LICENSED beaver killings have been ordered to halt and previous culls authorised by a Scottish Government agency have been deemed unlawful in a court ruling.

Trees for Life sought a judicial review claiming NatureScot is breaking the law by failing to make the killing of beavers a last resort when land management is required.

The charity is calling for the protected species to be relocated to other parts of Scotland rather than culled. A Court of Session judge ruled that by not issuing written reasons for granting licences to kill beavers, NatureScot has been unlawful.

In a written judgment published yesterday, Lady Carmichael said: “The first respondent [NatureScot] has a general practice of issuing licences without giving reasons for doing so. In approaching matters on the basis that it has no duty to give reasons for granting a licence, the first respondent has erred in law.

READ MORE: Four men charged after wildlife crime probe in rural Scotland

“The contention is that the licences should have been reviewed and revoked because they should never have been issued in the first place.”

The court ruled NatureScot must set out openly and fully the reasons why it believes any future licence to kill beavers should be granted.

Out of the five complaints issued by Trees for Life under consideration by the court, four were rejected.

Lady Carmichael added that she was “not satisfied” with some of the arguments put forward by Trees for Life about NatureScot’s “generalised unlawful practices”, adding, “in a number of instances their [Trees for Life] criticisms are misconceived”.

Alan McDonnell, Trees for Life conservation manager, said: “The Scottish Government must take this ruling seriously, and it means that from here on in there can be no more rubber-stamping of licensed killing of beavers. This is an important victory for accountability and transparency, which will benefit everyone including conservationists and farmers.”

Robbie Kernahan of NatureScot said: “We welcome the court’s decision which, for the most part, vindicates our licensing approach.

“We have been successful on all points of law except that we should have issued written reasons with each licence to explain why it had been granted.”