A late bid urging the Scottish Government to retain the use of humane cable restraints (HCR) in the face of a ban on traditional snares has failed.

A letter to Energy and Environment Minister Gillian Martin signed by 150 land managers urging the continued use of the restraints was dismissed as the SNP-Green coalition signalled its intention to press ahead with a full ban on snares.

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Scottish Land and Estates say HCRs are a modern device used predominantly by gamekeepers and farmers to control fox populations in order to protect livestock and other wildlife such as ground-nesting birds. The business organisation added that both humane cable restraints and live capture traps have met the same humaneness standard under the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).

The organisation said claims by the Scottish Government that other forms of predator control such as shooting and trapping were available in every circumstance was ‘demonstrably false’ and the ban on snares will make it much more difficult for gamekeepers, farmers, and land managers to control fox populations and the predation they carry out on other species.

SLE Director of Moorland, Ross Ewing, said: “Today is a dark day for biodiversity, wildlife and rural livelihoods.

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“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 by bringing forward an outright ban on the use of snares and HCRs.

“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.

“Meanwhile the red fox range continues to increase with woodland expansion, and with it predation pressure which – as successive scientific studies have demonstrated – poses an existential threat to species including lapwing, capercaillie, golden plover, curlew, meadow pipit, merlin, snipe and hen harrier.”

Mr Ewing added that it was galling that the decision came just a day after a Holyrood committee held an evidence session on HCRs.

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He said: “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. It is especially frustrating given the time, effort, and preparation that goes into engaging with the democratic process.”

Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesperson Rachael Hamilton slammed the move. She said: “This is the latest example that sums up how out-of-touch the SNP-Green government is with the needs and interests of rural Scotland.

“Clearly, the minister has made no attempt to engage with land managers to understand how a proposed licensing scheme for humane cable restraints would address welfare concerns, and at the same time promote biodiversity.”

However, the League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the decision describing it as a “fantastic outcome” adding it had been calling for a ban on snares “for decades.”