In July we blogged about the discovery in June of a critically-injured Common gull that had been found caught in two illegally-set spring traps on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).
We also blogged about a bizarre press statement from Invercauld Estate (issued via the GWCT’s twitter feed) in which they denied any illegal activity had taken place or if it had, it was perhaps a set-up ‘intended to discredit the grouse industry‘ (see here).
We also blogged about the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association’s response, which was an announcement that they would conduct their own enquiry before commenting further (see here).
We also blogged about Police Scotland’s view that a Common gull had been found caught in an illegally-set trap but ‘despite a thorough investigation‘, Police enquiries had failed to find further evidence to proceed with a potential prosecution and ‘there are at present no further investigative opportunities available‘ (see here).
In September, through a series of FoIs, we uncovered a very interesting letter, dated 27 July 2016 and written by Angus McNicol, who identified himself as the Estate Manager for Invercauld Estate. The letter was addressed to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham. A copy of the letter was also sent to the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA). It was written, in our view, to reassure the Cabinet Secretary and the CNPA that Invercauld Estate takes wildlife crime very seriously and that they’d ‘taken action’ in this case. The specific action taken was unknown (to us) because that part of the letter had been redacted. We’ll come back to this.
Since then, it all went quiet, apart from a persistent rumour (we’ve been told this by five separate, well-informed sources) that a gamekeeper had been sacked as a result of this incident. This claim has also been made on the ParksWatchScotland blog (here), which says: ‘Unusually, the gamekeeper in this case has been dismissed, although he apparently has not been charged‘.
Hmm. Naturally, we wanted to find out if this rumour had any basis.
We knew that Grant Moir (CNPA Chief Executive) had asked for a meeting with Invercauld Estate and the sporting partner ‘to discuss the issue’ of the illegally-set traps – he had said so in a press statement in July (here). Perhaps the minutes from that meeting would reveal whether a gamekeeper had been sacked, so we asked, via FoI, for a copy of those minutes.
We received a response from the CNPA in mid-November which confirmed that two meetings had indeed taken place:
Meeting 1 (22 August 2016) with the following people present: Peter Argyle (CNPA Convener), Grant Moir (CNPA Chief Executive), Hamish Trench (CNPA Director of Conservation & Visitor Experience) and Invercauld Estate’s sporting partner from the Micras beat (his name was not given).
Meeting 2 (25 August 2016) with the following people present: Peter Argyle (CNPA Convener), Grant Moir (CNPA Chief Executive), Hamish Trench (CNPA Director of Conservation & Visitor Experience), the Chair of Trustees for Invercauld Estate (name not given) and the Manager for Invercauld Estate (name not given but presumably this was Angus McNicol, the author of the letter from Invercauld Estate to the Environment Cabinet Secretary).
According to the CNPA’s response to our FoI, ‘The purpose of both meetings was to discuss the recent incident and understand the actions taken by the estate and sporting partner. As a result of the meetings we will now be meeting with the other sporting partners on Invercauld Estate‘.
Interestingly, according to the CNPA, there isn’t a record of the minutes from either of these meetings.
So, we’re still none the wiser about whether a gamekeeper was sacked by Invercauld Estate, which brings us back to that redacted letter from Invercauld Estate to the Cabinet Secretary. Was the readacted part of that letter a statement from Invercauld Estate, saying that they’d sacked a gamekeeper as a result of this incident?
If so, that’s incredible. A wildlife crime took place on Invercauld Estate in June 2016 (that’s undeniable). Has Invercauld Estate identified a suspect and sacked him/her? And if so, does the Scottish Government know about it, does the Cairngorms National Park Authority know about it, and does the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association know about it (given they were conducting their ‘own enquiry’ in to this incident back in July)?
The question then becomes, does Police Scotland know about it, and if so, will they be prosecuting? If not, why not?
Some transparency about this case wouldn’t go amiss.