CAMPAIGNERS ARE calling on the Scottish Government to introduce independent monitoring of satellite tags fitted to birds of prey.

The Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group have been at the receiving end of years of finger pointing every time a tag fitted to a bird stops transmitting over their ground.

Presently, a campaign group can purchase and have a tag fitted to a raptor, monitor the satellite data then release their interpretations to the media if a tag stops, with no independent verification and even when Police have found no evidence of criminality.

Last year, Auchnafree Estate near Dunkeld was in the eye of the storm after tags fitted to two golden eagles sent final satellite signals from their ground.

Despite Police finding no evidence linking estates to either disappearances, community members have seen allegations thrown at them from campaigners wanting grouse shooting to be licensed.

A group Spokesperson said: “If a satellite tag stops signalling, persecution could be a factor. That is fully acknowledged. But it is only one of many possible factors when tags stop. Campaign groups, who fit the tags, claim persecution has occurred every time a tag stops abruptly. This has been proven to be false and community members feel the publicity is being used to trash their reputations, without evidence."

Campaign groups publicly claim that the modern tags they fit are virtually infallible yet there are examples of cases where this has show to be incorrect. Collisions with wind turbine blades, power lines and other obstructions can cause tag failure, as can territorial fighting between birds - something witnessed last year during the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Reintroduction project.

The RSPB hit back at the Moorland group's call for independent monitoring:“For a number of years, this highly reliable technology, strictly regulated and used all over the world, has shone a very bright light on the appalling level of raptor persecution occurring in Scotland, almost exclusively on grouse moors," said head of investigations Ian Thomson.

“The increasing evidence base for this includes Scottish Government-commissioned and other peer-reviewed research.”