A SHOOTING group is demanding clarity from the Scottish Government on when the grouse moor licencing scheme will come into force.

In March, the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill was passed by MSPs by 85 votes to 30.

It promised to introduce a licencing scheme for shooting grouse as well as ban the use of snares and more tightly regulate the controlled burning of heather and other plants on moors known as muirburn. 

The legislation was introduced in part to try and end the illegal persecution of birds of prey on grouse moors, which has blighted the sector's reputation for decades. 

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However, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) have written to Minister for Agriculture Jim Fairlie to ask whether the licencing scheme will be in force before the commencement of the grouse shooting season on August 12.

They are seeking a confirmed date for when the scheme will be fully operational.

BASC Scotland director Peter Clark said businesses were concerned that the online system for licence applications was not yet in place.

“Our members are concerned that with the Scottish Government seeking to introduce grouse shoot licensing before the 12th August, that time is running out,” he said.

“All businesses need time to adapt to major changes, and grouse shooting is no exception.

The grouse shooting season is set to begin on August 12The grouse shooting season is set to begin on August 12

“The grouse shooting sector in Scotland must not be placed in such a situation so close to its most important date, given the risk to jobs, livelihoods and the rural economy.

“We have written to the Minister seeking assurance that our sector will not be left in an uncertain situation”.

Fairlie is due to speak at the Scottish Land & Estates moorland conference next week (June 11). 

In the wake of the bill's passing, he said there would be "no victory parade" from ministers but added that the law was a necessary step to stop the illegal killing of raptors. 

“There are those who disagree with the principles of this bill," he said. 

“But had the grouse shooting community shut down raptor persecution, had stopped killing our most iconic birds of prey, we would not have had to legislate in this way.

“But, sadly, they didn’t shut it down, so now it’s up to us to make sure that they do." 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill is a significant step in our wider journey to ensure Scotland’s environment is managed sustainably.

“Work continues at pace to ensure that the Bill delivers for both the environment and our rural communities."