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Charity Trees for Life delighted by Lady Carmichael's Court of Session ruling that past beaver culls sanctioned by NatureScot were unlawful and must halt

By Alasdair Fraser

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European Beaver (Castor fiber) eating Lilly roots amongst lilies in flower (Scotland the Big Picture)
European Beaver (Castor fiber) eating Lilly roots amongst lilies in flower (Scotland the Big Picture)

A rewilding charity has welcomed a judge’s ruling that licensed beaver killings in Scotland must halt.

Past culls, sanctioned by the Scottish Government agency NatureScot, have been ruled unlawful in a 49-page Court of Session judicial review completed by Lady Carmichael.

The charity Trees for Life, which brought the petition to court, says the legal win “offers hope of a new era” for beavers and the agricultural industry, while benefiting nature, climate action and farmers.

Trees for Life said the ruling revoked all previous licensed killings of beavers and that all official culling must stop until NatureScot has rebuilt its approach.

Alan McDonnell, Trees for Life’s conservation manager, said: “The ruling by Lady Carmichael confirms that, from now on, NatureScot must set out openly and fully the reasons why it believes any future licence to kill beavers should be granted.

“With Scotland hosting what could be the most important summit on climate breakdown in our lifetimes, this result offers a better future for Scotland’s beavers.

“The Scottish Government must take this ruling seriously. 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.”

The charity says Lady Carmichael’s ruling applies to all European protected species in the UK, and so has wide-ranging implications for wildlife.

Trees for Life believes the killing of beavers should only be a last resort, and is calling for colonies to be relocated to areas of Scotland where they have been missing for centuries, rather than be shot.

Mr McDonnell added: “By moving rather than shooting beavers, we can help them get to work boosting biodiversity, tackling climate breakdown and creating wildlife tourism opportunities..

“The Scottish Government has been blocking relocation of beavers to areas of Scotland where they belong but are missing, but the ruling creates hope that this will change so that farmers will no longer be put in a position where they have no choice but to shoot much-loved animals.”

Beavers create wetlands that benefit other wildlife, soak up carbon dioxide, purify water and reduce flooding, but can need managing if they cause damage to farmland.

Since becoming legally protected in 2019, NatureScot has allowed over 200 beavers to be killed under license.

NatureScot has identified over 100,000 hectares of habitat suitable for relocation of beavers, but Trees for Life blames government refusal to allow the relocation to new areas of Scotland for crop damage in parts of the country.

The judicial review was heard by the Court of Session in June after the charity’s crowdfunder for the case was supported by more than 1,500 people and raised over £60,000.

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