The Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) may receive extended powers to help investigate and tackle wildlife crime under new government plans.

The Scottish government is proposing this “limited” extension following an independent review into the animal-welfare charity’s current abilities.

Announcing the new measures, Environment Minister Gillian Martin said:

“Following consideration of the SSPCA Taskforce’s report, I can announce that I will be bringing forward provisions in the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill to allow for a limited extension of the SSPCA’s current powers to investigate wildlife crime.

“The powers will allow the SSPCA to – in certain circumstances – search, examine and seize evidence in connection with specified wildlife crime offences.”

These powers would only be given to an inspector appointed and authorised by the Scottish government. All inspectors would also be required to undertake specified training prior to being given authorisation to exercise the new powers.

The additional powers could also only be exercised when an inspector is already responding to a case under their existing powers.

Protocols would also be established between the SSPCA and Police Scotland to ensure effective partnership and that the police have primary over cases and offences.

“The proposal would not however lead to SSPCA becoming an alternative wildlife crime enforcement agency,” the Scottish government said in its response to the report on SSPCA powers.

“Police Scotland would retain primacy as the enforcement body for all wildlife crime and the public should continue to report those crimes to Police Scotland.”

Key stakeholders will be consulted on the proposals over the summer.