Does your MSP support the raven cull licence?

Three weeks ago Alison Johnstone MSP lodged a Parliamentary motion raising political concerns about the Strathbraan raven cull licence and called for its immediate withdrawal. She also called for SNH to withdraw the use of the Open General Licence in this area in response to the catalogue of confirmed and suspected wildlife crimes recorded in recent years.

Nine days after the motion was lodged, only five MSPs had signed in support:

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

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

To progress to a Parliamentary debate, where the subject can be exposed to political scrutiny, the motion requires support from at least 30 MSPs from more than two political parties by 11 June 2018.

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 this is unlikely, read the comments made by SNH’s Nick Halfhide earlier this month, 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.

[Cartoon by Mr Carbo]

Due to these concerns, a couple of weeks ago we encouraged blog readers to contact local MSPs and ask them to sign in support of this motion. We know many of you have done this (thank you) judging by the correspondence we’ve received.

We know that Conservative MSPs appear to be sending out a generic response to these requests from their local contituents, and we can guess that this response has been written for them by one of the ‘countryside organisations’ given that its full of old wives tales that aren’t even relevant to this licence (e.g. ‘Ravens often target and kill new born lambs by the barbaric removal of their eyes and tongues‘) and unsupported claims such as ‘SNH take a robust evidence-based approach when issuing licences‘.

Unsurprisingly, Alison’s motion has not been supported by any Conservative MSP.

So who has supported it?

As of 5pm this evening, the following MSPs have signed in support:

Patrick Harvie (Greens), Christine Grahame (SNP), John Finnie (Greens), Andy Wightman (Greens), Ross Greer (Greens), Mark Ruskell (Greens), Claudia Beamish (Labour), Iain Gray (Labour), Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrats), Daniel Johnson (Labour), Colin Smyth (Labour) and Mairi Gougeon (SNP).

That’s a total of 12 MSPs from four political parties. The cross-party support is excellent but the numbers are nowhere near enough. Eighteen more signatures are needed to secure a debate.

Is your MSP on this list? Have you asked them to support this motion? If you have, and they haven’t yet responded, please chase them up. If you haven’t asked them, please consider doing so. MSPs are more likely to engage if they’ve received a bucketful of correspondence on a particular issue from their local constituents.

If you’re not sure who your MSP is please click here to find out. And remember you’ll have more than one MSP – your constituency MSP and your regional list MSPs.

Thank you

25 Responses to “Does your MSP support the raven cull licence?”

  1. 1 Anon
    May 23, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Our MSP is Roseanna Cunningham…….

  2. 3 Alauda
    May 23, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    As I’ve previously pointed out, the motion is fundamentally flawed in that, as I read it, the content can’t actually be achieved.

  3. May 23, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    I only had a reply from one SNP MSP….it came quite quickly but it looks like a rehash of SNH flimflam. No acknowledgement or reply from all of the other list MSP’s or the named MSP. Ironically, this included Ross Greer!

  4. 6 SABK
    May 23, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    This is the response received from my MSP – what hope do we have

    Afraid I won’t be signing the motion in question.
    Not because I don’t harbour some concerns about the decision of SNH, because I do.
    My decision not to sign is based upon my view that the motion is a knee jerk reaction to a complex issue.
    I understand entirely the public concerns about the location and scale(although the up to 300 ravens would be culled over a four year period) of this trial.
    But there is, in my view, a legitimate case for examining the licensing regime around ravens.
    The current arrangements are in-sufficiently surgical to respond where there are evidenced issues in parts of the country ie where populations are robust and their impacts are being felt amongst waders and livestock.

    I note your comment regarding consulting with the RSPB. And I understand where you are coming from. But in my experience you cannot engage with that organisation on matters such as this and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
    The RSPB is opposed to any measures such as these even when they might be designed to protect other bird species.

    Rather than signing this motion I am seeking to develop a fuller, dis-passionate understanding of the background to this decision. If, having done so, I have concerns over it I will raise these directly with SNH.

  5. 9 Mr Carbo
    May 23, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Like SABK my MSP sent me a not dissimilar response. Graeme Dey not noted for decisive action , yet again sits on the fence.

  6. May 23, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Regional Conservatives appointed one of three to respond – same reply as others report. Guff, but I forwarded it to Alison Johnstone MSP. My local MSP (SNP) gave a more personal reply but considers this more a matter for government not parliament. I forwarded your earlier report on questions and answers received earlier this afternoon. Doesn’t look hopeful from Highlands and Islands representation!

  7. 11 Jill Mordaunt
    May 23, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Both my constituency MSP (ChristineGraham) and my list MSP ( Claudia Beamish) have raised issues about this cull. Proud of both of them

  8. 12 Jimmy
    May 23, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Halfhide?? More like Halfhead!!

  9. 13 George M
    May 23, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    Well done, Mairi Gougeon. Thank you for lending your weight to clarifying these bizarre explanations by your Party.

  10. 14 Cathy Pohlman
    May 23, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    I’m in the states and have no clue why in heavens name your so dead set on killing ravens, other than superstition.

  11. 15 Greer Hart, senior.
    May 24, 2018 at 12:52 am

    What a bunch of escape artists (not signing politicians) hiding behind spurious claims against Ravens and other wild creatures. This issue is a sap under the foundations all conservationists and animal welfare people have created. If it takes off as suggested it will, the enemy will have won over compliant Government bodies to protect wildlife and manage the natural landscape, to enable them to legally kill more “vermin” to sustain their cruel and despicable “sport”. When I contact my SNP MSP, he simply sends me his party’s policy on whatever. We have to face the facts, in the main, Scottish politicians have not moved into the progressive humane way of looking at how mankind should be treating the natural environment, and the conservation of wildlife. The media is replete with information on the Great Extinction taking place on Earth today, and the terrible pollution endangering all Life. Our political representatives cannot be immune to this, and see that Scotland has its part to play by changing our whole approach to how we use our landscape. Protecting Ravens or any other life form gets little attention due to the priorities facing our society – increasing crime, poverty, unemployment and firms closing down, education, Brexit, poor policing, housing and homelessness and many more. The enemy knows this attitude can be used to divert public attention and that of our politicians, away from their blood sports, and with Fergus Ewing as their protector, what hope have we, the protectors of wildlife, of winning our campaigns to control the egregious power and influence of the shooting estates and their supporters? I have felt like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel, when I contemplate contacting a politician.

    THE SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY has declared itself to be supportive of animal welfare and conservation issues, so let us remind them of that promise, and get more of them to sign this motion.

    Anyway, thank you dear politicians who have signed this motion. Scotland, and many of its politicians have a long way to go in developing a more courageous ethical approach to rid their country of contemptible activities involving species cleansing. If mankind does not heed the writing on the wall about the threats to the Earth, then the Grim Reaper will be coming for it.

  12. May 24, 2018 at 7:59 am

    My MSP, Liam MacArthur, signed up after I contacted him. List MSPs Rhoda Grant, Maree Todd and David Stewart sent auto responses (I’ll get back to you) – nothing else yet. Jamie Halcro-Johnston sent a cut and paste reply which only mentioned the effect on livestock – no mention of waders at all, which speaks volumes, I think! Edward Mountain surprised me by engaging properly with the subject as follows:
    “I have read the motion submitted by Alison and I am afraid that I won’t be able to sign it. Firstly I would like to say that I believe we all have a duty to ensure that raptor persecution in Scotland ceases. It is all of our duty to make this happen and I regularly speak out on this subject.

    The reason why I cannot sign the motion is because I believe that ravens do predate on young waders and do have a detrimental effect of juvenile wader number. Both mature an immature ravens will take eggs and when they find a nest the outcome will be the same, all eggs will be eaten/removed. However my experience suggests that in cases where mature breeding ravens have an established territory, predation of chicks is often less. This because when one chick is taken, the other chicks can often disperse and survive. Young immature ravens often flock together and form packs that will quarter areas of hill/rough grass. When one raven finds a brood of chicks the other will gather and wipe out all the brood. I therefore believe the reduction in ravens at specific times, in sensitive areas, is important and should be carried out. I am sorry if this is contrary to your opinion but I hope it clarifies my position.”

    Not good science and no justification for experiments, killing native wildlife. I will be replying.

  13. 17 John Keith
    May 24, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    I wrote to six MSPs: Iain Gray (lab) Claudia Beamish (Lab) Colin Smyth (lab), and Paul Wheelhouse (SNP), Emma Happer (SNP) and Joan McAlpine (SNP).
    All the Labour MSPs put their name to the motion, NONE of the SNP MSPs did.
    Small sample; obvious pattern; can anyone suggest an explanation that doesn’t damn the SNP?

    • May 25, 2018 at 10:52 am

      Hi John,

      As a Scottish Minister, Paul Wheelhouse isn’t eligible to sign.

      However, if you haven’t yet had responses from Emma Harper or Joan McAlpine, please send them a follow-up reminder.


  14. 19 Sgao
    May 25, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Response from Kate Forbes MSP

    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 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.

    Thanks again for raising this with me.

    Kind regards,


    Kate Forbes MSP
    Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch

    • 20 Iain Gibson
      May 26, 2018 at 2:35 am

      What a load of utter bullshit and sycophantic nonsense. Does she think we were born yesterday? This could have been ghost-written by the Chair of SNH himself, or even the Head of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

    • May 27, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      My SNP MSP wrote the same.. verbatim. Written by Scottish Government official, party official or SNH?

    • 22 Sgao
      June 14, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Further response from Kate Forbes SP

      Thanks for your reply.

      Based on my initial email which stated that this is an operational matter for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), I do not think it would be appropriate to then sign the motion.

      I will, however, make your views known to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment which is likely to be more effective.

      Thanks again for taking the time to raise your concerns with me on this issue.

      Kind regards,


      Kate Forbes MSP
      Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch

  15. 23 Richard Wells
    May 26, 2018 at 11:05 am

    I received an identical response to the one above from my MSP Ash Denham. Shamefully the SNP or at least some SNP MSPs are sending out a standard response. A response which basically washes their hands of responsibility for this cull.

  16. May 28, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Two Jighlands and Islands Labour MSP’s have supported Alison Johnstone’s motion and forwarded Claudia Beamish’s Q and A!

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