers are made aware of whom to contact following a collision with a deer. I commend it to members.

I move amendment 59.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I share Jamie McGrigor’s concern about the increase in road accidents involving deer, particularly as deer come down from the hills and are more in and about urban areas. We have touched on the issue in the bill, which requires SNH to take account of public safety in exercising its deer functions, and that includes the issue that Jamie McGrigor raises. I reassure him that there is SNH best practice on the humane dispatch of deer, including following a vehicle collision. In most cases, the advice is to call the police. Irrespective of whether people are aware of the advice, I hope that any motorist or their passenger who is faced with such a situation would do just that. It is difficult to see what else one could expect the average motorist or their passenger to do, given that most people do not have veterinary experience, which is really the only other thing that might be helpful.

Therefore, although I share Jamie McGrigor’s sentiment, I do not think that amendment 59 would further the issue in any practical way, so I do not support it. However, I recognise the concern that is being expressed and share it.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The minister might consider the possibility of getting deer added to the SHAMPOG pool, which I explained earlier. However, on the strength of what she has said, I am prepared to accept that something will be done about the issue, so I seek to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 59, by agreement, withdrawn.

Section 27—Protection of badgers

Amendment 36 moved—[Elaine Murray]—and agreed to.

After section 28A

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

Group 15 is on biodiversity duty and strategy. Amendment 37, in the name of Robin Harper, is grouped with amendment 60.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity was agreed at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In 2004, Scotland’s commitment to such objectives was made in the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, which introduced a general biodiversity duty and the concept of a biodiversity strategy to co-ordinate Government and public sector work towards the common goals.

Unfortunately, Scotland failed to meet its biodiversity targets for 2010. It is widely felt that part of the reason for that was foreseen in 2004, when Roseanna Cunningham said:

“I still have some concerns that the bill as drafted”

—that is, the 2004 act—

“basically requires a strategy to be designated and requires some reporting, yet does not actually require any actions to be taken.”—[Official Report, Environment and Rural Development Committee, 28 January 2004; c 655.]

That remains a key criticism of the strategy: it is a vision without actions.

The objective of amendment 37 is to ensure that future biodiversity strategies require future Governments to be honest about what they will do for biodiversity through mainstream policies. It would ensure that the strategy sets out objectives and—more important—what our various key Government departments, policies and measures would contribute to achieving those objectives.

It seems so fundamental to me that I am not sure how anyone can call a document that is missing such elements a strategy. I very much hope that the minister will take this opportunity to put right the deficiency that she herself saw in the 2004 act and strengthen the statutory basis for Scotland’s biodiversity process.

I move amendment 37.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I support Robin Harper’s amendment. Amendment 60, in my name, is on reporting against our biodiversity obligations, which was debated fully at stage 2.

The minister indicated at stage 2 that she would work with me to try to agree on an amendment at stage 3 to cover the point, which resulted in amendment 60. It is quite technical in nature, but given that it was e-mailed to me from the minister’s office, I hope that she will not find any technical flaws in it.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Robin Harper quite rightly drew attention to Scotland’s failure to meet its biodiversity targets. I think that he would agree that Scotland is not unique in that respect, as it is an accusation that can be levelled at many member states.

The risk all along has been that the bill would be open to having all manner of different issues hung on it. There were certainly early efforts to try to backfill a narrative into the legislation.

I have a great deal of sympathy for much of what Robin Harper has suggested. The work on that will certainly continue and should be progressed with a degree of urgency after May, by the next Government and Parliament, but I am not entirely sure that it is appropriate in the context of this bill.

Peter Peacock’s amendment on reports is probably something that we can agree to, to move the agenda forward, pending more significant and substantive action in the next parliamentary session.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The biodiversity strategy could no doubt be improved but, as I pointed out in the stage 2 discussions, the strategy in its current form already touches on the issues that Robin Harper’s amendment proposes to list in statute. Listing specific policy areas that the strategy must cover risks compartmentalising biodiversity to those areas. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity was revised in Nagoya in October last year and now emphasises the need to mainstream biodiversity across Government policy. We should all support mainstreaming, but I doubt that amendment 37 is the way to achieve it.

Setting out such requirements in the strategy will be a bureaucratic process. It will find itself quickly out of date, and it is not where we can best focus our efforts. To mainstream biodiversity successfully, different areas across the public sector must actively consider how biodiversity impacts on their policy and how they impact on biodiversity. Effort spent aligning policy documents in a perpetual cycle will be of limited benefit at best and a bureaucratic exercise at worst. For those reasons, I do not support amendment 37.

I turn to amendment 60, in the name of Peter Peacock. I note his acknowledgement of the Government’s generosity in this entire process. I recognise that Audit Scotland and others have rightly identified the lack of a reporting requirement in the biodiversity duty as a significant weakness. Of course, the benefit of introducing a reporting requirement to the duty has to be balanced against the negative impact of adding bureaucratic burdens such as that proposed in amendment 37, particularly in the current financial climate. By allowing public bodies to use existing reporting structures, I am pleased that amendment 60 strikes the right balance and will encourage public bodies to mainstream actions for biodiversity within their activities, which really ought to satisfy what Robin Harper is trying to achieve. For that reason, I am able to support amendment 60, which might not come as an enormous surprise to anybody.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

The intention of amendment 37, which I would have thought was obvious, is to ensure that, across the board, Government departments raise their heads above the silos and talk to each other about biodiversity strategy—quite the opposite to the compartmentalisation that the minister suggested would result from my amendment. I will press amendment 37.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 37 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 18 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 37 disagreed to.

Amendment 60 moved—[Peter Peacock].

The question is, that amendment 60 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division.

Division number 19 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 106, Against 16, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 60 agreed to.

Section 35—Commencement and short title

Amendment 38 moved—[Roseanna Cunningham]—and agreed to.

That ends consideration of amendments.