01
May
18

Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders: who’s involved?

Following on from yesterday’s blog, where we learned, according to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, that the raven cull licence “is not about grouse and it’s never been about grouse“, but that approx 75% of the cull area just happens to be managed for driven grouse shooting (see here), we said we had a bit more information about the mysterious raven cull licence applicants, the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW).

We know very little about the membership of the SCCW, other than what we’d gleaned from the licence application:

‘[The SCCW]….represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely. The application is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and technical advice and support, notably data gathering and interpretation, is being provided by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)’. 

We do know that the GWCT is heavily involved. We also believe the involvement of the SGA is probably more extensive than suggested in the above paragraph. For example, we know that the SGA and GWCT propose to have meetings with SNH “to review the operation of the licence“, according to the information provided in the licence application. And if the SGA wasn’t heavily involved, why would they put up a representative (Kenneth Stephen, PR & Communications Officer) to be interviewed about the licence by the BBC’s Radio Scotland Out of Doors programme?

So who else is involved? Kenneth did his best to avoid giving a detailed answer when Euan McIlwraith asked him directly about the membership of the SCCW, and instead focused on sheep farmers rather than grouse moor owners and gamekeepers. However, shortly after he’d recorded his interview on Friday 27th April 2018, Kenneth wrote the following email, which reveals a bit more about who might be involved and how much trouble everyone is going to to not mention grouse:

The recipient of this email (Caitlin) is the coordinator of the Tayside & Central Scotland Moorland Group. This group is one of several regional moorland groups that appeared on the scene a couple of years ago, as part of the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign, supported (and potentially funded) by the Scottish Moorland Group, which is part of Scottish Land & Estates. These regional moorland groups were designed to use social media to counter the adverse news stories about illegal raptor persecution and other environmentally-damaging practices associated with intensive grouse moor management, and many of them are administered by the local gamekeepers’ wives.

So, are members of the Tayside & Central Moorland Group also members of the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders? Indeed, some of them are, according to this Facebook post:

What was particularly interesting about Kenneth’s email to Caitlin was who he had cc’d in to his correspondence: Tim (Kim) Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, and Gary McQueen, who we believe to be a senior consultant at Media House, a well-known public relations outfit whose clients include Scottish Land & Estates.

Does this indicate that the Scottish Moorland Group (and therefore Scottish Land & Estates & the Gift of Grouse) is also involved with this so-called ‘community collaboration’? It’d be interesting to find out.

Unfortunately, SNH is still not answering the very reasonable questions that have been asked about this raven cull licence, 11 days after the news first broke. And it’s not just us who have concerns about this lack of transparency – have a read of this excellent blog, written by independent PhD student Isla Hodgson, who specialises in conservation conflict. Her structured and thoughtful criticism of SNH’s approach to this raven cull licence is very powerful.

Maybe we’ll get some answers on the next episode of BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors. Presenter Euan McIlwraith told listeners last Saturday that he had an interview lined up with SNH to discuss the raven cull licence, to be broadcast this coming weekend. We suspect there’ll be a large audience.

UPDATE 7 May 2018: “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things” says SNH (here)

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33 Responses to “Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders: who’s involved?”


  1. May 1, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    These would be saviours of waders are so modest that they don’t want anyone to know who they are. Or alternatively, they might be embarrassed, for example because this is a false flag operation.

  2. 2 Bill Gilmour
    May 1, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    The email is a wonderful discovery. Agree with everything you say.

    Readers of this blog, who are sceptical or cynical about writing emails or letters to politician and officials, might note how important the SGA, believes these to be.

  3. 3 Roberta Mouse
    May 1, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    What I’d like to know is….is this licence already in force, or in other words are gamekeepers already out there, mid breeding season, picking off Ravens. ?

    • May 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Our understanding is that the licence has been issued.

      We have asked SNH whether the licence has been suspended while the SNH Scientific Advisory Committee assesses the licence. SNH has refused to answer this question.

      • 5 Roberta Mouse
        May 1, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        Thankyou…in that case I suppose one should fear the worst .

      • 6 Chris T
        May 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm

        If this is the case (the cull is underway), where is the baseline wader population information? The excellent blog by Isla Hodgson includes excerpts of the Working For Waders group which set out how the grouse estates were going to get this licence from SNH. It says:
        “Need baseline on wader population and then monitor wader breeding success (key indicator) and quantify this to provide evidence for the effect that protected predator control is having”

        This was from last year, which doesn’t give much time to compile a comprehensive baseline, which is essential if you are going to judge the actual effectiveness of the cull. Without this, there isn’t any ‘to see what happens’ measurement.

        So, who did the baseline (if there is one)? Can we see it? And who is monitoring the effects? If GWCT are part of the Strathbraan group, they can’t be independent.

        If SNH granted it without a baseline, the ‘to see what happens’ justification is totally invalid and therefore the decision to issue the licence is surely illegal?. And as we’re in the first year after those minutes, surely gamekeepers are out there counting Curlew eggs, chicks and calculating survival rates rather than shooting Ravens?

        • 7 Bill Gilmour
          May 3, 2018 at 3:42 pm

          I have just received the following from Mike Cantlay, Chair SNH, which is not informative.
          Thank you for your recent correspondence on the subject of the issue of a research licence to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders.

          I welcome that so many people in this country care passionately about the welfare of all our wildlife species. This has been shown in the volume of correspondence we have received, both positive and negative. In response, I have offered to facilitate a meeting between the RSPB and the local community group in Strathbraan.

          The laws in place to protect birds, plants and animals recognise that in some situations their control can be permitted as long as we can ensure that this won’t affect their wider populations. Under this legislation SNH regularly grant licences to control species, including a range of birds and mammals. This includes the control of corvids. These activities are widespread and are carried out by farmers, gamekeepers and conservationist organisations alike in order to protect bird populations that are at risk.

          Curlew and lapwing are listed as Red status in the birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC) review, with declines in abundance of over 50% in the past 20 years. They are also listed as Vulnerable at a European level. Ravens are currently on the Green list with no indication that licenced control is having any impact on the population of this species. This trial will help us and others to better understand the impact of ravens on species in grave danger. It permits the control of 69 ravens this year.

          Strict conditions apply to all licences issued by SNH. This includes the means by which birds are controlled, and in this instance, also ensuring that all of the appropriate monitoring is set and records kept of what is taking place.

          Thank you for taking time to write to me about this matter,

          Yours sincerely

          Mike Cantlay

          Mike Cantlay | Chair

  4. 8 Al Woodcock
    May 1, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Curiously, these people (DGS apologists) are making a huge fuss about waders, when they don’t give a sh*t about other birds, more importantly (surprise surprise), birds of prey. Waders have become their propaganda tool.

  5. May 1, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    I couldn’t get the URL to work in that blog mentioned in second to last paragraph but this works.
    https://tinyurl.com/y94et524

  6. 10 Dougoutcanoe
    May 1, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Conspiracy or what?

    Get all your mates to say,
    1. How evil the ravens are and that they eat all the waders, lambs, dogs and cats!!!!
    2. I love the precious waders(wha’ ever they are?) and can’t accept that they will disappear for ever unless we make the ravens disappear for ever.
    3. How around I am to have seen a curlew??? It may have nested on my land?
    4. Ravens are black and evil. Witchcraft they do, must be stopped.
    5. It is lovely and reassuring to have SNH in the palms of our hands. Thank you.
    6. The people of TCSMG and SCCW are law abiding citizens and only have nature in their concerns.
    7. Snipe are beautiful delicacies and I cannot shoot enough for a good snack if the ravens eat ’em all. (should I reword that? Kenneth)
    8. Can’t think of anymore silliness but feel free to add some ideas.

    SNH with no backbone, I thought that and now so does Kenneth.

    I like the comment about Kenneth’s “conserve ravens” does he mean “pickled in vinegar or boiled in sugar or perhaps aspic”.

    Let us hope that the Greens and pressure from people like us will bring the cull to a halt.

    A sad Doug.

  7. 11 Loki
    May 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    That email just shows the mentality of these people. I hope SNH take umbrage at the spineless statement and revoke the licence. Seems they are too deep in the pockets of the landowners however.

  8. May 1, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I thought Kenneth Stephen in an earlier statement said this is not about grouse because grouse numbers are high and there’s no problem there “we’ve had some very very good years”. So, if ground nesters at high densities are not affected by ravens, how come wading birds are? Habitat factors perhaps? Not enough cover perhaps? Farm machinery in the fields after eggs are laid? We won’t find out anything about that by killing ravens.

  9. 13 Iain Gibson
    May 1, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    I have suspected something sinister is going on in SNH for some time now, but this latest development comes closer to confirming my suspicions. There was a time when most of the staff employed were dedicated conservationists, and why shouldn’t they be, as SNH is supposed to be the governmental conservation advisory body? Some such individuals remain on the staff, and I can’t imagine how they feel about the new SNH, although a few haven’t been slow to tell me, in confidence. I won’t mention any names, but there are some well known and respected ornithological scientists in SNH who are remaining very silent publicly on this issue. I’d like to think they are not so silent within the organisation, but if so they don’t seem to be having any meaningful effect. It’s quite difficult to imagine (or am I being naive) that a directly political agenda is involved behind the scenes, as it doesn’t appear to be a matter with which the SNP Government would be so concerned. It seems more credible that the problem exists in the upper echelons of SNH management. Personally I have to believe that a degree of incompetence is involved, having had some direct experience with an advisory officer, of senior rank, who has made some very strange decisions and provided poor quality advice in recent years. So we now have a situation, disguised as impartiality, where SNH accepts the irrational and unscientific opinions of the shooting community, with its element of law-breakers, over and above the views of trusted bodies like RSPB and the Raptor Study Group. Such lack of transparency is just not acceptable in a democratic society.

    • 14 Murmur
      May 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

      It is frequently the case with public sector employment contracts that one will be forbidden, on pain of disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for gross misconduct, from making any form of public statement connected to one’s role or the work of one’s employer: this was certainly true for me as a former NHS worker. Once that happens, forget working again and forget your pension. Employers know they hold the whip hand.

      And as for the supposed protection offered by “whistleblower” policies and the like: complete waste of time.

      • 15 carol
        May 2, 2018 at 9:04 pm

        And further-presumably Murmur as an NHS employee you would also have had to sign a very long document sent be email around 3 or 4 years ago, buried in which ‘animal activists’ were included in a list along with terrorist sympathisers to be reported to security services.Would that include those opposing Raven Culls? certainly explains why some friends don’t reveal name

  10. May 1, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    The main petition now has over 75000 signatures. The story has made minor appearance in the press and a bit of coverage on radio. Why is this not all over the tv? What magic power is keeping it quiet?

    • 17 Iain Gibson
      May 1, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      I’ve suggested previously that we could build support if RPUK or someone connected were to put out press releases. The time seems appropriate right now, with such a high profile and controversial subject. I can well understand that RPUK is extremely busy researching and putting the blog together (unpaid), but is there another reason why they don’t do press releases? Could these perhaps be channeled through another group, like the Raptor Study Group for example? I know RSPB has a communications department, but we could afford to be more controversial and expose corruption more than the RSPB.

    • 18 J .Coogan
      May 2, 2018 at 7:36 am

      You mean the state funded mouthpiece of the establishment, I have no idea.
      Reporting Scotland is no longer fit for purpose.

  11. 19 Paul Fisher
    May 2, 2018 at 9:36 am

    One good thing to come out of this whole sorry mess is the amazing painting you have used in the blog. No credit given? Can we have a name please.

    [Ed: name not known, otherwise we would have credited it!]

  12. 20 John Keith
    May 2, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    I have read Isla’s blog and like its thoroughness; it is a little difficult to read so I suggest it can be paraphrased as follows:

    Where did the licence application come from?

    The process was not made clear.
    It did not follow standard procedures involving all stakeholders.
    Digging and analysis by a PhD student indicates that one pressure group (Gamekeepers and land managers) generated the demand and SNH complied with them.

    Aims of the cull?

    “to see what happens.”

    Actions for delivery?

    No exact description of the process is included – although that should be an integral part of such a licence.
    Can be summarised as: ‘if wader numbers rise then culls can be reduced.’
    So not exactly a scientific or quantified statement,
    Surely SNH are capable of better unless they are being dictated to?

    Evidence used to justify the approach using a cull?

    No actual evidence is supplied.
    The approach using a cull was stated to be unjustified by major stakeholders (RSPB, and two peer-reviewed papers).

    Who is going to monitor and assess this experiment?

    The suggestion is that the group making the proposal will monitor its effects.
    ie not neutral or unbiased monitoring; this will not be trustworthy.

    How will the cull be monitored? How will the impacts be measured?

    No information is given and as above major stakeholders were not included in the process of assessing the Licence application.

  13. 21 The Fifer
    May 2, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Story has appeared on BBC news website in the Tayside section, article written by the “not disagreeable” Kevin Keane

  14. 23 Dylanben
    May 2, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    The Facebook post dated 24th April from the Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group is very educational. It quotes an SCCW spokesperson who refers to ‘ravens as predators of wading bird eggs and chicks, particularly at breeding time’! So at what other times of the year are they going to be out there looking for wader eggs and chicks? It’ll clearly be the ravens fault if there are no eggs or chicks to be counted in, say, November and December. Is this the group which is supposedly monitoring the effects of its own licence application? Mickey Mouse isn’t in it! SNH – what have you done?

  15. 24 Alan Johnson
    May 2, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    Again………FWIW, I’ve emailed Sturgeon asking her to personally intervene because SNH has lost all credibilty.

    • 25 Alan Johnson
      May 3, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Now received a standard reply from “CHAIR” to which I’ve repeated their lack of transparency, inclusiveness and objective evidence and called for them to delay the start of the cull.

      • 26 Dougoutcanoe
        May 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm

        I’ve also received the whitewash email. Unhelpful government tactic of, we will send this rubbish out to provide the target answer.

        I also received the standard reply to my email questioning, why I had not got a reply.

        Some bored office staff just pressing send without any acknowledgement of content or questions asked.

        Even worse than my MP.

        Doug

  16. 27 Gordon Milward
    May 3, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    I emailed SNH when the Raven cull first hit the press. Here’s the reply, which I guess will be the same one that everyone received/will receive:

    ‘Thank you for your recent correspondence on the subject of the issue of a research licence to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders.

    I welcome that so many people in this country care passionately about the welfare of all our wildlife species. This has been shown in the volume of correspondence we have received, both positive and negative. In response, I have offered to facilitate a meeting between the RSPB and the local community group in Strathbraan.

    The laws in place to protect birds, plants and animals recognise that in some situations their control can be permitted as long as we can ensure that this won’t affect their wider populations. Under this legislation SNH regularly grant licences to control species, including a range of birds and mammals. This includes the control of corvids. These activities are widespread and are carried out by farmers, gamekeepers and conservationist organisations alike in order to protect bird populations that are at risk.

    Curlew and lapwing are listed as Red status in the birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC) review, with declines in abundance of over 50% in the past 20 years. They are also listed as Vulnerable at a European level. Ravens are currently on the Green list with no indication that licenced control is having any impact on the population of this species. This trial will help us and others to better understand the impact of ravens on species in grave danger. It permits the control of 69 ravens this year.

    Strict conditions apply to all licences issued by SNH. This includes the means by which birds are controlled, and in this instance, also ensuring that all of the appropriate monitoring is set and records kept of what is taking place.

    Thank you for taking time to write to me about this matter,

    Yours sincerely

    Mike Cantlay

    Mike Cantlay | Chair
    Scottish Natural Heritage | Great Glen House | Leachkin Road | Inverness | IV3 8NW >
    Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba | Taigh a’ Ghlinne Mhòir | Rathad na Leacainn | Inbhir Nis | IV3 8NW
    nature.scot – Connecting People and Nature in Scotland – @nature_scot

  17. 28 Bill Gilmour
    May 4, 2018 at 7:49 am

    I received 4 copies of the letter. One each in reply to two letters, both copied to the chair & the CEO. It’s a programme called SurveyMonkey, which generates the replies.

    It should be noted that he has “offered to facilitate a meeting between the RSPB and the local community group in Strathbraan.” Of course he should have, made at least that, a prior condition.

    I have replied to them –

    “Mike Cantlay Chair SNH chair@snh.gov.uk

    Francesca Osowska CEO SNH EO@snh.gov.uk

    Perthshire Raven Cull

    Dear Mike Cantlay,

    Thank you for the emails regarding the Perthshire Raven Cull, which I received today.

    Unfortunately, you did not satisfactorily address any of the three substantive points I made:

    That ‘Understanding Predation’ repeatedly pleaded for further joint research, which SNH has short circuited,

    That SNH should be taking a leading role in promoting that joint research, which SNH has blown,

    And lastly, that SNH should be careful, about choosing its friends and associates.

    Nor did you answer the question I asked in a second email – in the meantime, is the licence suspended?

    I will be writing to the Cabinet Secretary.”

    I’m off to do that now.

  18. 29 Secret Squirrel
    May 4, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    very interesting. The TCSMG comment regarding controlling predation on sheep and lambs is revealling . I wonder if that was in the submission to SNH. Maybe they just happening to be targeting 69 ravens around sheep flocks…..

    The presence of Media Hous eis also interesting – they aren’t just any PR company, but a very aggressive agency usually brought in to fire fight and crisis manage.

  19. 30 David
    June 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    All the science ‘out there’ i.e. respected journal articles and peer reviewed work state that ravens do not impact waders declines are related to habitat management rather than predation – my fear if the remove ravens from an ecosystem hooded crows will increase in number and they are a greater predator of wader chicks, eggs – Thus more wader declines and the idiots will suggest killing more ravens !!

    • 31 Iain Gibson
      June 6, 2018 at 5:26 am

      David, in my opinion this suggestion goes down the wrong alley. Hooded Crows (and Carrion Crows) have a reputation which is even more entrenched than that of Ravens, and these fine birds are unjustifiably persecuted even more so, having no legal protection from farmers and landowners (or their agents). Not helped by the RSPB, who treat crows on some of their reserves as unwelcome natural predators, second-class components of the ecosystem. There is little logic involved in treating these partial predators as somehow different from birds of prey, otherwise we just emulate the gamekeeper mentality. Keepers on grouse moors already slaughter Hooded and Carrion Crows, even Rooks and Jackdaws which forage for invertebrates on the moors when lowland soils are hard and dry during a warm summer. We could easily resolve most problems by informed management or manipulation of habitats, without any need for brutally killing any animal, wherever it sits on the food chain.

  20. 32 Eric
    July 4, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    It would be interesting to hear exactly what “science” they are going to record. If they just start killing ravens without any baseline data for the area which they will need to have gathered over an number years their science is invalid. Also what other factors may be affecting the populations of Curlew and Lapwing, such as modern farming practices.

  21. 33 Iain Gibson
    July 6, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Isn’t it amazing how all of a sudden the gamekeepers, farmers and lovers of killing wildlife in Strathbaan are joining together for the noble cause of saving our breeding waders, and in the process have not apparently enlisted any independent ornithological scientists or Raven experts? The licensing of this process has got to be THE most disingenuous and possibly dishonest action ever taken publicly by Scottish Natural Heritage, and clandestine in the extreme. Heads must roll. It’s quite astonishing how few politicians have woken up, to the very strange reality of this unfortunate and shameful episode in SNH history. Good luck with the judicial review Raptor Study Group, and I know you won’t give up if it fails. This is a battle we must win eventually.


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