12
May
18

Raven cull: please ask your MSP to support this Parliamentary motion

A few days ago we blogged about this Parliamentary motion that had been lodged by Alison Johnstone MSP (Lothian, Scottish Greens) raising concerns about the raven cull licence:

Motion S5M-11986

That the Parliament expresses concern that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has granted a licence to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders, which authorises the killing of 300 ravens; notes that this will take place in an area of Perthshire where eagles, which have been satellite-tagged have, it understands, previously disappeared and where the illegal persecution of raptors is believed to be well-documented; understands that this is as part of an experiment, which reportedly has no control measure in place, to assess the impact of such a cull on the wader population; regrets what it sees as the lack of consultation with expert organisations, including the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the RSPB; understands that these groups maintain that there “is no justification for this extreme course of action”; believes that there is a lack of robust scientific evidence to support this action; understands with regret that it is only now, following a notable and concerted public outcry, that SNH is calling on its Scientific Advisory Council to scrutinise the cull, and calls for the withdrawal of the research licence and the removal of the open general licence in this area as a matter of urgency.

Alison lodged this motion on 30 April but so far only five MSPs have supported it:

Patrick Harvie MSP (Greens), Christine Grahame (SNP), John Finnie (Greens), Andy Wightman (Greens), Ross Greer (Greens).

We believe that if this licence (and the process used to approve it) remains unchallenged, it is likely to be replicated in other areas dominated by driven grouse moors, and we’re likely to see similar applications for other species, especially buzzards, to be killed ‘just to see what happens’. If you think we’re being overly-dramatic, read the comments made by SNH’s Nick Halfhide last week, including the words: “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things so we can really test to see what we can learn from this kind of approach“.

This kind of approach” means SNH basing future conservation decisions on rural myth and old wives’ tales instead of peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

It’s crucial that this issue is debated in the Scottish Parliament but for that to happen, at least 30 MSPs from at least two different political parties need to sign Alison’s motion before 11 June 2018.

If you are a Scottish voter, we urge you to email your MSP and ask them to support the motion S5M-11986. If you’re not sure who your MSP is, please enter your postcode here to locate them.

Wherever you live, please consider adding your name to this petition opposing the raven cull, which has already attracted over 157,000 signatures.

And for those who have been asking, yes, we have been taking legal advice on whether to apply for a judicial review of SNH’s decision to grant this licence. Discussions are ongoing so more on that later.

Thanks to Mr Carbo for this cartoon, entitled ‘In a perfect world’:

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23 Responses to “Raven cull: please ask your MSP to support this Parliamentary motion”


  1. May 12, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Support sought from MSPs for my area.

  2. 2 Ron Bury
    May 12, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Letter sent.

  3. 3 biowrite
    May 12, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Your link takes people to a site on which they can find their MP. This is a motion in the Scottish Parliament, so people need to identify their MSPs here: http://www.parliament.scot/msps.aspx

  4. 4 biowrite
    May 12, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    With regard to my previous comment, I should explain that while theoretically the site you gave should enable one to find one’s MSPs as well as one’s MP, it didn’t work for my postcode, so I imagine others may have the same issue and it may be better simply to give the Scottish Parliament website link. Sorry if I caused confusion. Keep up the good work.

  5. 5 Chris Dobson
    May 12, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    My local (N Wales) paper had a letter from the Farmers Union of Wales claiming ”decline of curlews causing concern in farming community”. Coincidence or co-ordination? Should I send you a photo, & if so, how?

  6. 6 George M
    May 12, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    Email sent to Hen Harrier Champion, Mairi Gougeon, my MSP, about supporting the motion..

  7. 7 John Keith
    May 12, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    Text of my message to (all of) my MSPs

    Dear xxxxx

    This is to urge you to support the motion before the Scottish Parliament tabled by Alison Johnstone (Motion SSM-11986M). Allow me to assume that you are aware of the motion or will (have one of your people) look it up.
    It is not wordy, it is concise and to the point. It is attempting to reverse a decision made by our countryside ‘guardians’ at Scottish Natural Heritage which is exceedingly ill-advised and which was reached with no regard to due process.
    Subsequent actions by SNH underline the fact that they themselves know they did not follow proper procedures in issuing a licence to cull a hitherto protected species at the behest of a group of landowners who show total disregard for Scottish habitats and wildlife. (All of these assertions are well supported by evidence.)
    The motion is supported (last I heard ) by the greens MSPs, but not by you. Why is that?
    I am a firm supporter of your party because I want Scotland to take control of its own environment – social, economic and natural. At the age of 70 I have come to see that in many ways groups of wealthy individuals are abusing the land and in fact are leaving a severely depleted wild country which while often held up as a great asset is now suffering in too many ways:

    – The spruce plantations were justified by the war effort when they were planted, but created a single-species desert over hill-tops; clear felling of the plantations has created dangerous and impenetrable ground. (Just try walking through this sort of hillside.) Thankfully the Forestry Commission is now trying to reverse some of that damage.
    – Our farmers have gradually ruined the land they are using by relentless use of chemicals, over-cultivation, narrowing field boundaries and pursuit of subsidies.
    – The very welcome appearance of beavers offered a reversal of some of the farmer’s worst impacts: by slowing run-off, settling out silt and removing chemicals from the drainage. The farmer’s reaction? To try to re-exterminate the beavers. Some pilot efforts in England are demonstrating how allowing nature back onto the land can bring benefits, for the land and economically, in wildlife tourism.
    – A small number of land-owners are making obscene amounts of money from using their land for driven grouse shooting. This unnatural and horrible business is supported by shocking practices: muir-burning; culling of hares; setting traps and putting out poisoned baits which are selectively killing some of our rarest and most striking birds. How can anybody support an activity which has invented the thing called ‘stink pits’ designed to lure scavenging wildlife to be picked off and shot. The driven grouse moors are almost single species deserts and have been proved to be hotspots of wildlife crimes – the killing of protected birds.
    – Another small group of landowners are simply trying to flout our laws of access, by signage and barricades and aggressive enforcement of privacy where it is not legally justified.
    – Am I against the hardware spread over the hills? Hydro-electric dams? Pylons? Windfarms? Of the three, I would like to see the pylons being dismantled, but insofar as nature can tolerate the presence of the man-made structures, perhaps we too can live with them.
    Scotland is going to increasingly market its access to a wild environment as a tourist attraction. But our wild country needs to be protected; a balance needs to be found between access and maintaining its character. I want you to be part of a change for the better by putting an end to the damage being done to our country. Nobody is going to help us with this, we have to do it for ourselves.
    You are in the position to start to make a change for the better.
    Please do it, now.

  8. 8 Alister J Clunas
    May 12, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    Done.
    Remember you can also e-mail the list MSPs for your area as well as your MSP.

    • 9 Loki
      May 13, 2018 at 11:29 am

      Thanks Alister – I didn’t know. I just emailed the others too. Four are Tories however…

      • 10 Loki
        May 15, 2018 at 5:53 pm

        Response from Tom Mason MSP:

        Thank you for taking the time to write to me about raven culling.

        The Scottish Conservatives are committed to the highest standards of bird welfare.

        As you are aware, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) can grant licences to permit the killing or taking of wild birds to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock and wader species.

        Farmers and landowners know all too well the damage that ravens can inflict on their livestock. Ravens often target and kill new born lambs by the barbaric removal of their eyes and tongues.

        The licences are granted as part of a five-year collaborative trial which will help improve the understanding of factors affecting key wader species. Ravens have increased their breeding range across the UK by over 70 per cent in the last few decades, whilst species of other birds, such as waders, have seen numbers have declined by a similar percentage.

        The ‘Understanding Predation’ report by Scotland’s Moorland Forum, published in February 2016, was agreed by a range of stakeholders, including SNH, RSPB, the Scottish Government and Scottish Land & Estates. The report found strong support from survey data and stakeholders’ knowledge, that all six wild birds studied in detail (black grouse, curlew, golden plover, grey partridge, lapwing and oystercatcher) had shown widespread declines across Scotland since the 1960s. The report acknowledged that over the last 25 years, there has been wide-spread increases in the abundance of buzzards and ravens.

        SNH take a robust evidence-based approach when issuing licences. Photographic evidence and records of attacks and losses of livestock must be provided in order to apply for a licence. SNH must also be satisfied that farmers and landowners have tried sufficient scaring techniques. They make it clear that licences are only offered when no other solution is possible to control raven numbers.

        Raven management is carried out within a regulatory framework by SNH. It has many similar aspects to the management of deer where large numbers can have a negative impact on biodiversity and therefore they are controlled according to local population densities. Similarly, to deer, after all avenues of control have been explored, shooting is only the effective method of controlling numbers.

        SNH have been clear that if it becomes obvious that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence, then they will have no hesitation in removing a licence.

        I would like to once again thank you for contacting me.

        Kind regards,

        Tom Mason MSP

        • 11 Loki
          May 15, 2018 at 6:14 pm

          Exactly the same reply from Peter Chapman MSP (also Conservative):

          Thank you for your email,

          The Scottish Conservatives are committed to the highest standards of bird welfare.

          As you are aware, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) can grant licences to permit the killing or taking of wild birds to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock and wader species.

          Farmers and landowners know all too well the damage that ravens can inflict on their livestock. Ravens often target and kill new born lambs by the barbaric removal of their eyes and tongues.

          The licences are granted as part of a five-year collaborative trial which will help improve the understanding of factors affecting key wader species. Ravens have increased their breeding range across the UK by over 70 per cent in the last few decades, whilst species of other birds, such as waders, have seen numbers have declined by a similar percentage.

          The ‘Understanding Predation’ report by Scotland’s Moorland Forum, published in February 2016, was agreed by a range of stakeholders, including SNH, RSPB, the Scottish Government and Scottish Land & Estates. The report found strong support from survey data and stakeholders’ knowledge, that all six wild birds studied in detail (black grouse, curlew, golden plover, grey partridge, lapwing and oystercatcher) had shown widespread declines across Scotland since the 1960s. The report acknowledged that over the last 25 years, there has been wide-spread increases in the abundance of buzzards and ravens.

          SNH take a robust evidence-based approach when issuing licences. Photographic evidence and records of attacks and losses of livestock must be provided in order to apply for a licence. SNH must also be satisfied that farmers and landowners have tried sufficient scaring techniques. They make it clear that licences are only offered when no other solution is possible to control raven numbers.

          Raven management is carried out within a regulatory framework by SNH. It has many similar aspects to the management of deer where large numbers can have a negative impact on biodiversity and therefore they are controlled according to local population densities. Similarly, to deer, after all avenues of control have been explored, shooting is only the effective method of controlling numbers.

          SNH have been clear that if it becomes obvious that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence, then they will have no hesitation in removing a licence.

          Many thanks once more for taking the time to write.

          Yours Sincerely

          Peter Chapman MSP

  9. 12 Cathy Pohlman
    May 12, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    I can’t believe you do this over there. I really don’t understand this. Maybe because they’re smarter than you.

  10. May 13, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Email sent asking for support for the motion to MSP and all list MSPs. It will be interesting to see the replies! One of mine is Edward Mountain, so I don’t hold out much hope there.

  11. 14 Loki
    May 13, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Emailed Kevin Stewart MSP today.

    • 15 Loki
      May 14, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      Response from Kevin Stewart MSP which I intend to challenge:

      Dear xxxx

      Thank you for your letter concerning the recent decision by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to licence a research project in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire, which will involve the culling of ravens. This project is designed to assess the impact of predation by ravens on endangered wader species such as curlew and lapwing. I should say from outset, that as a Government Minister, I am unable to sign parliamentary motions.

      I am sure you will agree that it is vital that urgent action is taken to protect waders — the latest data shows curlew numbers fell by 61% in Scotland between 1995 and 2016. Lapwing populations fell by 57% over the same period.

      I understand why the decision to issue a licence has proved controversial and I am aware of the concerns of those who are opposed to the project. However, the issuing of such licences is an operational matter for SNH rather than the Scottish Government. I was interested to learn that SNH has asked its Scientific Advisory Committee to carry out a review and I will follow that inquiry closely.

      I would also like to take this opportunity to repeat my condemnation of the illegal persecution of birds of prey in Scotland’s countryside. Such persecution is unacceptable and must stop.

      I wish to see a future in which SNH, environmental groups, landowners and gamekeepers, are able to work collaboratively to protect and enhance Scotland’s magnificent natural environment.

      Kind regards,
      Kevin

      Kevin Stewart MSP
      Aberdeen Central

  12. 16 Alex Milne
    May 15, 2018 at 4:51 am

    I am in Spain at the moment, going round remote Extremadura slowly by mountain bike. Yesterday I was privileged to see over 100 raptors sweeping across the countryside at once. I managed to get around 30 in a single camera shot at once. The area is a farming area, mainly sheep, black pigs, with some cattle and goats. The farmers here are well aware thst these rsptors do not form a threat to their herds, but they do not have the BBC and SNH, who actually do know better, ignoring science and spouting fairy tales about the dangers of raptors. These large numbers of raptors go about without the farmers screaming for culls, because they know better. In some cafe/bars there are identification charts to help identify the large birds, of which there ajre many species. Only in Scotland do we have supposedly science based government bodies who suggest that if such a large number of raptors existed, farming would simply not be possible. It is not only possible, it is happening here where I am. It is a Scottish national disgrace. Individual people should not have to protest to their MSPs. The official bodies already know the truth and ignore it.

  13. 17 Alauda
    May 15, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Just to clarify the last part of the motion, is the intention to exclude or restrict the application of the GL01/2018 general licence over the geographical area referred to in the research licence?

    Does the Scottish Parliament have that power, or does it lie with SNH? Have there been previous examples of SNH exercising such power in the absence of a specific conviction for a wildlife crime or indeed across such a sizeable geographical area encompassing numerous land holdings? I can’t see that motion getting anywhere, but will watch with interest.

    • May 15, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      SNH has had the power to (temporarily) restrict the use of the General Licence on land where there is evidence of raptor persecution (as provided to SNH by the police), not neccesarily a conviction, since 1 January 2014.

      Since that time, SNH has imposed four such restrictions, including two that covered multiple landholdings (Raeshaw & Corsehope Estates, and Burnfoot & Wester Cringate Estates).

      However, there are a number of cases (at least nine of which we’re aware, but see below for more incidents) where SNH has not (yet) imposed a restriction. When asked why not, SNH said ‘it’s not in the public interest’ to discuss. See:
      https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/snh-says-no-general-licence-restrictions-currently-under-consideration-but-what-about-these-9-cases/

      In the raven cull area at Strathbraan, there have been a number of satellite-tagged eagles that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in recent years, plus a confirmed poisoned red kite in 2015 and a confirmed poisoned raven in 2017.

      • 19 Iain Gibson
        May 16, 2018 at 12:38 am

        It’s hard to tell if SNH has been hacked and is now under the control of the Russian secret service, or perhaps the mad world of Donald Trump, Scotland’s top golf course entrepreneur and the healthiest, most intelligent President ever to occupy the White House. As a conservation advisory body to the Scottish Government, SNH has clearly changed beyond all recognition.

  14. May 21, 2018 at 11:47 am

    My elected MSP, Liam MacArthur has supported the Motion. Good man. No replies from any of the others yet….


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