A TORY MSP has been criticised for proposing that experienced animal trappers over the age of 40 should automatically be granted licences and not have to undergo a mandatory training course.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament aims to regulate the grouse shooting industry and its associated activities – including the trapping of animals such as foxes, weasels, rabbits and crows. 

The Scottish Government plans to ban the use of snares and require all those using traps to have a wildlife trap licence.

Currently, the legislation proposes that licences should only be granted to applicants who have “completed an approved training course in respect of the type of trap in question”.

However, an amendment proposed by Scottish Conservative MSP Edward Mountain (below) states that any applicant born on or before December 31, 1983 with more than 10 years of trapping experience should be exempt from this requirement.

The National: Edward Mountain MSP

A blog post by Raptor Persecution Scotland questioned the rationale behind Mountain’s amendment.

It read: “Why should anyone over the age of 40 years be exempt from completing a training course?!

“Nobody should be exempt if they are using traps to kill a sentient being, let alone anyone over the seemingly arbitrarily-chosen age of 40!

“Given the wide age-range of gamekeepers convicted for wildlife crime, including trap offences, there’s no evidence to support an exemption from training for the over 40s.”

MSPs are currently submitting their proposed amendments to the bill, which will be scrutinised by the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee in Holyrood later this month.

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Max Wiszniewski, campaign manager for Revive – a coalition of organisations calling for the reform of Scotland’s grouse moors – told The National that the bill needed to go further.

He said: “The grouse moor reform bill may be a major intervention into land management practices in Scotland but it needs to go further for our people, wildlife and environment.

“Three quarters of Scots are against the killing of wildlife and the burning of our land that takes place on grouse moors, so more grouse can be shot for sport.

“This killing to kill and burning to kill needs to end and if any amendments to the bill are submitted to that end it will be very well supported”.

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The bill also seeks to ban the use of snares in Scotland over concern that they “can lead to unacceptable levels of suffering for wild animals”.

However, gamekeepers insist that "humane cable restraints" should not be included in the snare ban claiming that live capture traps are not an effective alternative. 

A report commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland found snares catch "roughly" as many non-target species as they do foxes, including pine martens, badgers, deer and hare. 

The Scottish Conservatives were contacted for comment.