New deer management orders could contravene human rights according to Scotland’s largest shooting organisation

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has written to the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater, ahead of a major consultation into deer management changes in Scotland.

The consultation which closes on Friday 29 March, raises six key themes around deer management changes.

BASC has serious concerns regarding many themes, most notably, the proposals around Deer Management Nature Restoration Orders (DMNROs) contained within the Scottish Government’s consultation ‘Managing Deer for Climate and Nature’.

In the letter to the Minister, BASC said DMNROs would be ‘highly susceptible to judicial review or other legal challenge’.

DMNROs pose significant issues according to BASC, as they lack appropriate procedures and are poorly defined. Their introduction lacks a clear rationale, unlike Control Orders under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, which are a last resort measure backed by criminal law.

The organisation is concerned these orders rely on subjective terms like ‘restoration of nature’ and ‘social, economic, or environmental benefits,’ leading to wide discretion without detailed guidance for land managers.

Further to this, BASC outlined that DMNROs could present challenges in relation to compliance with human rights obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), notably Article 1 of Protocol 1 (A1P1) guaranteeing peaceful enjoyment of possessions (including land).

The organisation is concerned that the imposition of unreasonable, poorly explained and disproportionate legislation affecting landowners and occupiers does not contribute to the maintenance of good working relationships between the government and rural stakeholders.

BASC met with the Minister Lorna Slater today, to discuss these concerns in more detail.

Peter Clark, BASC Scotland director said:

“We do not consider deer to be a national problem, rather that certain species in certain areas are a problem.

“A more targeted approach should be adopted, rather than the draconian powers brought about the DMNRO. The plan to impose a penalty on landowners for non-compliance with the new orders, in the form of a £40,000 fine and 3 months imprisonment is an egregious example of this.

“DMNROs could interfere with basic rights outlined in the ECHR, because unlike current powers around Control Orders, they lack a rational and well-explained basis for their imposition.

“The Scottish Government cannot keep introducing more regulation on deer management without the necessary incentivisation for deer managers”.