9. Priority Work for 2016
While this report is for 2015, there is clearly considerable public interest in on-going work to combat wildlife crime, and this section has been included to provide a brief update on the most high profile areas of work being taken forward in 2016 and beyond. Where appropriate, further details will be provided in subsequent annual reports.
Review of Game Bird Shooting Regulation
During a debate on wildlife crime in the Scottish Parliament in May 2014, the Scottish Government committed to undertake a review of the regulation of game bird hunting in other countries.
This work was intended to be commenced after completion of the wildlife crime penalties review and the tender was awarded early in 2016. The review of game bird hunting in other countries was put out to tender by SNH in January 2016 and will be published shortly.
The review has concentrated on shooting regimes which have similarities to practices in Scotland, and will provide a reference to other legislative and practical mechanisms which are in place elsewhere. The review will not provide recommendations but instead will provide a greater level of information to inform future policy decision making.
Review of Satellite Tagging Data
After numerous reports of missing satellite tagged raptors in 2016, the Cabinet Secretary announced a review of satellite tracking data to find out more about the pattern of disappearances of satellite tagged birds of prey and whether there are
any patterns of suspicious activity. The Cabinet Secretary advised that it was important to establish how, where and why raptors with functioning tags seem to regularly disappear and this review will add to the evidence base and become a significant factor in deciding the next steps for tackling wildlife crime.
The review will investigate a massive data set on satellite tagged raptors, much of it funded and held by RSPB, Highland Foundation for Wildlife and Natural Research. The review will report on the fate of tagged birds, the distribution of losses and known and adjudged causes of loss. It will attempt to determine the significance of these losses nationally and regionally, and factors associated with these. Drawing on international research, the review will comment on the reliability of tags, any effects of tags on raptors, and any inferences on the value of the techniques employed in Scotland. The review will be limited to data relating to missing tagged golden and white tailed eagles, hen harriers and red kites but will also draw on data from tagged ospreys.
Led by Scottish Natural Heritage in association with experienced and respected researchers in this area, the review will be scientifically robust, and peer-reviewed.
Programme for Government 2016
Commitments to tackle wildlife crime were made by the Scottish Government in the Programme for Government (PfG), published on 6 September 2016.
"We must protect the environment from those who seek to damage it for personal gain. We will increase the penalties for wildlife crime and consider the creation of new sentencing guidelines in line with recommendations from the Wildlife Crimes Penalties Review Group. Police Scotland will create a new Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit to support the existing network of wildlife crime officers in complex investigations.
In order to safeguard vulnerable species from illegal persecution, we will carry out a review of prevention measures including the operation of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime and supporting Police Scotland in their work to target wildlife crime hotspots. We are prepared to introduce legislation where necessary.
We will consider the outcome of Lord Bonomy's review into whether existing legal controls on hunting with dogs provide the intended level of protection for foxes and other wild mammals, while allowing for the effective and humane control of these animals where required."
These commitments are far ranging and varied and will require a number of approaches for implementation; including the identification of legislative vehicles and a review of existing set-ups such as the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. Details of these various pieces of work will be announced as they are finalised.
Since the PfG was announced, Lord Bonomy's review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 has been published and submitted to Scottish Ministers for consideration.
Additionally, the Scottish Sentencing Council published its Business Plan for 2015-18 on 6 October 2016, and this has confirmed that preparatory work to create new sentencing guidelines for environmental and wildlife crime will be commenced.