by Jamie Stewart

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone has lodged an amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Bill. If supported, the amendment would make mountain hares a protected species, effectively ending managed control.  The Lothians MSP who also has a proposed member’s bill to end the killing of the hares and foxes, seeks to introduce the protections sooner in stage 3 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart said: “Claims that ‘controversial culls of mountain hares in the Scotland have led to drastic population declines’ may well make good reading in press releases but is far from conclusive. In fact, recent studies show not only that there are stable numbers of hares, but that they are actually more abundant on grouse moors”. Rather than calling for the cessation on managed moors, Mss Johnstone should perhaps back research into the lack of mountain hares on unmanaged moorland across Scotland.

A GWCT paper studying data up to 2017 found that indicators of mountain hare abundance suggest numbers are up to 35 times higher on areas managed for driven grouse shooting, compared to either walked-up grouse moors or those which are not managed for shooting at all. Whilst hares are shot on some estates, grouse moor management offers increased food supply for hares through management of heather, as well as predator control which can reduce the risk of predation.

“The management of mountain hares is already subject to legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2011 and was subjected to further scrutiny by the Scottish Government appointed Grouse Moor Management Group “the Werritty review”. We await further opportunity to debate the Scottish Governments response.   It is therefore disappointing that Mss Johnstone once again seeks to force through legislation based on rhetoric and allegation over science”.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance will brief MSPs on a range of issues ahead of the debate scheduled for Wednesday the 17th June.

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