RSPB Scotland has urged MSPs to back legislation to introduce a licensing system for grouse shooting, as it recorded further cases of protected raptors “disappearing”.

The charity said 35 satellite-tagged birds of prey suspiciously disappeared on Scotland’s grouse moors between 2017 and 2022. This included eight golden eagles, 21 hen harriers and five white-tailed eagles.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill currently going through Holyrood is intended to regulate the grouse shooting industry and bring in a code of practice for land management.

Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland said crimes against protected birds are continuing despite attempts by law enforcement to stop it.

He said: “These crimes have continued for decades because the chances of being caught are tiny, and even in the rare instances when the links to individuals or landholdings have been clear, sanctions imposed have proven to have had little effect in stopping criminal activity in many cases.

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“A meaningful deterrent in the form of licensing of grouse shooting is now urgently required, including the sanction to stop or suspend grouse shooting if links between land management activities and raptor crimes are confirmed by Police Scotland and NatureScot. We are calling on all MSPs to support the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Billproposals now passing through the Scottish Parliament.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “As members of the Scottish Parliament prepare to debate the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill at Holyrood next week, they will be very concerned to hear that in late July this year, yet another satellite-tagged golden eagle vanished, in identical suspicious circumstances to its many predecessors, in this same intensively-managed area of grouse moors in Inverness-shire.”

The bill implements much of the Werritty review recommendations of December 2019, which called for widespread changes to grouse moor management and the regulation of traps in Scotland.

However some rural businesses and landowners are strongly opposed to the legislation, saying many jobs rely on grouse shooting.