The minutes of the meeting and the official report have now been published. There is the most useful information in then official report, and I append below the extract about this petition, which is more detailed than I was able to follow from the broadcast. I am extremely encouraged by the content.
“Wildlife Crime (Penalties and Investigation) (PE1705)
The Convener (Johann Lamont):
I welcome everyone to the 15th meeting in 2018 of the Public Petitions Committee. The first item on our agenda is consideration of new petitions.
The first petition is PE1705, by Alex Milne. Members have a copy of the petition and the briefing prepared by the Scottish Parliament information centre and the clerks. The petition calls for a review of the penalties that are available for incidents of wildlife crime and the methods by which wildlife crime is investigated. The petitioner considers that by increasing the minimum punishment to three years in prison, a crime would be categorised as serious, which in turn would allow investigating authorities to use covert video surveillance. The issue of wildlife crime has previously been considered by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.
Do members have any comments or suggestions for action?
Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP):
I am a member of the ECCLR Committee, which has followed the issue extremely closely over the past few years. I have a lot of sympathy for the petition.
Given that there does not seem to have been much movement on the Scottish Government’s side with regard to Professor Poustie’s recommendation to increase penalties, the petition is quite timely. We need to know where the Scottish Government is with regard to its proposed consultation and the introduction of primary legislation. If there is to be primary legislation, time is running out in this parliamentary session. It would therefore be good to have some clarity on that.
We agree to write to the Scottish Government to seek its views on the action called for in the petition and on Angus MacDonald’s point about timescales. A general nod in the direction of the issue would not be sufficient; we would want something more specific.
Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con):
Angus MacDonald mentioned the ECCLR Committee. Perhaps we should flag up the petition with that committee in advance of scrutiny of the 2017 annual report on wildlife crime in Scotland.
The committee is due to look at the wildlife crime report in January, so the sooner that it is made aware of this petition the better.
Are there any other suggestions?
Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con):
Can we seek the views of other stakeholders? I am not sure who would that be.
That is an important idea. We can ask the clerks to look at which might be the best groups. Obviously, people who are closely involved with this issue in the ECCLR Committee might have views and suggestions. We know from coverage yesterday on social media that there has been further commentary on cruelty to animals and protection of wildlife. The committee has dealt previously with this theme in relation to mountain hares and other creatures. It is something that there is a lot of interest in.
We agree to write to the Scottish Government, to take the views of other stakeholders and to flag the petition up to the ECCLR Committee. Is that agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
We thank the petitioner for their timely petition.”