Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association spits the dummy

According to an article in today’s Sunday Herald, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA) has thrown a hissy fit and is refusing to attend meetings of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) because the SGA ‘doesn’t trust’ wildlife campaigners.

Apparently the SGA hasn’t left PAW, but will not attend any more meetings until methods of partnership working have been reviewed.

An unidentified SGA spokesperson is quoted: “If the trust element is lacking, it makes it hard to sit around the table in a constructive way so hopefully these matters can be resolved“.

Ian Thomson of RSPB Scotland said the RSPB had tried for years to work collaboratively with the SGA to prevent raptor persecution, but “regrettably their approach has been to deny that these crimes are taking place, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary“.

The SGA’s idea of partnership-working to decrease the number of raptor persecution crimes seems to have consisted of slagging off other PAW partners and making wild, unsubstantiated claims about who might be responsible for raptor crimes. In 2012 they suggested that Raptor Study Group members could be laundering eggs and chicks on the lucrative black market (see here). In 2015, SGA committee member Bert Burnett talked about setting fire to a group of peaceful campaigners at a Hen Harrier Day event (see here). Earlier this year, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg accused Raptor Study Group members of “driving [gamekeepers’] wives, children and grandchildren from their homes” (see here) and Bert Burnett accused Raptor Study Group members of causing raptors to desert their nests (see here). Just a couple of weeks ago (2 May 2017), Bert Burnett was on Facebook calling for landowners and gamekeepers to report licensed Raptor Study Group fieldworkers to the police if they hadn’t asked permission to access raptor nests (NB: there is no legal requirement for fieldworkers to ask for landowner’s ‘permission’ to visit open access land):

We would argue that the reason for the SGA’s refusal to attend PAW meetings is probably more to do with the impending publication of the raptor satellite tag review. The findings of this review are expected to be damning, showing that the vast majority of satellite-tagged raptors have either ‘disappeared’ or have been killed on land managed for driven grouse shooting. We suggest that the SGA has run away from its PAW responsibilities because the conversation at the subsequent PAW meeting that will discuss this review would throw up some very awkward questions. Very awkward indeed.

Good riddance to the SGA, as far as we’re concerned. Their only solution to solving human – wildlife conflict seems to be ‘kill it’. We’ve long argued that this particular partnership is nothing more than a sham, used by certain organisations to proclaim to the outside world that progress is being made when actually all that is happening is obfuscation and denial. Perhaps now with the SGA gone the remaining active participants of PAW can get on with making some real headway at these meetings.


21 Responses to “Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association spits the dummy”

  1. 1 Ron55
    May 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    So, the SGA ‘doesn’t trust’ wildlife campaigners, but why would anyone trust the SGA?

  2. 2 Marco McGinty
    May 21, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Spot on RPS/RPUK. Nothing more needs be said.

  3. 4 nickkempe
    May 21, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    You are quite right to point out that Bert Burnett’s claim that licensed Raptor Study Workers need permission from landowners to access raptor nests is wrong but your use of the English term “access land” is not quite right for Scotland. In Scotland there is a right of access to almost all land, unlike England where people only have rights to a relatively small proportion of land, called “access land”. “Land covered by access rights” would be a more appropriate term and such land allows access for recreational, educational or other purposes. Raptor Study Group monitoring should be covered under educational activities:

    (5)A “relevant educational activity” is, for the purposes of subsection (3) above, an activity which is carried on by a person for the purposes of—

    (a)furthering the person’s understanding of natural or cultural heritage; or

    (b)enabling or assisting other persons to further their understanding of natural or cultural heritage.

    Bert Burnett would appear to have no understanding of access rights in Scotland. I think this is important to spell out though and get the language right because a number of conservation organisations still thank landowners for their permission to access land even where such permission is not required – this then gives a misleading impression of what permissions are actually required.

  4. 5 MJC
    May 21, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    To be fair, I read Bert’s comment not so much about whether raptor workers need permission to access the land, more that if a landowner sees people they don’t know at a known nest site, they should ring the police to find out if the person has a licence. Which, whilst maybe not for the reasons we would we advocate is actually reasonable at face value.

    • 6 Marco McGinty
      May 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      I disagree. Bert’s only motive here, is to make life difficult for raptors workers.

      He may try and convince others that he has concerns about the “welfare” of these birds, but it’s just a smokescreen.

  5. 7 Simon Tucker
    May 21, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Let’s be honest: the SGA should have been kicked out because of their failure to accept that their members are a huge part of the problem and their failure to take any sort of action to rectify this.

  6. 8 Thomas David Dick
    May 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    If it wasnt for the sterling work of licensed raptor workers we would have little idea of the extent of bop persecution in Scotland – which is exactly why the shooting lobby would love to restrict their activities…

  7. 10 janetjohnson20
    May 21, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t believe his motives and I don’t like his aggressive tone. I have no doubt he is just anti raptor workers. For genuine welfare reasons, however, I do dislike the way in which some people man handle and pose for photos of not just the ringing/tagging of raptors but of other birds too. I believe this kind of activity, where necessary, should be carried out with minimum handling and disruption to the birds.
    I also query the extent and necessity of so much ringing/tagging. I have seen birds with several rings and can’t help but feel that carrying extra weight when your life depends on hunting or foraging could be detrimental to survival when things get tough.
    Just recently I saw a study that showed that small birds that have been ringed are less likely to survive than unringed ones. (I think it was a warbler but would have to find the link again to be sure).
    A bit off topic maybe but it worries me that we may be contributing to these birds demise by excessive ringing and tagging.

    • 11 Mairi
      May 22, 2017 at 7:47 am

      Just for the record, I have checked the following results from the BTO ringing scheme which shows longevity records for each species –
      Blue Tit 10years 3 months 10 days, ringed 1986 Bedfordshire; caught by ringer ( so still alive presumably!) 1997 Bedfordshire
      and migrants-
      Willow Warbler 10 years 11 months 18days, ringed 1999 Denbighshire; caught by ringer 2010 Angus
      Garden Warbler 10years 1 month 6 days ringed 2005; caught by ringer 2015
      Reed Warbler 12years 11 month 21 days ringed 1988; caught by ringer 2001

      There are many, many more examples.

  8. 12 Maggie Gaynor
    May 21, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Good riddance to the deniers of science and raptor killings.

    Keep up the good work of exposing these common criminals that have got away with breaking the law for many years………..and giving their industry a bad name.

    They don’t like it up em, captain.

  9. 13 George M
    May 21, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I would be very wary that when the feels that the hear might be off that they then return to the meetings in order they are seen to be committed to a resolution of the problem. This would allow them to avoid any embarrassing questions while painting themselves as willing partners There is “form” of sorts.
    As for trust I would refer to the Ladder Hills Project in the mid 1990’s which you wrote about in February 2016 …….
    The second point of interest from this paper is the revelation that RSPB fieldworkers who were participating in the 1998 National Hen Harrier Survey were required to inform Estates about their survey visits and any subsequent survey results pertaining to their land, and in some cases were accompanied to those sites by the Estates’ gamekeepers. Is it just coincidence that many of the hen harrier nests that were recorded in NE Scotland during that survey year ‘mysteriously’ failed, and the number of sites found the following year dropped significantly from previous years? We don’t think so. Two + two = four, not five.” ……..
    Who could trust them?
    SGA When Bert blocked me from his website where I mistakenly tried to involve myself in some sort of debate with him his parting comment to his fans was, “He reads too much.” I suppose all concerned are supposed to simply accept anecdotal evdice from him and his cronies. Case closed.

  10. 14 chris lock
    May 21, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    As would be expected, a typical reaction from them

  11. May 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Trying to get past the understandably emotive reaction to Bert + Co, hopefully PAW meetings have had some sort of established structure, over the years, and my guess is that the SGA’s contribution may have been rather defensive and possibly destructive. So, “Be gone, damned Spot!” and you’ll get invited back when you undertake to contribute to the proceedings, not just sit in and observe. (I’m being polite!)

  12. 16 crypticmirror
    May 21, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Surely this must mean that, since SGA is not co-operating freely, that the Scottish Government now has no option but to impose strong legislation and enforcement on them? Apply licensing, impose stringent inspections, put in a proper dedicated wildlife agency with a law enforcement mandate. The SGA has forfeited the right to object as they have refused to voluntarily co-operate.

  13. 17 thegoatmaster
    May 21, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Of course, nothing like this would ever happen and all of this is a complete work of fiction.

    Scottish Gamekeepers complain ringers are showing children birds in the hand put all over the internet from a ringing group. Gamekeepers keep on going on and on about it.

    Ringer’s point out that these kids were terminally ill and it was a children’s hospice.

    It would never happen, using terminally ill children to slander ringers, would it Mr Burnett?

  14. 18 Mike.haden
    May 21, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    To Quote th SGA “if the trust element is lacking, it makes it hard to sit arround the table in a constructive way’. How does the SGA think other Stakeholders think when two clear cut videoed cases are dropped and the SGA wash their hands of the evidence. Trust is a two way thing, obviously other agencies may not trust the SGA, so he SGA are getting their retaliation in first, so to speak.

    Kept it up RPUK. England may be a lost cause at the moment,but hopefully Scotland can show the way

  15. 19 Tony Warburton MBE
    May 21, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Well this is surely good news. Perhaps the meetings will start to make some sane progress now. And I fully agree with crypticmirror.

  16. 20 Jimmy
    May 21, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Bert is the chief jester of the SGA – a man whose pronouncements you can only laugh at most of the time

  17. May 22, 2017 at 7:46 am

    As far as I can see they have not pulled out. they have just gone off in a wee huff.
    My guess is that its just another stalling tactic…… it means that the agencies(who think PAWS works) will need to spend another year trying to persuade them to come back to the table. Kicking the conclusion that PAWS is a complete waste of time further into the long grass.

    I have always said that RSPB should pull out – maybe if they did now then that would be the coup de grace and we can then move on to the next stage.

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