Licensing news

Read seasonal updates on species licensing and hear about new best practice guidelines and application requirements.

Get the latest news about NatureScot licensing – from details of new application requirements to seasonal updates on species licensing.

Deer authorisations and renewals – March 2024

Deer managers will now be able to apply for or renew a deer management authorisation online:

The new digital form is a key part of work to modernise deer management systems in Scotland and streamline previous manual processes.

Follow the progress of our online licensing system.

Fit and competent - September 2023

Deer controllers can now apply online to join the fit and competent register or renew their status

The new digital form is part of a wider project to modernise NatureScot’s deer management services.

The online service is quicker and easier both for applicants and staff to use, allowing NatureScot to process applications more efficiently.

Planning Permissions and Consents - August 2023

A protected species licence application for development projects should not be made until the necessary planning permissions and consents are in place.  This should be considered when signing the relevant licence application declaration.

Licensing Data - March 2024

Data on the number of licences issued for 2023 is now live along with the number of licences issued for hunting with dogs between November 2023 and 29th February 2024.

Licensing service update - August 2022

In accordance with government guidelines, our team members are all working from home.  We are continuing to experience an exceptionally high demand for our service, so please bear with us.

We will prioritise and aim to process urgent public health and safety and urgent prevention of serious damage licence applications as soon as possible.  For other non-urgent licence applications we have a current turnaround time of approximately 3 to 4 weeks.  Note this turnaround time is likely to increase during and after key holiday period.

To avoid any unnecessary delays we advise anyone looking to obtain a licence to submit their licence application at their earliest opportunity.

Our Licensing helpline (01463 725364) is currently only available for leaving voicemails, therefore if you have a general enquiry please refer to the relevant page on the licensing section of our website as it may take us some time to call you back. 

If you have a query which you can’t find the answer to online then email [email protected] in the first instance.  We will aim to respond to all email queries within 5 working days.  As our offices are currently closed please don’t send us any mail, instead, email all correspondence.

Gull health and safety licences – submit returns online – May 2022

We have now released our next stage of our online licensing service, and you can now provide a gull health and safety licence return online. You can provide a return after each visit to a site and carrying out licensed activities. Returns can be submitted by the licence holder or the person who applied for a licence on their behalf.

Submit a gull health and safety licence return

Gull health and safety licences – apply online – March 2022

We are pleased to announce that you can now apply for your gull licence for preserving public health and safety using our online system.  You can use this facility if you are applying on behalf of the licence holder, for example a pest controller on behalf of a householder.

Apply for a Gull Health and Safety Licence.

Currently the system only allows new applications to be submitted and issued.  Any renewals from 2021 or earlier should be submitted as a new application.  The ability to amend an existing licence or submit a licence return will be available soon. You can read more on our birds and public health and safety page.

If you are unable to use the online application above, you can contact us on our Licensing helpline (01463 725364) or email our mailbox at [email protected] for an application form.  Please note this method of applying will take much longer for us to process.

General licences for 2022 published - 17 December 2021

We have published our General Licences for wild birds for 2022. 

These General Licences are essentially the same as those we issued from 1 January 2021. The only change is to General Licence 15 (sale, advertisement, possession & transportation of Greylag geese & Greylag goose meat by hunters, caterers and retailers).  We have issued this Licence with a validity period of five years and as with all general licences will keep this under review.

Deer management - 26 August 2021

NatureScot regulate and oversee deer management in Scotland. This includes the licensing of out of season control to prevent damage to woodland, agriculture and protect public safety.

There is a continued need to ensure damage by deer can be addressed to support climate, biodiversity and economy priorities, whilst ensuring deer welfare is fully taken into account.  NatureScot consider any FLS requests for out of season control licenses in line with licensing guidance which assesses the need to prevent damage and the fitness and competence of those undertaking control. 

Around 130 authorisations are issued across Scotland for the prevention of damage which covers the period from the 1st September. Not all authorisations will be used during this period, depending on damage and presence of deer and of course these authorisations range in scale and extent depending on size of the land holdings.

Deer welfare is key and NatureScot take into account the period of greatest welfare risk based on the dependency of young , which in Scotland is the period between the 1st April – 31st August. This period  is based on commissioned research into birthing and weaning dates of all species Scotland wide. During this period strict controls are in place when female deer can only be culled under a specific authorisation from NatureScot. These are only granted in exceptional circumstances.

Out with this period of highest welfare concern from 1st September  any out of season control can only be undertaken under General authorisation (for enclosed woodland and improved agricultural land) or specific authorisation for other land types which are issued and conditioned by NatureScot

Anyone controlling deer under authorisation from NatureScot in Scotland is assessed as fit and competent to do so.  Everyone culling deer is expected to do so in line with published Wild Deer Best Practice Guidance which outlines how deer welfare is safeguarded when culling and allowing land managers to effectively manage deer populations and their impacts.

Changes to gull public health or safety licences - August 2021

From 1st April 2020 gull species were removed from our General Licences and since then we have issued individual licences to manage gulls where they are causing public health or safety issues. Most licences have been issued to pest control companies that have been carrying out the works on behalf of the tenant, owner or occupier of a property who are experiencing the issues gull are causing.

As a licence is issued to allow someone to carry out activities that would otherwise be illegal, the licence holder would be responsible to ensure the licence conditions are met and liable to criminal proceedings if not. Often a condition of the licence is to implement preventative measures, such as attaching spikes or netting the roof of the building. Therefore from 2022 we will be advising that the licence holder should be the person that has the authority to make changes to the fabric of the building (e.g. attach spikes or nets to the roof). This would likely be the owner, occupier or tenant of the property.

The licence holder can still appoint someone else (pest controller, roofing company) to carry out the works, or to apply for the licence on their behalf with the licence holder approving the application before it is submitted to NatureScot.

Mountain hare legislation update – 25 June 2021

Mountain hare were added to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), with effect from 1 March 2021 giving them full protection. This means, for example, that anyone who intentionally or recklessly kills, injures or takes mountain hare without a licence will be acting unlawfully.

We have developed a new licensing scheme to enable licensed activity throughout the year. We are very grateful to the range of stakeholders who’ve engaged with us in the development of this scheme. General Licence 16/2021 covers the sale of mountain hares and mountain hare meat until 31 December.

Out of Season control of female deer

NatureScot is responsible for licensing Out of Season control of female deer. Strict protection is in place for female deer during the period of highest welfare risk to dependant young (1st April – 31st August). Anyone who wants to shoot deer within this period has to apply for a specific authorisation. We only grant these authorisations in exceptional circumstances.

NatureScot issue a General Authorisation which allows agricultural occupiers and forest managers to control female deer to prevent damage in the out of season periods between 1st September through to 31st March but with strict conditions attached. We can also licence control to protect unenclosed woodland and natural heritage interests in this time. This date has been guided by research on calving and weaning dates. The Deer Authorisations Panel reviewed the NatureScot policy approach and process in 2016. We believe that the current dates, combined with Best Practice, protect deer welfare and address the need to prevent damage.

All deer controllers operating out of season on Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) managed property are registered with NatureScot as being fit and competent to undertake this activity. In addition all Forestry and Land Scotland rangers and contractors (those undertaking control, to Best Practice standards,) understand the need to cull young dependants first before any mothers – i.e. if they do this there is no welfare risk of orphaning. If there is any doubt about dependants then they are instructed not to cull female deer.

On enclosed woodland and improved agricultural land male deer of all species can be controlled all year round, under licence to prevent damage. However there is strict protection for all female deer from 1st April to 31st August.

It is important for us to clarify that there has been no change to the way that owner/occupiers can be authorised to control deer out of season to protect against damage.

Animal welfare is at the core of NatureScot’s approach to wildlife management and is a key principle in the shared approach to wildlife management.

New online licensing system web page

We are currently developing an online licensing system that will allow for the application, issuing, amending, renewing, returning and reporting of licences all to be done online.  This is a gradual process and we will be releasing different functions of the system or licensing areas at different stages.

We will update our online licensing system web page regularly to let you know what has been released and therefore can be done online, what we are currently working on and what we will be working on in the not too distant future.

Badger SFO licence - apply online

We are pleased to announce that you can now apply for your Badger Standard Forestry Operations licence using our online system. Applying for the SFO licence should only take around 10 minutes and the approval to use the licence is automatic. You will need to know the location and the number of entrances of all setts on site. You can only use this facility if you are applying to be the licence holder, not if you are applying on behalf of someone else.

Apply for a Standard Forestry Operations Licence.

You will receive an email confirmation that the person is covered by the licence to carry out the operations in accordance with the terms of the licence. Works will only be legally covered once you have this confirmation from us.

There is a reporting requirement for Standard Forestry Operations Licences, this must be submitted to us within one month of the works being completed. Details of this reporting requirement can be found in the conditions of the licence.

If you are unable to use the online application above, you can apply using our word document Standard Forestry Operations application form.  Please note this method of applying will take much longer for us to process and send confirmation that the application has been approved.

Badger ecologist licence

We have completed a review of our 'Badger Ecologist' licence trial and we are now rolling this new licence type out to anyone who meets the criteria.  'Badger Ecologist' licences can be issued to permit works with low conservation impacts to go ahead (if certain criteria are met) for the purposes of development, preventing serious damage, forestry and agricultural operations.

If you are an experienced badger ecologist in Scotland and you would like to apply for the Badger Ecologist licence please read the Badger Ecologist licence - an ecologist's guide to check you meet the criteria and for information on how to apply.

Trap registration and use of meat baits

As of 1st April 2020 NatureScot Licensing will be taking over Trap Registration from Police Scotland.  In order to use traps under our General Licences you will be required to register with us.  Please see our Trap Registration page for further information.

Updated fish-eating bird licence application form and guidance document

The NatureScot Licensing team has published an updated licence application form for fish-eating birds along with an updated guidance document to help applicants fill in the application form and provide us with the required supporting information.  It is hoped that this will make the application process simpler for applicants.  The documents can be found on our Birds - Licence forms and guidance documents (preventing serious damage, preserving public health and safety & air safety) web page.

Last updated:


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]