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Rural Affairs Committee metting in Langholm

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Where should the balance lie between promoting animal welfare, controlling pests and supporting Scotlands field sports industry? This and other questions will be considered when the Scottish Parliaments Rural Affairs and Environment Committee meets in Langholm for the first time next month.  Members of the public are welcome to attend and to have their say at the event, which will take place at the towns Buccleuch Centre on Tuesday 7 September, starting at 1.30pm.

The Committee will be taking evidence from expert witnesses on the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill. The Bill proposes changes on a wide range of matters including deer management, invasive species control and game law. It also seeks to tighten the rules on the use of snares, streamline the licensing regime for the control of wild animals, change the dates on which managed heather burning can take place and create new offences relating to badgers.

The first panel to meet on the day will include representatives from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Advocates for Animals and the Scottish SPCA.

There will then be an open mic spot at around 3.15pm for any members of the public who wish to make a short statement on the Bill. Finally, the committee will hear from the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association and the National Farmers Union Scotland.

In the morning, the Committee will also make a fact-finding trip to the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project. The ten year project was established in 2007 and aims to establish a commercially viable grouse moor, restore the site for nature conservation and demonstrate whether a commercial grouse moor can co-exist alongside the conservation needs of protected raptors, especially hen harriers.

Committee Convener Maureen Watt said:

Scotlands native wildlife is one of its greatest assets. It is therefore crucial that our wildlife protection laws are up-to-date and effective. Farmers and land managers also have the right to manage their land responsibly as viable businesses providing goods to the Scottish public. The importance of field sports to some local economies in rural Scotland must also be recognised.

Getting the new law right will be about striking the correct balance. This is an issue on which I am sure many people in the Langholm area will have an opinion, so I hope as many people as possible are able to attend our meeting and contribute to our discussion on the future of Scotlands wildlife, land management and game laws.

Any member of the public wishing to speak at the open mic session should contact the clerk to the Committee (details below) to secure a speaking slot.

Any members of the media wishing to accompany the committee in the morning should contact Ann Donald on 0131 348 5605.

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