SCOTTISH ministers are to push ahead with a full ban on snares – despite pleas from gamekeepers to bring in a licensing scheme to allow use of the devices to continue.

Environment minister Gillian Martin confirmed the Government will legislate for a “full ban on the use of snares” and would “not include a licensing scheme for any purpose”.

She insisted that the decision “has not been taken lightly” but added: “The evidence I have seen demonstrates that the use of any kind of snare has unacceptable risks to animal welfare of both target and non-target species and that there are more humane alternative methods available.”

Confirmation that the Government intends to bring in a full ban comes the day after gamekeepers told MSPs at Holyrood they would be in “dire straits” if snares are banned.

READ MORE: Gamekeepers claim snare ban will leave them in 'dire straits'

Ross Ewing, of Scottish Land and Estates, suggested a licensing scheme could be set up so the devices could still be used where there is no other method that could be used to control creatures such as foxes.

He said this would be a “compromise approach that would ultimately enable humane cable restraints to continue to be used under licence”.

However, in a letter sent to Ewing the day after he gave evidence to MSPs, the environment minister said she would seek to amend the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill to include a “full ban on the use of snares”.

The minister told Ewing: “I recognise this decision will be disappointing to you and for many of the land managers you represent.”

Ewing said afterwards: “Today is a dark day for biodiversity, wildlife and rural livelihoods.

“Anger and disappointment will reverberate through Scotland’s land management community on the back of this decision.

“In less than a year, the Scottish Government has taken steps to systematically decimate the toolkit for fox control – first by curtailing the ability to use dogs to flush foxes, and now bringing forward an outright ban on the use of snares and HCRs (humane cable restraints).

“To do so at a time where biodiversity is hanging in the balance is unconscionable, and it is Scotland’s most threatened, iconic species that will suffer as a result.”

The National: Capercaillie

He warned that foxes pose an “existential threat” to many bird species such as lapwing, capercaillie (above), golden plover, curlew, meadow pipit, merlin, snipe and hen harriers.

Ewing added: “Perhaps what is most exasperating is the timing of this decision – which comes just 24 hours after representatives of Scotland’s land management community gave evidence to the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee on the subject.

“It is not unreasonable to suggest that any meaningful consideration of that evidence at the ministerial level would take longer, and it rather feels like yesterday’s evidence session was a meaningless exercise.”

Jake Swindells, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, also hit out at the Government as he said: “Today’s decision is nothing but an affront to the rural community and poses a serious threat to biodiversity and conservation.

“It is, frankly, an insult that the Scottish Government can claim it has reflected or weighed up the evidence when rural stakeholders provided evidence to MSPs only yesterday.

“By continuing to remove vital tools required to carry out fox control, the Scottish Government is condemning threatened species like the curlew and capercaillie to continued decline and possible extinction”.

Animal welfare groups spoke out in favour of the outright ban being proposed by Scottish ministers yesterday (Wednesday 8) whilst providing evidence.

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn, of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), told gamekeepers: “You can rebrand them as you like, from what I see the humane cable restraint to all intents and purposes is a snare.”

He highlighted the “totally indiscriminate” nature of the traps, saying “about half” the animals they see which are caught in them are “non-target species”, such as cats and badgers.

He told the committee: “The injuries we find are horrendous. I’m not talking about just a wee animal in distress. I’m talking about disembowelment and stuff.

“There is no guarantee the animals will be caught round the neck. You get something like a badger round the midriff it is going to do incredible damage.”

Speaking in favour of a ban, he said: “It comes back to the actual suffering caused by them, it is unnecessary.

“I do not believe for one second any bona fide gamekeeper has ever put a snare out with the intention of causing an animal to suffer, I’m not saying that is their intention, but that is in reality what happens.”

Bob Elliot, director of animal charity OneKind, said: “A lot of the snaring work is going on because people want to protect their game birds for shooting. That is essentially what is going on.”

Speaking about the devices, he stated: “These have been banned elsewhere in Europe, Wales have done it, we should do the same.”