Posts Tagged ‘scottish gamekeepers association


‘Stop killing raptors and we can talk’, Packham tells gamekeepers

Yesterday the Sunday Times (Scotland) ran an opportunistic piece, presumably at the behest of a load of gamekeepers.

Written by Deputy Editor Mark Macaskill, it was claimed that a ‘moorland consortium’ had invited Chris Packham to visit a grouse moor to watch them set it alight, in response to Chris’s derision of muirburn whilst COP26 was taking place just down the road.

It transpires that the ‘moorland consortium’ in question is the one representing Scotland’s regional moorland groups, some of whose members are either currently, or recently have been, under police investigation for alleged raptor persecution crimes (e.g. members of the Angus Glens Moorland Group, Tomatin Moorland Group, Strathdearn & Speyside Moorland Group, Grampian Moorland Group, Tayside & Central Moorland Group), but this doesn’t appear to be a barrier to getting the deputy editor of the Times to publish favourable articles. Friends in high places, no doubt.

Anyway, a quote from the moorland groups’ co-ordinator, Lianne MacLennan, included this line:

There is an opportunity to foster a better understanding and take the heat out of a polarised debate“.

I spoke to Chris about this and at the time of writing, Chris hadn’t received the invitation but he was still pushed for a quote by Macaskill. That quote was then minimised in the print edition of the article (apparently due to lack of space) and not fully presented even in the digital edition, where space is not an issue.

It’s strange that when journalists ask for a quote they don’t use it in full. This happens a lot.

Here is Chris’s quote, in full:

Thank you for the invitation. Whilst I have a genuine desire to reach a point when real conservationists and some of the responsible factions of the game shooting industry can again sit around a table and make progress, I fear we are not yet at that point.

So I would gladly visit an estate to witness the burning . . . as long as I was also shown the whereabouts of all the graves of illegally killed raptors were buried. Until the wholesale slaughter of our precious birds of prey ends, I’m out. Its an intractable blockage to progress  – stop the killing and we can start talking. And also, science, proper science, isn’t about whether Mars Bars get singed or not. Just saying . . .

[Chris with the corpse of a male hen harrier that had been caught in a barbaric trap that had been set illegally next to the harrier’s nest on a driven grouse moor. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Here is a copy of the digital edition of the article:

Packham urged to take heat out of moorland burns

Mark Macaskill, Sunday November 21 2021

Chris Packham has declined an invitation to witness the controlled burning of Scottish moorlands after his comments during the Cop26 climate talks that Scotland was “sticking two fingers up” to a world in ecological crisis.

The naturalist and host of BBC Winterwatch, who was the victim of an arson attack at his home in Hampshire last month, used social media to highlight muirburn, which he believes contributes to carbon emissions and should be banned. He was accused of claiming, falsely, that peat, a natural carbon store, was being burnt on grouse moors.

In an effort to “take the heat” out of the debate, a moorland consortium asked Packham to be their guest on a Scottish estate to see muirburn in action.

Packham said that he was willing to engage with the shooting industry but pointed to the illegal persecution of birds of prey as a stumbling block.

“Whilst I have a genuine desire to reach a point when real conservationists and some of the responsible factions of the game shooting industry can again sit around a table and make progress , I fear we are not yet at that point . So I would gladly visit an estate to witness the burning . . . as long as I was also shown the whereabouts of all the graves of illegally killed raptors. Until the wholesale slaughter of our precious birds of prey ends , I’m out . Its an intractable blockage to progress – stop the killing and we can start talking.”

Bodies such as the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) insist that muirburn removes surface vegetation while leaving underlying layers of moss and peat intact. The practice is approved under licence from NatureScot, the government agency.

Environmentalists argue that burning on peatlands releases carbon into the atmosphere, undermining efforts to reduce emissions to help control climate change.

During the muirburn season from October to April it is estimated that the equivalent of 87,000 football pitches is burned.

Lianne MacLennan, co-ordinator of Scotland’s regional moorland groups, said that muirburn was conducted carefully and pointed to a Scottish government report last year which suggested that many bird species fared better where muirburn had taken place, although further research was required.

“Muirburn plays a vital role in preventing the type of climate-busting wildfires that lost a million tonnes of carbon in Moray and the Flow Country in 2019 and can help retain carbon in peatlands,” she said. “ We have written to Chris Packham in the hope he will come out and see what actually happens when trained, professional gamekeepers carry out the activity.”

A letter sent to Packham on Friday stated: “There is an opportunity to foster a better understanding and take the heat out of a polarised debate.”



‘Persistent intimidation’ – raptor conservationists face ongoing harassment from gamekeepers

Award-winning investigative journalism website The Ferret published an article last week with an account of how raptor conservationists are facing ongoing harassment from gamekeepers and supporters of the grouse-shooting industry.

Thanks to journalist Stuart Spray for the invitation to contribute to this piece.

It’s reproduced here in full:

Conservationists working to protect rare birds of prey claim they are being abused online and intimidated in the field by gamekeepers and supporters of the grouse shooting industry.

Logan Steele, communications secretary for the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG), made up of conservationists working to protect rare birds of prey, told The Ferret that he is regularly contacted by workers who say they have been targeted in the line of their work.

Steele says members report incidents such as being surrounded by armed gamekeepers – often in 4x4s or on quad bikes – being followed for hours on end whilst out monitoring, being abused verbally, having tyres let down, having police called on them and even being spat at whilst drinking in the local pub.

He claims the intimidation is widespread, but most raptor workers are not prepared to go on record for fear of reprisals.

The SRSG, set up in 1980, has more than 350 voluntary members monitoring the vast majority of the 6,000 plus raptor territories checked annually as part of the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme.

The scheme supplies data to organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), RSPB and NatureScot – the Scottish Government’s wildlife watchdog – to help understand population dynamics and inform conservation priorities. Members of SRSG also gather information on raptor persecution.

Gamekeepers have also previously claimed to be subjected to abuse. In a survey last November by the BASC, Countryside Alliance, Game Farmers Association and National Gamekeepers Association 64 per cent of Scottish gamekeepers said they had experienced threatening behaviour or abuse from members of the public at least once every year.

The study, which surveyed 152 gamekeepers, also found the majority (79 per cent) felt ‘less optimistic’ due to ‘targeted anti-shooting campaigns and the negative portrayal of shooting in the public domain’.

But Steele said conservationists were suffering. He added: “Our members on some driven grouse moors continue to be subjected to persistent levels of intimidation and abuse from gamekeepers. It is patently clear that raptor workers and indeed the wider public are not always welcome on some driven grouse moors“.

Steele has himself been trolled online several times. “On one occasion an ex-gamekeeper boasted online that he had fitted a tracking device to my car and knew I was at home“, he said. Concerned that he was being followed he got the car checked over but no tracking devices were found.

An image Steele posted of himself online with a hen harrier chick in 2006 was allegedly downloaded and regularly reposted on two ex-gamekeeper’s social media pages along with claims accusing him of professional malpractice without evidence.

Consultant ecologist, Andrea Hudspeth – who along with Steele received an RSPB award in 2017 for raptor campaign work – claimed she also felt threatened on shooting estates.

She added: “I have been monitoring raptors on a grouse shooting estate for a number of years now and have always been made to feel unwelcome, so much so that I don’t feel safe going there on my own.

She claimed the experience could be intimidating. Of one estate she said: “Having phoned the day before to let the estate know I was coming, I was told where I could and couldn’t go as they were shooting foxes that day. He [the head gamekeeper] told me that if I strayed into the wrong area, it wouldn’t be his fault if I got shot. At the time, that sounded like a veiled threat“.

Dr Ruth Tingay, an award-winning conservationist and director of Wild Justice, a not-for-profit organisation set up with broadcaster Chris Packham and environmental campaigner Mark Avery to ‘fight for wildlife in the courts and in the media’, told The Ferret she was subjected to online abuse on an almost daily basis.

Tingay, who runs the Raptor Persecution UK blog, claimed she received comments online that were routinely misogynistic and homophobic and involved personal slurs on her appearance and character.

My personal telephone number has been published online and folk have been incited to make abusive phone calls. I have also received abusive text messages,”, added Tingay.

My home address has been published and shared on social media. Photographs of my home have been published and shared on social media. I have been followed and photographed on grouse moors and these have been published on social media with accompanying defamatory comments.

I have been accused of fabricating evidence, of perverting the course of justice, of inflicting cruelty to wildlife, of killing eagles, of planting evidence, and conversely, and bizarrely, of withholding evidence from the police, of lying to the police, of lying to ministers, of lying to supporters, of lying in general“.

Tingay says the targeted harassment has been going on for the last six years and shows no signs of stopping. Earlier this week she was described by one shooter as “absolute poison” and another shooter opened a discussion titled: ‘Is Tingay a witch?’

These individual comments are, of course, pathetic and laughable and are easy to shrug off, so obvious is the desperation behind them”, she said. “But it’s the accumulation of the comments, that’s when the problem starts.

It’s relentless, and I think that’s very, very dangerous. That constant tide of abuse would take its toll on even the most resilient person. I’ve put measures in place to deal with it and I’m fortunate to be working with a world-class mental health coach. That’s not what I expected to need when I decided to work in the field of raptor conservation“.

However, Steele also insisted that most conservationists and grouse shooters, landowners, stalkers, ghillies and gamekeepers had a “very good working relationship”. He claimed those behind the abuse were trying to create a “false, them-and-us situation”.

The issue really resides with a small number of driven grouse shooting businesses”, he added. “In recent years we have seen some estates beginning to moderate their attitudes to raptor persecution which is very encouraging“.

The Ferret contacted the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the landowners’ representative group Scottish Land & Estates and the Countryside Alliance. None of the organisations replied to requests for comment.

However, Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg has previously said gamekeepers are currently being “undervalued” and called for action to be taken on the abuse they have faced.



Ex-Minister Fergus Ewing’s plans for pine martens explains a lot about Scottish Government’s approach to raptor protection

Fergus Ewing MSP was the Scottish Government’s Rural Cabinet Secretary from 2016-2021 until he was sacked by Nicola Sturgeon in May (see here).

He has long been viewed with suspicion by conservationists, and many would argue justifiably so (e.g. see here, here and check Google for plenty of other reports) although we did manage to get him to condemn ongoing raptor persecution on Scottish grouse moors after pointing out his long silence on this issue (here).

Many have believed that Fergus Ewing was partly responsible for the Scottish Government’s glacial approach to tackling raptor crime, with oft-heard rumours from within Holyrood circles that he and Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham were often at loggerheads over how the Government should respond. I don’t know if those rumours were true or not but I do know that the Government has dragged its feet on this issue for years and years and years (and is still doing so now).

Last week I read a comment piece from Fergus about pine martens, published in The Times, and it did nothing to change my view of what I’d call his dodgy conservation credentials. He can’t expect to be taken seriously when he proposes we should trust the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, GWCT, NFU Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates to carefully manage protected predators, when many of these organisations have either lobbied hard for licences to kill various raptor species perceived to threaten gamebirds and/or lambs, or have repeatedly denied that raptors continue to be killed by criminals within the industry, despite the evidence being clear for all to see.

Here’s what he wrote:

Ask any local farmer, keeper or land manager about the future of the capercaillie and they will talk about the impact of predators upon this bird, whose population in Scotland is under threat. From what I have learnt over two decades as the constituency MSP for much of the Caledonian pine forest, the capercaillie’s preferred habitat, it seems unlikely that the species can survive unless its predators are tackled.

Over the last two decades, millions of pounds of public money and lottery funding have been devoted to saving the caper. But, like other ground-nesting birds such as lapwing and plover, its eggs are breakfast, lunch and dinner for a large variety of predators. In this month’s edition of The Scottish Gamekeeper, there is a photograph of a pine marten holding an egg in its mouth.

Ten years ago the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust proposed a scheme not to control pine martens but to capture and transport them from Strathspey to places without such easy meals. This, sadly, was not approved. I have lodged in the Holyrood Parliament a motion that the Scottish Government and other funding sources must urgently discuss, with the bodies that understand land management best, how to avert the loss of the caper with sustained and effective predator management programmes. Other funding providers include NatureScot, the Cairngorm National Park and the lottery, who have a programme in Carrbridge seeking to preserve the caper.

Who knows what to do? Primarily those closest to the ground – keepers, farmers, crofters and land managers. If the public and funders are willing to trust those with the knowledge – the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the National Farmers’ Union Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Crofting Federation and others – it may be possible to save this species.

If not, then in addition to more than £10 million already spent on the capercaillie without success, any further public money devoted to it will be wasted. Indeed, the eight-figure sum already spent will be seen as ‘the great caper-caper’ as it were, and expose any public bodies who are shown to have ignored practitioner advice to serious criticism and ridicule.


Recently I was shown this photograph of what might also be described as ‘the great caper-caper’ – the result of a capercaillie shoot on a Scottish sporting estate in 1980. It does make me wonder about the motivation of some organisations to ‘save’ the capercaillie. Save them for what? Another shooting party?

Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to Fergus’s grand plan for ‘driving out the pine marten’.

He mentioned that he’d lodged a parliamentary motion on this issue but I couldn’t find it listed on the Scottish Parliamentary website.

Fergus will be delighted to learn though, that a new long term strategic recovery plan for pine martens in Britain has just been published by the Vincent Wildlife Trust, funded by NatureScot and Natural England, and it’s a very impressive piece of work.

You can download the report here:

Interestingly, I couldn’t find a single recommendation for ‘driving out the pine marten’ from the Caledonian Forest. Funny that.

What I did read was that the pine marten population is still slowly recovering in Scotland, largely thanks to full legal protection and improved habitat availability, but that the population is still vulnerable. As such, the report authors recommend protecting the integrity of existing populations to promote natural recolonisation and, where appropriate, limiting the removal of individual pine martens for potential translocation and reintroduction projects elsewhere in the UK.

There you are, Fergus. A properly-researched, evidence-based, scientific research report written by actual experts on which to base future discussions about pine marten conservation – far more appropriate than the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s quarterly rag, even though it does have a photo of a pine marten with an egg in its mouth (Shocker! Predator caught eating something!).


Hysteria from Scottish gamekeepers as SNP and Greens formalise talks to cooperate

Earlier this week it was announced that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in formal talks with the Scottish Greens over a ‘co-operation agreement’ designed to seal a pro-independence majority at Holyrood. Falling short of a formal coalition, the agreement could in future lead to Green MSPs becoming Ministers as part of the current Scottish Government (see Scottish Greens statement here, BBC news article here and an analysis from the Guardian’s Scotland Editor Sev Carrell here).

This proposed agreement is of huge interest to many environmentalists and although the specific policy areas of potential cooperation have not yet been agreed (see here), tackling the climate emergency (and by default, surely, the nature emergency) should be a prominent feature.

The news of these talks has triggered the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) to publish a typically over-the-top scaremongering response about perceived job losses, presumably as a ploy to keep its less well-informed members ready to join a protest at short notice: [Update 16.30hrs – see foot of blog!]

Job losses are of concern to everyone, of course, but as I’ve written previously, the SGA is once again accusing the Scottish Greens of doing something they haven’t done.

The Scottish Greens have made it an aspiration to abolish our members’ jobs‘, says the SGA.

Actually, the Greens have done no such thing. In fact in their election manifesto the Scottish Greens have committed to creating jobs in the countryside, promising ‘at least £895M over the next five years in restoring nature whilst investing in rural communities, creating over 6,000 green jobs’.

The Greens are also committed to ensuring that the licencing of grouse moors ‘is properly resourced and well enforced’ – how does that equate to rural job losses if grouse moor managers are abiding by the law?

A spokesperson from the Scottish Greens is cited today in another article about the proposed cooperative agreement amid concerns from fish farmers and National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS):

A spokesman for Scottish Green MSPs responded that it was too early to say which issues would arise in talks with the SNP.

He said that environmental harm and fish welfare was a higher priority than phasing out caged fish farms altogether.

He explained that the party’s intention was to support industries in finding alternatives to harmful and polluting activities, and not to force sudden change‘.

Perhaps if the SGA had spent less time and money sponsoring adverts against the Scottish Greens (that went well – great use of members’ funds, not), less time complaining to the electoral commission (how did that go?) and more time reading and engaging with the Greens instead of excluding them from hustings, they’d have a better grasp of what was going on and be in a stronger position to contribute to discussions instead of constantly throwing their toys out of the pram and howling, ‘It’s so unfair’.

Actually, if they’d got any sense at all they’d realise that these talks are not their greatest immediate threat – it’s the continued illegal killing of birds of prey on land managed for gamebird shooting that’s pushing them further and further in to the corner and away from public support.

That poisoned golden eagle, found dead next to a poisoned bait on Invercauld Estate, sent shockwaves through the public, many of whom had no idea this sort of barbarity still goes on.

The SGA’s response? Well I can’t see any statement of condemnation on their website, can you?

[The poisoned golden eagle found lying on a grouse moor next to a poisoned bait on Invercauld Estate. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

UPDATE 16.30hrs:

Right on cue, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has just published this:


“Another poisoned golden eagle? If the SNP are serious about protecting wildlife we need an Environment Secretary who will act” – Jim Crumley

Jim Crumley has written a brilliant opinion piece for the Courier (published 10th May 2021) in response to the discovery of the deliberately poisoned golden eagle found on Invercauld Estate in March.

The article is reproduced below:

THERE is a job of some urgency for the new Environment Secretary at Holyrood.

You may have read about the golden eagle found poisoned at Invercauld estate in the Cairngorms National Park.

The guiding principles for a national park should centre around the wellbeing of the landscape and its ecology. Nothing else. Otherwise, why bother to have a national park at all?

But what Scotland has instead is two national parks obsessed by tourism and the rural economy.

As it happens, I have just been reading a book called “A Life in Nature”, a collection of writings by Peter Scott, founder of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Worldwide Fund for Nature. He wrote this:

“For conserving wildlife and wilderness there are three categories of reason: ethical, aesthetic, and economic, with the last one (at belly level) lagging far behind the other two.”

And this:

“Conservationists today are involved in a gigantic holding operation – a modern Noah’s Ark to save what is left of the wildlife and wild places, until the tide of new thinking begins to flow all over the world.”

Long wait for tide to turn

He wrote that 60 years ago.

But because I read it at the same time as Nicola Sturgeon’s astonishing election achievement was playing out, I began to think that there is an opportunity right here, right now.

If we are on a tide of new thinking, it has never been more important that the Scottish Government appoints an Environment Secretary with a radical agenda.

And please don’t let Fergus Ewing anywhere near it, because he is far too chummy with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

The golden eagle found poisoned at Invercauld this spring is the latest in a breathtaking catalogue of around 80 crimes against wildlife in the national park’s young life

The first thing I think the new Environment Secretary should do is to familiarise himself or herself with the track record of the Cairngorms National Park in conserving wildness and wildlife, and then to consider how the land within the park is managed.

The result of that familiarising process should be cause for a great deal of concern for the new Environment Secretary.

If it isn’t, the Scottish Government will have appointed the wrong person, because the golden eagle found poisoned at Invercauld this spring is but the latest in a breath-taking catalogue of around 80 crimes against wildlife in the national park’s young life (it was established in 2003).

Twelve golden and white-tailed eagles have been killed in that time along with 24 buzzards; and 10 hen harriers in the last five years alone.

A sea eagle nest tree was deliberately felled and nests of peregrine and goshawk were destroyed.

All that inside the national park, in the last 18 years, and all of these birds have the highest level of legal protection.

Victorian values

That alone should be enough to persuade the new Environment Secretary that the situation calls for new thinking.

The estates’ attitudes towards birds of prey are symptomatic of a far wider contempt for those species of nature which they judge to be inconvenient for what remains a depressingly Victorian attitude to land and wildlife.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority’s response to the eagle-killing was dismal. A statement on its website says: “The CPNA condemns this senseless and irresponsible behaviour and condemns it in the strongest possible terms. Raptor persecution has no place in 21st century Scotland and no place in this national park.”

How can you revere a landscape when the principal management tools of its private owners are fire and guns and poisons, burning the land, killing the wildlife?

No, it doesn’t condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

If it had done, the park authority would be screaming down the phone to the Scottish Parliament that grouse moor and deer forest should have no place in 21st century Scotland or inside the national park.

They are completely incompatible with thoughtful conservation of a landscape that should be revered for its wildlife and wild landscape.

How can you revere a landscape when the principal management tools of its private owners are fire and guns and poisons, burning the land, killing the wildlife. And why aren’t national parks owned by the nation?

That might have amounted to something like the strongest possible terms.

The other problem with the park authority’s statement is that, alas, there IS a place for raptor persecution in 21st century Scotland, in many places, and one is the Cairngorms National Park.

Reality doesn’t match ambition

The first words you read on the home page of the Cairngorms National Park Authority website are these: “An outstanding national park, where people and nature thrive together.”

It is a very worthwhile ambition, but it is a long way from the reality on the ground.

The new Environment Secretary might also like to consider that one of the reasons for such a toll of wildlife is that as things stand, the estates know they will almost certainly get away with it, for there are hardly ever prosecutions.

If our newly-elected government wants to project the image of a forward-thinking independent Scotland on the European stage – and I sincerely hope it does given my lilac and yellow votes for the SNP – then the tide of new thinking should perhaps begin by blowing away that embarrassing Victorian stain from the face of the land.



Scottish Gamekeepers Association sponsors adverts against Scottish Greens during election campaign

Ahead of the election on Thursday the polls are showing that the Scottish Greens are expected to do well again, which could lead to a further coalition with the SNP if the SNP fails to reach a majority, according to the Scotsman yesterday.

As you’d expect, the Scottish Greens are big on animal welfare, wildlife conservation and tackling driven grouse shooting and wildlife crime. Alison Johnstone MSP had an opinion piece published today in the Edinburgh Evening News and here is an excerpt:

However, nature reserves alone are not enough when so much of Scotland’s uplands are intensively managed so that a few people can shoot wildlife.

And it isn’t just the grouse that are killed. This year I won protection for mountain hares which are killed in huge numbers because landowners think it will boost grouse populations. There is no evidence this works.

And of course, there is the appalling legacy of raptor persecution, which sees birds of prey continue to disappear near these moors, or found killed. It is a stain on Scotland’s reputation.

NatureScot, the agency which is supposed to be protecting Scotland’s nature, is far too quick to hand out licences to kill.

Within a year of beavers being declared a protected species, a fifth of the population was killed under licence. It’s time to address the nature emergency and deliver real protections for Scotland’s native species, before it’s too late.

The Scottish Greens manifesto pledges to review the priorities of NatureScot and other agencies, strengthen licensing, end bloodsports, ban cruel traps like snares and deliver a fully-resourced Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit in Police Scotland’.

For the full article please click here

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is terrified of the Scottish Greens. We saw this in March when the SGA refused to invite the Greens to its political hustings (see here) and in April when the SGA said, in a moment of hilarious irony, it was going to complain to the Electoral Commission about the Greens’ election campaign material which the SGA claimed was ‘misleading’. My analysis suggested it wasn’t the Greens who were the ones publishing misleading information (see here).

Interestingly, the SGA is now paying for sponsored adverts on social media, targeting the Scottish Greens. You might think, if they are paying to get their material under the noses of people who would otherwise be beyond their reach, the SGA might pay for a decent graphic designer as well as check the facts given in the ad, but apparently not. Here’s one of the dodgy ads doing the rounds on Facebook:

You’ll notice that the accompanying text doesn’t match the text in the ad – one says that 13,000 rural jobs will be lost, the other says 10,000+.

Whether the claim is 13,000 or 10,000 jobs, the number(s) appear to be unsubstantiated. Further, should the SGA chose to actually read the Scottish Greens’ manifesto instead of reverting to immediate hyperbole and hysteria, they’d see that the Greens focus on actually creating jobs in the countryside, promising ‘at least £895M over the next five years in restoring nature whilst investing in rural communities, creating over 6,000 green jobs’. The Greens are also committed to ensuring that the licencing of grouse moors ‘is properly resourced and well enforced’ – how does that equate to rural job losses if grouse moor managers are abiding by the law?

It has been pointed out to me by one blog reader that the SGA may be breaking the rules by actively campaigning against a political party during an election campaign. This sort of behaviour is not permitted by organisations holding charitable status. On its website, the SGA has been at pains to claim that its election material has been put out under its status as a Limited Company, rather than as its Charitable Trust status. I’m told that a complaint has been made to OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator with a request to investigate.


Political hustings organised by REVIVE – the coalition for grouse moor reform

Here is your opportunity to quiz parliamentary candidates from Scotland’s five main political parties about their position on grouse moor reform.

REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform, is hosting an online political hustings next Thursday (22nd April 2021) between 6-7.30pm on Zoom.

Candidates will be asked specifically to discuss the following aspects of grouse moor management:

  • Raptor persecution
  • Muirburn
  • Mountain hare slaughter
  • Snaring, trapping and killing of wildlife on grouse moors
  • Mass outdoor medication (medicated grit stations)
  • The use of lead ammunition
  • Unregulated tracks and roads

The following candidates have agreed to attend:

Mairi McAllan, SNP (former lawyer & special advisor to First Minister on Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform)

Laura Moodie, Scottish Greens [updated 19th April – change of candidate from Ariane Burgess]

Ian Davidson, Scottish Labour (who also featured at the Scottish Gamekeepers Association hustings last month – see here)

Alan Reid, Scottish Liberal Democrats [updated 19th April – change of candidate from Molly Nolan]

Edward Mountain, Scottish Conservatives (who also featured at the SGA’s husting last month and describes himself as a ‘proud member’ of the SGA – see here)

The event will be chaired by Max Wiszniewski, REVIVE’s campaign manager and any questions you have for the candidates may be sent to Max in advance for consideration.

To attend this event you will need to register (for free!) HERE.

For those who can’t make it, the session will be recorded and will be available on YouTube later.

The REVIVE coalition for grouse moor reform comprises OneKind, Common Weal, League Against Cruel Sports, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK. For more information on their work please visit their website here.


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?


Scottish Minister Fergus Ewing under fire for auctioning Holyrood tour for Scottish Gamekeepers’ fundraiser

Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has been accused of breaching Parliamentary rules by ‘flogging’ access to Holyrood in a silent auction organised by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).

Lot #59 in the SGA’s annual auction, donated by Fergus Ewing MSP, is squeezed in between a week’s holiday in a cottage in Strathbraan (a well-known raptor persecution hot-spot) and an offer of a smock and half a pig. Here’s what Fergus Ewing is offering (closing date 7th May 2021):

Amusingly, one of the people who has questioned whether the Minister’s actions are appropriate is Edward Mountain MSP, a Conservative candidate who will be challenging Fergus Ewing for the Inverness and Nairn constituency in the May election.

Along with Fergus Ewing, Ed Mountain is also a long-time supporter of the SGA, and is even a “proud” SGA member (see here).

It isn’t clear who went to the press about this (although as an SGA member, Ed Mountain would certainly have had access to the silent auction lots because the auction booklet was included in the mail out of the SGA’s most recent quarterly rag) but today the Scottish Daily Mail was running a story on it:

‘That tour has not taken place’, says the SNP spokesman. No, because the auction doesn’t close until 7th May!

To be honest, there are much bigger fish to fry than this but the reason I’m blogging about it is because the SGA has been wailing quite a lot recently about how it has been ‘overlooked’ by the Scottish Parliament. In my opinion this is completely untrue – the SGA has just as much access to politicians as any other organisation, illustrated quite well by the players in this latest tale.

I plan to blog a bit more about that shortly.


Scottish Gamekeepers Association on the attack about ‘misleading’ information – oh, the irony

The latest target in the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s (SGA) rifle sights is the Scottish Green Party.

I say latest, I’m not sure I can remember the SGA ever supporting any policy of the Greens, and some members of this political party have long been targets for personal abuse by some SGA Committee Members and supporters, so this current attack is just more of the same.

It all stems from a short piece in a regional campaign newsletter, currently being distributed by supporters of the Scottish Greens:

Of course, anybody challenging the status quo of grouse shooting is going to be a target for hatred and it will come as no surprise whatsoever to learn that candidate Maggie Chapman has been subjected to disgraceful misogynistic abuse on Facebook by SGA supporters, on the SGA’s own Facebook page. It appears that real women can’t have short hair AND breasts. It’s all too confusing if you still think it’s the 1950s. I’ll bet she was wearing trousers too. Shocking. The misogyny centred on Maggie’s appearance – god help us if they’d realised she was actually standing for election.

The SGA’s reaction to the Scottish Green Party’s campaign newsletter has been astonishing, although actually it shouldn’t be astonishing at all in light of their recent antics in relation to the death threat received by Chris Packham (see here). It seems they’ll complain about anything in their quest to resist progressive modernisation and so this time they’ve threatened to write to the Electoral Commission to complain about what they call ‘misleading information’ about grouse moors.

Here’s what the SGA published on its website earlier this week:

On the face of it, this SGA statement might seem like reasonable comment, especially as it was citing the results of a recent Government-funded study in to the socio-economic and biodiversity impacts of grouse shooting.

The thing is, the SGA isn’t accurately reporting that study’s findings. At all. In fact some might argue it was deliberately mis-reporting the findings.

How so?

Well, in the summary report of that study being cited by the SGA, the authors are quite clear about how the study results should be interpreted. In fact they couldn’t have been clearer (underlining added by me):

Furthermore, the small set of case study samples that the study used are also kind of skewed in favour of grouse shooting. This is not a criticism of the study authors, they have been totally upfront about it, but it just emphasises the caution urged by the authors on how these results should be interpreted; caution which the SGA has ignored:

There were nine case studies that involved some sort of grouse shooting, but only two involving rewilding/conservation. There’s absolutely no way that the study results can be seen as being representative of these land-use differences across Scotland, as the SGA is trying to claim.

I’d encourage the Scottish Green Party to study the summary report closely, and also read some wider research commissioned by REVIVE (especially this one) to rebut any complaint the SGA may make to the Electoral Commission about so-called ‘misleading information’.

The supreme irony of this latest attack is that the SGA is accusing the Scottish Greens of promoting ‘misleading information’ about grouse moors. The SGA are the masters of ‘misleading information’ (i.e. utter rubbish), and here is a small selection from over the years:

‘Professional gamekeepers do not poison raptors’ (May 2011)

‘It is unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime’ (June 2011)

‘Will these very large creatures [white-tailed eagles] differentiate between a small child and more natural quarry?’ (September 2011)

‘Raptors are thriving on game-keepered land’ (July 2013)

‘I strongly believe the goshawk was never indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise’ (September 2013)

When asked whether gamekeepers are involved with the poisoning, shooting & trapping of raptors: ‘No they aren’t. We would dispute that’ (March 2014)

‘In the last ten years we have stamped out poisoning. We’ve absolutely finished it’ (October 2014)

‘We kill animals because probably we’re the doctors and nurses of the countryside’ (January 2015)

‘Grouse moors are a birdwatcher’s paradise’ (December 2020)

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