Posts Tagged ‘scottish parliament


Grouse moors are “centres of excellence” for mountain hares, claims deluded industry rep

You’ve got to hand it to Tim (Kim) Baynes, spokesman for the Scottish Moorland Group / Scottish Land & Estates / Gift of Grouse, his ability to spin even the worst of the grouse-shooting industry’s excesses is becoming legendary (e.g. see here, here, here). He’d probably even give Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association) a run for her money in the propaganda game.

In his latest offering, Tim (Kim) argues that managed grouse moors should be seen as a “Centre of Excellence” for mountain hares!

That’ll be the intensively-managed grouse moors that slaughter hundreds, no, thousands of so-called protected mountain hares, just to protect a ridiculously and artificially high number of red grouse which will later be used as live targets, shot for ‘sport’.

Here’s a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for mountain hares, photographed on an Angus Glens estate:

This “Centre of Excellence” nonsense is included in Tim’s (Kim’s) response to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee which is seeking stakeholder commentary on OneKind’s recent petition calling for greater protection of mountain hares.

Here’s Tim’s (Kim’s) submission, on behalf of the Scottish Moorland Group:

 Scottish Land & Estates_Petition PE1664_mountain hare_response

There are other gems within his submission, including an argument that from an animal welfare perspective, the culling of mountain hares is “not fundamentally different” to culling deer. Quite how he reaches this conclusion is a bit of a mystery – aren’t deer carefully stalked for hours and hours, with the shooting party quietly creeping up on a single deer to get close enough for a clean rifle shot without the deer knowing anything about it? Not sure how that equates with hundreds of mountain hares being forced to run uphill, probably terrified and racing for their lives, only to be shot in the face by a line of shotgun-toting ‘sportsmen’ when they reach the top.

As usual, Tim (Kim) misses the whole point of the argument, which isn’t necessarily about whether mountain hares should be managed, but is about the questionable sustainability of large-scale culls on intensively managed driven grouse moors. Nobody disputes that mounatin hares can do very well on these grouse moors – of course they do well, all their natural predators have been removed! But there’s no way that gamekeepers can know the impact of these large culls on the wider mountain hare population, despite Tim’s (Kim’s) unsupported claim that they can, and despite his unsupported claim that “estates have operated voluntary restraint for a long time”.

Nobody knows what impacts these culls are having because there isn’t yet an effective and approved counting method for estimating mountain hare abundance, although Dr Adam Watson’s long-term scientific research on mountain hare abundance on grouse moors in north east Scotland suggests there have been significant declines (his research is due to be submitted for peer-review publication shortly, we understand).

There is currently no requirement for gamekeepers to conduct counts either before or after these culls take place, and no requirement for cull returns to be submitted to SNH, even though SNH has a statutory duty to ensure that any management of this species is undertaken sustainably! At the moment, SNH is relying upon the word of the grouse-shooting industry to assess sustainability, which is astonishing given what is known about the industry’s untrustworthiness on other conservation issues.

Here’s a topical drawing sent in this week by Mr Carbo:


Green MSP lodges Parliamentary motion calling for moratorium on mountain hare culls

Following the news on Friday that ten conservation and outdoor organisations have renewed a joint call on the Scottish Government to provide greater protection for mountain hares (see here), Scottish Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone has now lodged a Parliamentary motion calling for ‘urgently required’ action:

Motion S5M-08225: Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green Party, Date lodged: 12/10/2017.

That the Parliament acknowledges the concerns of a coalition of 10 conservation and outdoor organisations regarding the poorly-known status of mountain hare in Scotland, which they believe is threatened by heavy culls on intensively-managed grouse moors, and considers that a moratorium on these culls is urgently required.

Parliamentary motions are used by MSPs as a device to initiate debate or propose a course of action. Other MSPs can sign up in support of lodged motions. Motions remain current for six weeks and in order to progress they require support by at least 30 supporters from more than two political parties.

For Scottish blog readers, please consider emailing your MSP to ask them to support this motion. If you’re not sure who your MSP is, you can find out here.

The pressure on the Scottish Government to act on this issue is not going away. Well done Alison Johnstone MSP, well done to those ten conservation/outdoor organisations who have asked, again, for a temporary ban on mountain hare culling, and well done to animal welfare charity OneKind whose petition calling for greater protection of mountain hares is still under consideration by the Parliament’s Petitions Committee.

Photo shows a pile of bloodied mountain hare corpses that were being used as a stink pit on an Angus Glens grouse shooting estate.


Gamebird shoot licensing: Environment Committee to review progress tomorrow

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss progress on the petition calling for the introduction of state-regulated licensing for gamebird hunting.

As you know, this petition was lodged with the Public Petitions Committee in the summer of 2016 by Logan Steele, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG). The Petitions Committee took evidence in October 2016 from the SRSG and RSPB Scotland (see here) and then evidence from the Scottish Moorland Group and BASC in December 2016 (see here) before deciding to pass the petition to the Environment Committee for further consideration.

The Environment Committee first considered the petition in January 2017 (here) and then heard evidence from various organisations (SRSG, RSPB Scotland, SNH, SGA and SLE) in April 2017 (here).

On the basis of those evidence sessions, on 23 May 2017 the Environment Committee agreed to keep the petition open and to write to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (see letter here) to recommend that the Scottish Government explores the implementation of a licensing scheme for grouse moor shooting, much to the disappointment of the grouse shooting industry which doesn’t think licensing is necessary and basically just wants to maintain the status quo.

The following week, on 31 May 2017, the Environment Secretary announced a significant package of measures designed to protect raptors and to investigate the wider environmental and economic impacts of grouse moor management:

Since that announcement on 31 May 2017 we’ve heard very little more, although in mid-September Roseanna Cunningham told the Scottish Parliament that “good progress is being made” and that she will “announce further details shortly“.

Perhaps we’ll get an announcement this week? It’s good to see the Environment Committee isn’t letting this issue slide.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be available to watch live on Scottish Parliament TV (here) (Committee Room 1 from 10am) and we’ll post an archive of the video and the official transcript when available.

UPDATE 3 October 2017: Environment Committee to seek ‘detailed update’ on licensing petition (here)


Scottish Parliament considers petition calling for study on economic impact of driven grouse shooting

Earlier this year, Les Wallace lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee calling for a comprehensive and independent study into the full economic impacts of driven grouse shooting (see here).

This petition was due to be heard by the Petitions Committee last week but they ran out of time so they deferred their consideration until the next meeting, which took place today.

Basically they agreed that a full independent study was needed but were unsure whether this topic would be covered as part of the Scottish Government’s earlier commitment in May to undertake a review of grouse moor management practices.

There was also confusion as to whether the Scottish Government had actually commissioned this research yet, and the panel agreed to contact the Scottish Government to ask for an update on progress and to ask for a timescale (e.g. start / finish date) of that proposed work.

Good. That’ll be very useful. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said last week that “good progress is being made” and that she’ll be announcing further details “shortly“. We look forward to hearing more about it.

The Petitions Committee also agreed to write to SNH to ask for their view.

It was noted by the Committee that there had been a number of recent petitions relating to the management of grouse moors and its impact on the environment (e.g. Logan Steele’s petition on behalf of the SRSG calling for the introduction of a game shoot licensing scheme, Harry Huyton’s petition on behalf of OneKind calling for greater protection of mountain hares (we’ll blog more about this soon), and this current petition from Les about the economic impact of driven grouse shooting). Yes, there has been a flurry of petitions – that’s because there is a lot of public concern about what this industry has been allowed to get away with for so very long!

And isn’t it great to see it all being laid bare for political and public scrutiny!

Today’s Petitions Committee meeting can be watched on Scottish Parliament TV here (the discussion about Les’s petition starts at 09.31.21 and ends at 09.36).


Driven grouse shooting & mountain hare culling under more political scrutiny this Thursday

More angst for the dark side this week as yet more political attention is given to driven grouse shooting and mountain hare culling.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee will convene on Thursday 14 September to discuss a number of new petitions lodged by members of the public.

We’re interested in two of these petitions:

Petition # PE01663 – Driven Grouse Shooting Study, lodged by Les Wallace.

Petition summary: Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to sponsor a comprehensive and independent study into the full economic impacts of driven grouse shooting.

Petition # PE01664 – Greater Protection for Mountain Hares, lodged by Harry Huyton (of OneKind).

Petition summary: Calling upon the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce greater protection for mountain hares on both animal welfare and conservation grounds, which may include: introducing a three-year moratorium on all mountain hare killing, permitting culls and driven hunts only under licence, and ending all culling and driven hunting of mountain hares within Scotland’s National Parks using a Nature Conservation Order.

We have no idea how the Petitions Committee will choose to proceed with these two petitions as they are mostly superceded by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham’s surprise announcement in May that she is setting up a review of grouse moor management (which will include mountain hare culling), as well as ‘commissioning research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity’.

Nevertheless, it is good too see these issues still firmly on the political agenda. Well done, Les & Harry.

We expect this session to be broadcast live on Scottish Parliament TV on Thursday morning and we’ll post the official transcripts as soon as they’re available.


Impromptu demo outside Scottish Parliament, Friday 1pm

In response to last week’s news about missing hen harrier Calluna, who disappeared from a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging, there will be a peaceful protest this Friday outside the Scottish Parliament against the continued persecution of hen harriers.

This demo is a spontaneous response, hastily organised by two ordinary members of the public who have had enough. They don’t have a large campaign fund behind them, nor the resources or experience of a campaigning charity – it’s just them, wanting to make their voices heard at the door of power.

It’s very short notice, but if you’ve had enough of hen harrier persecution and you’re able to support these two people they’ll be outside Holyrood between 1-2pm on Friday 8 September.




Political silence in response to missing hen harrier ‘Calluna’

Raptor persecution, and particularly the illegal killing of hen harriers, has been identified as a National Wildlife Crime Priority.

Interesting then, that following last Friday’s news that Police Scotland is investigating the disappearance of another missing hen harrier (‘Calluna‘), who vanished in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in August, the political response has been total silence.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, the Environment Cabinet Secretary, said nothing.

Mairi Gougeon MSP, the Hen Harrier Species Champion, said nothing.

Alexander Burnett MSP, in whose constituency Calluna ‘disappeared’, said nothing.

The PAW Scotland website, hosted by the Scottish Government, said nothing.

Alexander Burnett MSP (Conservative), presumably no relation to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, has spoken before on the subject of illegal raptor persecution, as well he might, given the high number of reported raptor persecution incidents in his Aberdeenshire West constituency, particularly those recorded on grouse moors areas either within or close to the Cairngorms National Park:

Unfortunately, Alexander doesn’t agree that a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting is required. During the recent deliberations of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee, he said the proposed licensing system was “inappropriate, disproportional and unworkable for the issue of wildlife crime that it seeks to address” and he voted for the licensing petition to be dropped in favour of keeping the status quo.

He also told one of his constituents earlier this summer, in response to a letter about the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors, that:

Game management on grouse moors can make an important contribution to biodiversity by providing cover for wildlife, and through the creation and care of habitats such as woodland, grouse moors, beetle banks and hedgerows‘.

Hmm, that statement sounds familiar. Where have we heard that before? Ah yes, it was part of a standard response trotted out to constituents by a succession of Westminster Conservative MPs last year in the run up to the Westminster ‘debate’ on driven grouse shooting. As pointed out by Mark Avery at the time:

Grouse shooting does not help create or protect woodland – in fact trees are not welcome on grouse moors. Grouse shooting does not create beetle banks – these are conservation measures in arable fields. Grouse shooting does not protect hedgerows – these are not a feature of grouse moors. Take out those errors and your letter says ‘grouse shooting provides grouse moors’.

Have another look at that raptor persecution map of the Aberdeenshire West constituency. If it is of concern to you, and you are one of Alexander Burnett’s constituents, please consider writing to him and ask him to explain the widespread criminality within his constituency, particularly in areas managed for grouse and pheasant shooting, and ask him how he intends to address your ongoing concerns.


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