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The RSPB's Lloyd Austin
"It's an activity that Donald Dewar {late first minister} called a national disgrace"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 16:17 GMT
Minister gets tough on wildlife crime
Golden Eagle
Golden Eagles are often targeted by criminals
Scotland's environment minister has unveiled plans to get tough on the "selfish plunder" of the country's wildlife.

Sam Galbraith announced a range of measures - including plans to jail persistent offenders.

He also said he wanted to reward those who look after the country's "outstanding natural heritage".

The proposals have won the backing of wildlife groups - and earned a cautious welcome from farmers.

We want to reward better the careful stewardship of Scotland's most special natural places

Environment Minister Sam Galbraith
Mr Galbraith announced the policy statement, entitled the Nature of Scotland, on Wednesday.

"For the most part, Scotland's outstanding natural heritage is the result of the careful stewardship of the land over many centuries," he said.

"We want to reward better the careful stewardship of Scotland's most special natural places.

"But the selfish plunder by a few people of Scotland's nature for personal gain is a sickening crime which robs everyone of our heritage."

He said the new measures were designed to help police get tough on wildlife crime - and would allow the courts to jail persistent offenders.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith unveiled the plans
International wildlife crime is believed to be worth about 2bn a year, making it the second most profitable criminal trade - behind only drug trafficking.

It covers the persecution of birds and animals, damage and destruction of wild plants, the killing of birds to protect grouse shooting, the theft of rare birds' eggs and the poisoning and trapping of rare birds.

Mr Galbraith plans to extend current legislation by making it a crime to accidentally damage rare wildlife.

There is currently a maximum 5,000 fine for each rare egg stolen, but the courts have no power to jail offenders.

Mr Galbraith plans bring Scotland into line with England by introducing legislation which would mean anyone destroying Scotland's rare wild birds, animals or plants could face a prison term.

Getting tough

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said it was "a good day for Scottish wildlife".

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden backed the plan to get tough on offenders.

He said: "For too long levels of wildlife crime have been unacceptably high.

"Some birds of prey, including the goshawk and the white-tailed eagle, have been driven to complete extinction by wildlife criminals.

"Others, such as the golden eagle and the hen harrier, have had their population reduced to less than 100 pairs."

Wild snowdrops are a favourite with thieves
National Farmers' Union of Scotland (NFUS) vice president John Kinnaird said the proposals were a step forward.

He said normal commercial operations were almost impossible in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

"We accept that, but subject to the condition that there must be compensation for the exact costs and any loss of revenue," he said.

"What appears to be now proposed is direct help to pay for farmers who provide 'services' for SSSI maintenance by virtue of the way they farm.

"But this must not deflect attention from the adequacy of compensation for management restrictions. Both are needed."

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