General licence consultation open for Scottish farmers

General licence consultation has opened for Scottish farmers and landowners to participate in
General licence consultation has opened for Scottish farmers and landowners to participate in

A new 12-week consultation on general licences in Scotland has been launched amid ongoing legal challenges in England.

The consultation covers circumstances when wild birds can be controlled under general licences in Scotland.

All wild birds are protected by law. However, they can be controlled to prevent serious damage to crops and to protect public health, for example.

General licences avoid the need for people to apply for individual licences for these specific situations.

According to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), who have launched the consultation, general licences must strike a balance between conservation and other legitimate interests.

Robbie Kernahan, Head of Wildlife Management, said: “Our role is to help wild birds thrive, but we must balance this with making sure the public is safe from health and safety risks, as well as ensuring that farmers can protect their crops.

“We have brought forward our planned consultation in light of the ongoing legal challenges in England.

“We want to ensure that our licences take into account the implications of those challenges and remain clear, proportionate and fit-for-purpose,” he said.

The consultation will provide the body with feedback and will allow the consideration of any changes to the current set of licenses for 2020.

It is looking for feedback specifically on the three most commonly used general licences: those covering conserving wild birds, preventing damage to agricultural interests, and protecting public health and safety.

Mr Kernahan added: “We would like to reassure those who are currently operating under the current 2019 general licences in Scotland that these remain in place, allowing those who comply with the conditions to continue to use them.”

Defra Secretary Michael Gove recently accused Natural England for 'failing to deliver' new general licences following its decision to revoke three of them in April.

The statutory agency temporarily revoked the licences for controlling wild birds in a move English farmers called 'irresponsible'.