News In Focus
Wildlife crime agencies at odds, MSPs report
Tensions and lack of trust between bodies represented on a group set up to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland have been highlighted in a letter from a Holyrood committee to Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.
The letter follows evidence taken by the Land Reform, Climate Change & Environment Committee on the annual report for 2015 on Wildlife Crime in Scotland, by Police Scotland and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service.
Particularly in relation to the persecution of birds of prey, which saw a 19% increase in incidents over the year, the committee heard "clear evidence" of voluntary protocols not being followed in the PAWS (Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland) raptor group, whose membership includes Police Scotland, the RSPB and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.
A police witness told the committee that they largely face a "wall of silence” investigating such crimes, as they are often carried out by local people, potentially as part of their employment. But whereas the police recognised the work of the police in buiilding up relationships with stakeholders in local areas, it also records its concern that RSPB takes a different line in investigations, believing that direct approaches to landowners over a missing tagged bird will only give perpetrators the opportunity to get rid of evidence before it is found.
The letter states: "The committee clearly recognises the tensions and the lack of trust which exist between some member organisations. It was particularly concerned by the admission of RSPB Scotland that it openly ignored PAWS protocols. Nevertheless the Committee believes PAWS, both at community and national levels, can play an enormously important role in the prevention of wildlife crime."
It asks Ms Cunningham, as chair of the PAW Scotland Executive Group, for an update "on whether you consider it is still an important tool in fighting wildlife crime and if so, what can be done to strengthen its work and resolve conflict between partner organisations, particularly as it appears it has not met since late 2015". It also invites her to consider whether the voluntary protocols should be made mandatory.
Click here to view the letter.