Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 14:20 UK

MoD accused of 'wildlife crime'

Golden plover
The golden plover is one of the birds which nests in the area

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of committing a wildlife crime after heath fires were caused by a military exercise at Cape Wrath.

Highland and Islands MSP Rob Gibson said it appeared that some rare nesting birds had been killed by the blaze, which was started by tracer bullets.

The MoD denied that it had damaged birds and said it was carrying out "essential training".

About two square miles was affected by the blaze.

Mr Gibson claimed the MoD's actions had the potential to destroy the young of rare species such as red grouse, merlins, sky larks and golden plover.

The SNP MSP has called for a review of activities and told BBC Radio Scotland: "I think the MoD has got to stop this.

"Here we are having a wildlife crime debate at the parliament this week. To me this is a wildlife crime."

However, the MoD said it did not train irresponsibly.

A spokeswoman added: "Wildlife and flora continue to flourish and be protected on military training areas, often thanks to armed force wildlife and conservation teams across Scotland and the rest of the UK."

She said the environmental advice was that the heather and grass would grow back.

Concerns were raised earlier in the year by environmental groups and local farmers about the damage and disturbance Nato exercises were causing in the area, especially during the lambing season.

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