Posts Tagged ‘gamekeeper


NatureScot Chair Mike Cantlay writes puff piece for Scottish Gamekeepers’ rag

How come, if Scottish gamekeepers feel so downtrodden, unheard, overlooked, side-lined etc (e.g. see here), the Chair of Naturescot is writing puff pieces for their quarterly rag?

In the Spring 2021 edition of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s newsletter, Mike Cantlay blows some serious amounts of smoke up the SGA’s backside. It’s a shame his organisation isn’t as enthusiastic about revoking General Licences on shooting estates where there is strong evidence that raptor persecution continues.

Mike Cantlay isn’t the SGA’s only friend at NatureScot.

The recently-updated list of Board Members includes one David Johnstone, former CEO of Scottish Land & Estates whose responses to raptor persecution incidents leave a lot to be desired (e.g. see here and here) as does his view on vicarious liability (see here) and grouse moor licensing (e.g. see here and here).

Ah, nothing like a modernising, forward-thinking progressive to join the NatureScot Board, eh? Which Scottish Government Ministers approved the current intake of Board Members and how many candidates with expertise in wildlife, science and nature conservation were overlooked in favour of landowning Lord Johnstone?


This ‘downtrodden gamekeeper’ act is fooling no-one

As campaigning for the forthcoming Scottish election gets in to full swing, I’ve been reading more and more about poor ‘downtrodden’ gamekeepers, how they’re not listened to, how hard done by they are, how they’ve been ‘vilified’ etc etc.

This article in last week’s Herald is a classic example, although pay close attention to who wrote it – Clare Taylor, Political Affairs Editor at The Scottish Farmer – her reference to farmers being “plagued” by the return of White-tailed eagles and commentary about “a growing obsession with rewilding” gives you a good idea about her environmental aspirations.

The truth is, rural affairs already have a very loud voice in the Scottish Parliament, in the shape of Fergus Ewing, Minister for Tourism and the Rural Economy who called himself “a friend in Government” to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association recently. Such a good friend in fact that he’s auctioning off a Holyrood tour (that should be free) to help the SGA’s fundraising activities (see here).

Clare Taylor’s tweet, promoting her biased article in the Herald, made me laugh:

After proclaiming that the Scottish Government ‘must stamp out the vilifying of individuals’, what does she think the accompanying photograph shows? Er, could it be a bunch of Scottish gamekeepers vilifying Chris Packham outside Perth Concert Hall, protesting about him having a job?

And are these the same gamekeepers who routinely vilify and abuse those of us campaigning against environmentally-damaging, unlawful and unsustainable grouse moor management (see here and here)?

And are these the same gamekeepers who continue to shoot, trap and poison birds of prey in the Scottish countryside?

Clare’s article includes a quote from the co-ordinator of Scotland’s Moorland Groups. That’ll be Tim (Kim) Baynes then, a Director of the landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates – hardly someone without connections to politicians and civil servants, is he? Yet another influential voice speaking to power on behalf of gamekeepers.

Although according to Scottish Land & Estates’ CEO, Sarah-Jane Laing, who was on here last week claiming that ‘The Regional Moorland Groups which exist across Scotland are not part of the SLE structure‘.

Really? Well why then does Tim Baynes’s job description, on the SLE website, say that he’s the co-ordinator of those seven moorland groups??

And what about those seven regional moorland groups? They’re an interesting bunch. Grouse moors in five of those seven regions have been in the last three years, or currently are, under police investigation for alleged raptor persecution crimes (grouse moors in the regions covered by the Angus Glens Moorland Group, Grampian Moorland Group, Tomatin Moorland Group, Tayside & Central Moorland Group and the Southern Uplands Moorland Group).

And there are more ongoing police investigations linked to grouse moor management and raptor persecution that are yet to be publicised. Believe me, the public will be appalled when the news comes out and it’ll be a bloody brave (or desperate) politician that puts their name down to support this continued criminality.


Emmerdale actor speaks out against grouse moor burning & raptor persecution

Hot on the heels of her last article on how burning Britain’s moorland is ‘an environmental disaster’ (here), the Daily Mirror’s Environment Editor, Nada Farhoud has a follow up article out today.

This time she interviews Emmerdale actor Nick Miles, who lives in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has been a long-time supporter of conservation campaigns such as Hen Harrier Day.

Nick talks about his village ‘disappearing under a blanket of smoke’ when the gamekeepers have set the moors alight and how letters to his MP, Rishi Sunak, have fallen on deaf ears.

He also talks about how few red kites he sees in Upper Wharfdale (hardly surprising given its proximity to Nidderdale, where killing red kites on grouse moors is de rigueur) in comparison to Harewood, where Emmerdale is filmed and from where red kites were reintroduced and are doing well.

Read today’s article in the Mirror here (and watch out for the comedy input from Moorland Association Director Amanda Anderson).

Meanwhile in Scotland the fires also continue. I’ve been sent some horrific photographs that were taken in the Angus Glens two days ago – I’ll be publishing those later this weekend.

And here’s a photo sent in by another blog reader (thank you) taken yesterday in Manor Valley in the Borders:

It’s astonishing that not only is this burning still legal (although for how much longer remains to be seen) even though we’re in a climate and nature emergency, but that gamekeepers in Scotland can lawfully continue to set the moors alight until 15th April, and then with landowner’s permission can continue to light fires until 30th April.

Still, it’s a cracking wheeze for torching out hen harrier nests, peregrine breeding ledges and golden eagle eyries, which can then be explained away as ‘accidents’ (see here).

Pass the matches.


Natural England’s shady approach to IUCN guidelines on hen harrier reintroduction

Earlier this week I blogged about how Natural England had been planning, in secret, to start a captive breeding programme for hen harriers, with the intention of releasing the progeny in to southern England as a way of boosting the UK hen harrier population, which has been in decline for years thanks to the ongoing illegal killing of this species (see here).

The proposed reintroduction isn’t news – this has been on the cards since 2016 when DEFRA published its ludicrous Hen Harrier Action Plan (and when Natural England was caught out claiming spurious justifications for the reintroduction – see here) – but the captive breeding element is new, and is a direct result of potential donor countries in Europe refusing to donate harriers to a country that clearly can’t look after the ones its already got.

And although the captive breeding element is highly questionable from an ethical standpoint, it’s still not the main issue here. The main issue has always been, and remains to be, the concept of releasing hen harriers in one part of the country as a massive distraction from dealing with the scandalous level of persecution still inflicted on this species in other parts of the country (namely on driven grouse moors).

[An illegally killed hen harrier. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Reintroduction projects need to meet all sorts of criteria before they can go ahead and DEFRA advises project managers consult the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Guidelines for Reintroductions and other Conservation Translocations as part of their preparation.

These IUCN guidelines are built on decades of conservation knowledge and experience and provide a ‘route map’ for achieving a successful reintroduction. One of the fundamental principles of these guidelines is deciding when a translocation/reintroduction is an acceptable option. Key to this is:

There should generally be strong evidence that the threat(s) that caused any previous extinction have been correctly identified and removed or sufficiently reduced‘.

Now, in the case of the UK hen harrier population, which is in long-term decline according to the most recent national survey conducted in 2016 (see here), it is widely accepted that illegal persecution continues to be the main threat to survival, limiting the species’ distribution and abundance in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

So the threat has been ‘correctly identified’, as per the IUCN guidelines. It’s indisputable (unless you’re a spokesperson from the very industry that’s responsible for this organised criminality). There are more scientific papers identifying and confirming the threat as there are breeding pairs of hen harriers in England – including the most recent research, co-authored by Natural England staff, which demonstrated the ongoing, widespread illegal killing of hen harriers on British grouse moors (here).

But has the ‘correctly identified’ threat been ‘removed or sufficiently reduced’ for Natural England to proceed with its reintroduction plans? Well, that’s where it all gets a bit shady, in my opinion.

Natural England has been downplaying the persecution issue for a couple of years, particularly when its staff members have been trying to persuade potential donor countries that persecution really isn’t an issue in southern England (e.g. see here and here), although the RSPB has vigorously disputed this claim:

And of course there’s also been the suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier called Vulcan (here) (which according to an employee of the National Gamekeepers Organisation was likely a ‘set up’ by the RSPB (here!), and then there’s the recent and on-going police investigation into alleged bird of prey persecution nearby (see here).

So it was interesting to see a copy of Natural England’s Hen Harrier Southern Reintroduction IUCN Assessment, dated January 2020, and released to me last week as part of a bundle of documents released under a Freedom of Information request, to understand just how Natural England is attempting to explain away the real and present threat of persecution.

Here is the document:

First of all, Natural England is pointing to two datasets of confirmed raptor persecution incidents to show that persecution is an issue in counties far away from the proposed release site in Wiltshire.

The first dataset cited (published by DEFRA on behalf of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, RPPDG) has been widely criticised as being inaccurate and out of date (see here) and is unsupported by two members of the RPPDG: the Northern England Raptor Forum (here) and by the RSPB (here).

The second dataset is much more reliable, as it’s compiled using rigorous scientific quantification by the RSPB, but even then, it only includes confirmed raptor persecution incidents, i.e. where there is a corpse and supportive evidence to identify the cause of death (e.g. x-ray, toxicology report). The database cited by Natural England does NOT include ‘probable’ or ‘possible’ raptor persecution incidents. So, for example, the vast majority of the 52 hen harriers known to have been killed or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances since 2018 (here) would NOT be included in this database of confirmed incidents because many of them, without a corpse or satellite tag, would have to be classified as being ‘probable’ persecution incidents. It’s ironic that these incidents would be excluded, given it was Natural England’s own commissioned research findings that identified missing satellite-tagged hen harriers as most likely to have been illegally killed on or near grouse moors (here).

So not only is Natural England being highly selective in the datasets it has chosen to support this claim that persecution isn’t an issue in southern England, the other main claim made in its IUCN assessment is that hen harriers released in the south of England won’t travel north to the deadly grouse moors of northern England, Wales and Scotland. Here is the claim:

This is an astonishing claim to make. Obviously, I was interested in the reference that Natural England cited to support such a claim: (NE 2019a). However, when I looked up the reference I found it refers to Natural England’s intermittently-updated summary table of the fates of tagged hen harriers (here).

This table doesn’t support Natural England’s claims at all! If anything, it shows that young hen harriers wander widely during dispersal, throughout the UK, so there is no supportive evidence whatsoever to suggest the incidence levels of hen harriers released in southern England roaming into northern upland areas (persecution hotspots) ‘will be low’. What complete nonsense this is!

The fact is, nobody knows what those released hen harriers will do, but if they follow the behaviour of other young dispersing hen harriers they will wander widely and will be at significant risk of being killed if they go anywhere near a driven grouse moor. I wouldn’t fancy their chances if they turned up at some commercial pheasant and partridge drives either, given the persecution suffered on some shooting estates by Montagu’s and Marsh harriers.

It’s no wonder Natural England has wanted to keep its plans under wraps – this is shady stuff indeed.


‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one.

In January 2020, five pro-shooting organisations issued a statement that professed ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution. Coming 66 years after it became illegal to kill birds of prey in the UK, this was progress indeed.

I said at the time it was a sham (here). I haven’t seen anything since that has convinced me of their collective sincerity.

Take the most recent, high-profile raptor persecution crime reported earlier this week – a gamekeeper on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park filmed using a tethered live eagle owl decoy to draw in two buzzards which he shot on sight (see here). North Yorkshire Police Inspector Matt Hagen said of these offences:

We conducted a search warrant and interviewed an individual in relation to this incident. Ultimately, however, the identity of the suspect on the film could not be proved, and it was not possible to bring about a prosecution. However this does not mean the event didn’t happen. We know that a gamekeeper on a grouse moor has been shooting buzzards, using a live eagle owl decoy to bring those buzzards into a position where they could be shot”.

Details of this offence emerged on the morning of Tuesday 9th March 2021.

There was silence from the major shooting organisations. And for most of them, at the time of writing this at six pm on Friday evening, that deafening silence has continued.

The three main ones that should have been at the forefront of vocal condemnations and a commitment to boot out the estate and the gamekeeper from any memberships they may hold within the industry, have said absolutely nothing on their respective websites:

The Moorland Association (the grouse moor owners’ lobby group in England) – silence

The National Gamekeepers Organisation – silence

British Association for Shooting and Conservation – silence

The Country Landowners Association (CLA) was also one of the original five signatories to ‘zero tolerance’ but they’ve said nothing either.

The only one of the five groups who in January 2020 professed a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for raptor persecution and said anything about this latest disgraceful display of criminality was the Countryside Alliance. They published this statement two days after the story hit the headlines:

Whether you believe the sincerity of this statement or not is another matter but at least the CA published something.

Of course, the three main groups that have remained silent are all members of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), whose objectives include prevention of, and awareness-raising of, illegal raptor persecution. Anyone seen them doing any of that? No. Once again it looks like they’re just using their membership of the RPPDG as a convenient cover to pretend they care. When are they going to be expelled?

Other members of the RPPDG, notably those who don’t have a vested interest in closing ranks and saying nothing, have issued statements on the crimes.

The Northern England Raptor Forum has published a characteristically damning statement (here) and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has done pretty well with this:

So, the illegal killing continues, the majority of the shooting industry organisations say nothing, and public anger grows.

Thanks, Moorland Assoc, National Gamekeepers and BASC – this is only heading in one direction and you’re all helping it reach the end game so much more quickly than we could get it there on our own. Cheers.


Gamekeeper filmed shooting 2 buzzards on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park

The RSPB Investigations Team has published a blog this morning, detailing their undercover work filming a gamekeeper on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, who used a tethered eagle owl to draw in two buzzards close enough for them to be shot.

The blog, authored by RSPB Investigations Officer Howard Jones, describes the circumstances of the crimes, which include the obvious ones of shooting two protected buzzards but also the use of a tethered decoy (in this case, the eagle owl). Howard and his colleague Jack were filming through a telescope from approx 5km away and witnessed a gamekeeper drive across the grouse moor with the eagle owl, tether the owl to a post close to a grouse butt while he lay in wait close by with his gun.

[Screen grabs from the RSPB’s video]

Unfortunately, once again, despite a police investigation this case will not result in a prosecution because the identity of the gamekeeper committing the crimes could not be verified. However, importantly, Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police is quoted as follows:

We conducted a search warrant and interviewed an individual in relation to this incident. Ultimately, however, the identity of the suspect on the film could not be proved, and it was not possible to bring about a prosecution. However this does not mean the event didn’t happen. We know that a gamekeeper on a grouse moor has been shooting buzzards, using a live eagle owl decoy to bring those buzzards into a position where they could be shot. We urge the public to report incidents like this to the police, and to come forward if they have information about this or any other incident involving the illegal killing of birds of prey“.

You can read the blog here

You can watch the RSPB’s video here:

The Yorkshire Dales National Park has been a known raptor persecution hotspot for many, many years, with wildlife crimes disproportionately taking place on the Park’s driven grouse moors. These crimes have been raised as a concern by both residents and visitors alike (see here).

The National Park Authority has its hands tied behind its back to some extent because these crimes are taking place on privately-owned grouse moors, but the Authority can’t be accused of ignoring the issue, e.g. see here for some of the work it’s been doing.

So how about the grouse shooting industry? What are they doing, exactly, to tackle these ongoing crimes?

The name of the estate in this latest case hasn’t been published, presumably to protect the identity of any other gamekeeper not directly involved, but the estate manager and owner will be well aware of this police investigation. Will they sack this gamekeeper?

What about the Moorland Association? As members of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), I’d expect the MA to be informed and for them to take action against the estate if it turns out to be one of their members.

Other RPPDG members include BASC and the National Gamekeepers Organisation – what action will they take if this gamekeeper is one of their members?

And the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, representing estates and gamekeepers in the region – what action will they take?

Where’s the evidence of the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ to raptor persecution, so loudly paraded in January 2020?

There is no evidence of there being zero tolerance because it’s a total sham. Some gamekeepers continue to break the law, in broad daylight, because they know the chances of getting caught are minimal and even when they are caught the industry in which they work will close ranks, call ‘foul’ on the RSPB and carry on as normal.

I haven’t seen any evidence, since the industry’s purported ‘zero tolerance’ announcement, that serious efforts are being made to oust the criminals within. Which is why these crimes continue, week after week after week.

Well done to the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police for their work on this case.

UPDATE 12th March 2021: ‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one (here)


Swinton Estate owner (& Chair of Moorland Association) challenged by BBC about raptor persecution on his estate

This is worth a watch.

A BBC documentary series called Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby featured the Swinton Estate in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.

The owner of the estate, Mark Cunliffe-Lister (also known as Lord Masham) also happens to be the Chair of the Moorland Association, the lobby group for grouse moor owners in England.

As part of the programme, presenter Giles Coren visited Swinton’s grouse moors with Cunliffe-Lister and Coren asked him straight out about confirmed raptor persecution crimes on Swinton. The change in Cunliffe-Lister’s body language was quite noticeable – he went from confident, open, welcoming hotel owner to cagey, uncomfortable grouse moor owner.

Giles Coren:Have there been instances around here of raptors being killed?

Mark Cunliffe-Lister:Yes, there have been, there was one that was found on Swinton itself, it was found to have some lead in it so, er, clearly had been shot at some stage. There’s nothing that we’re culpable of but clearly there are still instances of it taking place“.

Just the one, Mark? What a forgetful silly billy (and not for the first time).

Kudos to Giles Coren and to whoever was the BBC executive producer of this edition. Good stuff.

The programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for a year (the grouse moor stuff starts at 39 mins 15 sec) HERE


Gamekeepers angry as 8-year-old schoolchildren effectively engage in democratic process

I was told recently that public engagement with the Scottish Government on the issue of ongoing raptor persecution has never been bigger. For example, Ministerial aides say that now, whenever there’s a new case of an illegally-killed bird of prey, they can expect to receive about 4,000 letters/emails of protest/complaint and requests for the Government to get a grip of this issue.

There are lots of reasons why this level of public response has grown so high, but not least because of social media and the ability for campaigners to disseminate information quickly and widely and encourage new supporters to get involved.

Amongst those new supporters include the inspirational pupils of Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow. I’ve written about these schoolkids a few times, e.g. see here for a previous blog on their response to the suspicious disappearance of golden eagle Fred in 2018 and last month I wrote about how they’d congratulated the Scottish Government on its decision to issue a grouse moor licensing scheme (see here).

[Pupils from Sunnyside Primary School and their letters to Scottish Ministers congratulating them for the introduction of a grouse moor management licensing scheme]

That last blog elicited some remarkably aggressive online responses from some within the grouse shooting industry who accused Sunnyside teachers of ‘indoctrinating‘ their ‘vulnerable and easily led pupils‘, of this being ‘a disgusting failure by the school‘, of it being an example of ‘desperate virtue signalling‘, of the school ‘overstepping the mark massively‘, of it being ‘a disgusting brainwashing project‘, that teachers should be ‘struck off for misinformation‘ and that ‘this will not be allowed to go unchallenged‘.

Yep, way to go, grouse shooting industry, how to win hearts and minds.

Why do you think they feel so threatened by a bunch of bright 8-year-olds engaging with the democratic process?

Meanwhile, back in the real world the Scottish Government’s Environment Cabinet Secretary asked her aide to write to Sunnyside Primary pupils to thank them for their efforts. Here’s the letter:

If I was a member of the grouse shooting industry I’d be very concerned about the image it was presenting to the outside world.

I’ve blogged very recently about the vile harassment campaigns by gamekeepers directed against those of us who dare to ask for the law to be upheld and the environment protected (see here and here). If 8-year-old schoolchildren and their teachers are the next targets I can see that public tolerance of the grouse shooting industry will fall even lower.

Mind you, a skilled advocate told me recently, ‘Never interrupt your enemy when they’re making a mistake’. In which case, crack on, gamekeepers.


Gamekeepers lead disgusting hate campaign against conservationists (2)

WARNING: For those of a sensitive disposition this post will contain examples of grossly offensive material so if you’re likely to get upset by reading it I’d suggest you don’t go any further than this point.

Today’s post is a follow-on from last week’s post (Gamekeepers lead disgusting hate campaign against conservationists (1)) where I documented some of the abuse and harassment that has been levelled at me over the last six years because I campaign for an end to the illegal killing of raptors on game-shooting estates. Today’s post will focus on some of the abuse that’s been directed at my colleague Chris Packham and his step-daughter, Megan McCubbin.

These posts have been prompted by a recent campaign by gamekeepers complaining, with straight faces, that they are the victims of unfair abuse (see here).

Chris is no stranger to receiving harassment from the game-shooting and hunting industries for simply expressing his views and campaigning against animal cruelty and environmental destruction. The abuse has been going on for years:

The abuse comes from a variety of individuals with links to these industries, including these examples from Geva Blackett, former parliamentary officer for the SGA, married to Invercauld Estate’s factor (now retired), an SNP Councillor in Aberdeenshire and the former Deputy Convenor of the Cairngorms National Park Authority:

A common theme of attack has been in the form of petitions calling for the BBC to sack him (e.g. here) or ‘rein him in’ (e.g. here) and formal complaints being made to the BBC Trust (but not being upheld – see here and here) and much of this has been led by shooting industry groups such as the Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association, GWCT and BASC.

It’s little wonder, then, when the industry’s ‘leading’ organisations and prominent players are pursuing a hate campaign against Chris that gamekeepers and their supporters would also join in. One example was a gang of gamekeepers and their supporters who gathered outside a venue where Chris was working in Harrogate, shouting through a loud hailer about perceived job losses and who were so threatening that venue staff called the police to attend (see here). The irony of protesting about perceived job loss from an industry that has campaigned for Chris to lose his, wasn’t lost on any of us.

The abuse has certainly increased since Wild Justice launched in 2019 and some of that is well-documented, (e.g. see here but beware, it’s particularly unpleasant) and has included dead animals tied to his gate at home (e.g. see here and here), dead animals dumped on his drive (e.g. see here), human excrement sent through the post as well as a menacingly chilling death threat letter (see here).

His address has also been circulated on social media as have photographs of his driveway and gate.

All of this harassment, and other things that can’t yet be publicly divulged due to ongoing legal action, has been reported to the police.

More recently, the abuse has spread towards his step-daughter, Megan, and again this is likely to have been prompted by a particularly nasty attack on Megan published on the BASC website last year (here).


This libellous post was written by Bert Burnett, a former Director of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and a current columnist for the SGA’s quarterly rag for members, who routinely targets Chris, me, Wild Justice, RSPB and the Scottish Raptor Study Group:

Here’s Bert Burnett again with his vile, misogynistic language. Note the entry from ‘Glen Ample’ – this is the Facebook account of one Mike Holliday, a gamekeeper from Perthshire and a BASC Working Group member who recently wrote a letter of complaint to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the online abuse he and his colleagues had apparently suffered from ‘animal rights extremists’. I’ll be writing more about Mr Holliday and his own behaviour on social media in due course.

The following repulsive examples are from individuals who identify themselves as gamekeepers or are associated with the gamekeeping ‘profession’:

This one is from Ronnie Kippen, a gamekeeper from the Strathbraan area of Perthshire and apparently a committee member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association who has also featured in some recent GWCT propaganda. He published this appalling post on 3rd Feb 2021:

Can you imagine being Chris, or Megs, or their family members and friends having to read this malicious abuse every single day? Where are the leaders within the game-shooting industry, standing up and you know, leading?

Thankfully there is some humour to be found amongst all this depravity. The gamekeeper who posted this wasn’t quite up on world affairs and genuinely thought he was on to something, until his more informed mates pointed out the obvious:

I think that’s probably enough for today.

There’ll be further blogs in this series coming soon.


Scottish Government bemused by gamekeepers’ planned protest

Last November, the Scottish Government finally reached the end of its tether with the criminality and environmental damage associated with driven grouse shooting and announced its intention to bring in a licensing scheme for grouse shooting estates (see here).

In response, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) went in to an enraged meltdown and announced its members would hold a protest (or at least localised protests as Covid restrictions prevented a gathering at Holyrood), although it wasn’t clear what, exactly, they would be protesting about – they just seemed furious about the idea of a scheme that would mean a licence could be withdrawn if criminal activities were detected – (see here).

Since we’re all in another period of lockdown, even localised protests are out of the question and so now the SGA is planning an online protest instead. An article in yesterday’s Sunday Times revealed more details:

The online protest is set for 19th March 2021 and it seems the SGA is trying to drum up support from various industries, to come under the banner of a ‘Rural Workers’ Protest’. Look out for the hashtag #RWP21 on social media.

According to this article, the reasons for protesting include what the SGA calls ‘anti-rural measures pursued by the SNP and the Green Party’, and claims that the sector ‘has not had a fair deal from this parliament’.

Interestingly, amongst all the reasons given by the SGA for wanting to protest, grouse moor licensing does not feature explicitly in this article. The nearest the SGA gets is to complain about the Government’s alleged ‘unwillingness to manage or address predation’ and ‘curbs on muirburn’.

In response, the Scottish Government is reported to have said that it ‘did not recognise the claims being made’. In addition, Mark Ruskell MSP from the Scottish Greens said:

Many more rural jobs could be created if we banned the cruel practice of grouse shooting and used the land in other ways, to restore our forests and peatlands to tackle the climate emergency“.

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