Wildlife Reforms in Scotland


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Keywords: Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill, Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Scottish Natural Heritage, game, close seasons, snares, non-native species, deer, rights of occupiers and landowners, register of competence to shoot deer, Codes of Practice, SSSIs, restoration notices, Areas of Special Protection, licences, badgers, muirburn, enforcement

Abstract: The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in 2010. The Bill proposes a number of significant changes to the law in Scotland, replacing most of the existing law on game and poaching and introducing new controls on the use of snares. Further provisions will ban the release of non-native species and introduce new control measures for those that are in the wild. Other measures adjust the law on deer, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, wildlife licensing and muirburn. Although making many welcome changes, the Bill is a miscellany of assorted reforms rather than the expression of a single vision for the future of wildlife law, aspects of which will remain in a fragmented state.


In June 2010 the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill1 was introduced to the Scottish Parliament. This Bill proposes a number of significant changes to the law in Scotland, most notably in relation to game and non-native species, but is a miscellany of assorted reforms rather than the expression of a single vision for the future of wildlife law. This paper, written before any of the parliamentary stages had begun, outlines the main provisions of the Bill as it was introduced to the Parliament and attempts to put them in context.


The proposals in the present Bill are intended to 'modernise outdated statute, address anomalies and weaknesses in current provision and enhance the sustainable management of the natural environment for the public interest'.2 As such it fits with one of the strategic objectives of the Scottish Government - to achieve a 'Greener Scotland' - and contributes to the National Outcome that 'We value and enjoy our built and natural environment and will protect and enhance it for future generations'.3 The political realities of a government with no majority in Parliament, and therefore limited opportunities to promote more politically divisive legislation, have undoubtedly helped this measure to find its way into the legislative schedule.

The Bill is not the product of a single source but is the vehicle to carry out a range of reforms and assorted tidying up exercises, with different parts of the Bill having separate origins. Some measures arise from the various reviews and reports on non-native species that have been produced at British and Scottish levels over the past decade;4 some are leftovers from the debates as the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 was introduced; some measures, such as reforms to the game laws, have been under consideration for many years; whilst others, dealing with aspects of the law on deer, were prompted by discussions over the merger of the Deer Commission for Scotland with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).5

A Consultation Paper covering a wide range of issues was published in June 2009,6 supported by a series of stakeholder meetings, and the Bill that has emerged does not carry forward all of the proposals initially made.7 The most striking provisions in the Bill are those on game and non-native species, but there are significant alterations in other areas.

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