Posts Tagged ‘scottish parliament

13
Nov
19

Scottish Raptor Study Group holds three day exhibition at Scottish Parliament this week

The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) is holding a three-day exhibition in the Scottish Parliament this week to showcase the group’s immense contribution to the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme as well as to highlight the ongoing issue of illegal raptor persecution on and around some driven grouse moors.

This is a follow-on event from the SRSG’s Parliamentary reception held in May (see here).

[All photos by SRSG]

Sponsored by Andy Wightman MSP (Golden Eagle Species Champion), the event provides an opportunity for SRSG members to engage with MSPs and discuss the ecological and economic importance of birds of prey as well as explaining the science behind satellite-tagging and the incredible behavioural insights resulting from this conservation research.

There has been a stream of cross-party visitors so far including Environment Minister and Hen Harrier Species Champion Mairi Gougeon, John Mason MSP (Kestrel Species Champion), Bill Kidd (Red Kite Species Champion), Graeme Dey MSP, Christine Graham MSP, Liam McArthur MSP, Andy Wightman MSP, Mark Ruskell MSP (White-tailed Eagle Species Champion), Alison Johnstone MSP, Bob Davis MSP (Peregrine Species Champion).

The exhibition concludes on Thursday afternoon so if you’re in Holyrood don’t miss the opportunity to come and speak to these experts.

23
Sep
19

Pre-Werritty propaganda from grouse shooting industry

As we all continue to wait for the publication of Professor Werritty’s report on driven grouse shooting, the usual suspects have been busy putting together a damage limitation programme to save their sorry necks.

An ‘informal alliance’ has been created under the banner of RELM (Rural Environment Land Management) ‘to help co-ordinate and streamline responses and communications ahead of the publication of the final report‘ and its first offering is this briefing document for MSPs which was distributed by Scottish Land & Estates a couple of weeks ago:

Here’s the intro blurb:

Grouse moor management has been the subject of much attention during the summer period across a range of issues such as the environment and species conservation, satellite tagging and wildlife crime, mountain hares and the start of the season on August 12.

With the Scottish Government’s review into grouse moor management due to be published shortly, rural organisations wished to provide the following update to parliamentarians. We would be pleased to provide additional detail where required.

Ah, how thoughtful. Amusingly, several MSPs have sent us a copy of this briefing document with comments along the lines of ‘You might want to say a few things about this’.

We’re grateful to those MSPs because yes, we do want to say a few things about the document’s contents and we wouldn’t otherwise have had an opportunity had they not shared the briefing with us.

We’re not posting the full briefing document here, yet. Instead we intend to blog about different aspects of it in turn.

Today we’re looking at the page entitled ‘Wildlife Crime’ and its five paragraphs of propaganda:

Propaganda paragraph 1:

Yes, significant media attention does remain focused on wildlife crime, and particularly illegal raptor persecution because everyone else finds it abhorrent and can’t understand why it still goes on and why the grouse shooting industry continues to shield the criminals involved. It’d be interesting to know what, exactly, these five organisations have done to crack down on raptor persecution as part of their claimed ‘full commitment to improving prevention, detection and prosecution’.

Propaganda paragraph 2:

No surprises here. This is a blatant attempt, yet again, to discredit the RSPB’s annual Birdcrime Report which was published a couple of weeks ago and showed that confirmed raptor persecution crimes in Scotland in 2018 had doubled from those recorded in 2017. These cases included a peregrine poisoned in the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh; a buzzard found to have been shot twice, in South Lanarkshire; a buzzard caught in an illegal trap, in Inverness-shire; and a hen harrier caught in a spring trap in Perthshire. All of these incidents occurred on, or close to, land being managed intensively for driven grouse shooting.

With this level of relentless criminality, it’s no wonder the grouse shooting industry apologists want to infer that the RSPB’s data are ‘unofficial’. Fine. We’ll come back to this later this autumn when the Government publishes its annual wildlife crime report, which we know will include all of the confirmed incidents already reported by the RSPB.

Propaganda paragraph 3:

This is perhaps the most cynical of attempts to downplay the disgusting reality of the criminality still being committed on some driven grouse moors. And the first sentence of paragraph 3 is actually a lie. Not being pursued by Police Scotland? Er, ALL the cases of alleged raptor persecution that have been reported from grouse moors over the last few months are still considered to be live criminal investigations by the Police, according to the investigations officer we spoke to yesterday.

So, the satellite-tagged hen harrier that was found dead on a grouse moor in Strathbraan with an illegal spring trap clamped to its leg – it’s still the subject of a criminal investigation by the police.

The two satellite-tagged golden eagles (Adam and Charlie) that ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on another grouse moor in Strathbraan, on the same morning as each other – they’re still the subject of a criminal investigation by the police (as are several other alleged offences uncovered during the police search).

The hen harrier that was found caught by its leg in a spring trap that had been set illegally next to its nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire – it’s still the subject of a criminal investigation by the police.

The buzzard that was caught inside a legal cage trap on the same South Lanarkshire grouse moor but was then allegedly beaten to death by someone arriving on a quad bike after dark and using a key to open the padlocked door of the cage – it’s still the subject of a criminal investigation by the police.

The young golden eagle that was photographed flying around in the Cairngorms National Park with an illegal trap clamped to its leg – it’s still the subject of a criminal investigation by the police.

And as for the claim that estates have issued ‘unprecedented and emphatic rebuttals’ – er, there’s nothing unprecedented about that! Estates have always denied any involvement in any of the wildlife crimes that have been uncovered on their land – it’s what they do!

Propaganda paragraph 4:

Ah yes, convicted gamekeeper Alan Wilson, dubbed by the press as ‘Scotland’s worst wildlife killer‘. Yet again, the link between Wilson’s filthy criminal activity uncovered at Henlaw Wood and driven grouse shooting is kept well hidden. Yes, the Longformacus Estate was managed for low ground pheasant shooting but it was also managed for driven grouse shooting – a fact that Scottish Land & Estates doesn’t like to mention!

And speaking of Scottish Land & Estates and it’s so-called ‘full commitment’ to tackling wildlife crime, it still hasn’t said whether the Longformacus Estate was a member at the time these crimes were committed and if so, whether that membership has now been terminated? We asked SLE this question on 22 August 2019. Still waiting for an answer….

Propaganda paragraph 5:

Of course they continue to call for tougher penalties – how can they not? But they know as well as we do that the severity of the penalty is utterly irrelevant if the perpetrators of these crimes can’t even be identified, let alone prosecuted.

And as long as evidence continues to be destroyed and employers continue to shield their criminal employees by instructing them to give ‘no comment’ interviews to the police, nothing will change.

Fortunately, there are more and more savvy MSPs in the Scottish Parliament who have seen through the greenwash and know exactly what’s going on. If you think your MSP isn’t one of those, it’d be worth dropping them an email with a link to this blog.

17
Sep
19

Golden eagle with trap dangling from its leg: statement from Environment Cabinet Secretary

In August Police Scotland published a photograph of a young golden eagle that had been seen flying in the Cairngorms National Park with an illegally-set trap clamped to one of its legs.

This photograph, along with the Police’s appeal for information, went viral and was reported on news channels around the world (e.g. here), highlighting Scotland’s shameful record of illegal raptor persecution.

There’s been no further update on the fate of this eagle. Undoubtedly it’ll be dead and if it had been found by anyone associated with the criminal element of the game-shooting industry the corpse and trap will be long gone….nothing to see, deny, deny, deny, it was all a set up, fake news, it never happened, etc etc.

Meanwhile, those who aren’t fooled by the propaganda and know exactly what goes on on game shooting estates have been asking pertinent questions.

Step up Colin Beattie MSP (SNP: Midlothian North & Musselburgh) who lodged the following written question on 2 September 2019:

Question S5W-25069 – 

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reports of a golden eagle found with an illegal trap on its legs, what action it is taking to protect wild birds as a matter of urgency ahead of the publication of the findings of the Grouse Moor Management Group (the Werritty report).

A brilliant question. Forget ‘waiting for Werritty‘ which has been the Scottish Government’s default response to every single raptor persecution crime since May 2017, Colin wants to know what action is being taken NOW.

The Government’s response came from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham on 12 Sept, as follows:

The Scottish Government is strongly committed to safeguarding the welfare of all animals, including wild birds such as raptors.

The illegal persecution of our birds of prey is an extremely serious issue and, as we announced in our Programme for Government for 2019-2020, we will bring forward a Bill increasing the maximum penalties for certain wildlife offences, including those associated with illegal killing or injuring of wild birds. This will deliver a commitment to implement the recommendation to increase wildlife crime penalties in the review undertaken by Professor Poustie.

We also committed in the Programme for Government that we will respond to the independent review on grouse moor management. The review is examining how we can ensure that grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law and it would not be appropriate to make decisions in advance of its report. We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and other relevant evidence when deciding our response.

The measures on wildlife crime penalties build upon a range of other work we have undertaken to tackle this issue, including: supporting the use of satellite tags to monitor birds of prey; introducing new offences for harassing birds of prey or damaging their nesting places; setting up a poisons disposal scheme to remove poisons used to kill wild birds; strengthening Police Scotland wildlife crime resources, including in the Cairngorms; and introducing vicarious liability so that landowners can be held responsible for crimes against wild birds committed by their employees.

Roseanna’s response carefully avoids answering Colin’s question directly. Colin asked what Scot Gov was doing ‘as a matter of urgency ahead of the publication of the Werritty report’. Roseanna’s response confirms, in effect, that Scot Gov is doing absolutely nothing at all in advance of the Werritty report.

Splendid.

And guess what? We’re still waiting for Werritty, despite being told by Scot Gov at the end of July that the report was due ‘in the next few weeks’. What an embarrassing fiasco it has become.

Whoever wrote Roseanna’s response was surely having a laugh, judging by the last paragraph. Yes, Scot Gov has introduced new offences for harassing birds of prey or damaging their nesting places but as far as we’re aware, there have been no prosecutions for these offences even though there have been a number of reports of raptor nests being deliberately burned out on grouse moors.

And yes, Scot Gov set up a poisons disposal scheme (two, in fact) to remove poisons used to kill wild birds and yet still we’re seeing raptors being illegally poisoned and still gamekeepers are being found guilty of possessing these illegal poisons.

And yes, Scot Gov did support a pilot scheme for a number of police special constables (essentially volunteers working in their own time) in the Cairngorms National Park but there has been no (public) assessment of the scheme’s impact and raptor persecution crimes were still reported in the National Park during the scheme’s duration.

And yes, Scot Gov did introduce vicarious liability so that landowners could be held responsible for crimes against wild birds committed by their employees but so far this has only resulted in two successful convictions in 7.5 years and only last month yet another landowner avoided any charges of alleged vicarious liability and the Crown Office chose not to explain this decision to the public.

 

16
Jul
19

Scottish Government statement on recent raptor persecution crimes

The Scottish Government has finally made a statement about the recent raptor persecution crimes.

The statement is about as impressive as the one from Leadhills Estate, just shorter but no less pathetic.

It appears to be a forced statement, made after a direct request from a journalist (Sean Bell from CommonSpace) rather than a proactive statement posted on the Government’s website to clarify its position.

Ready for this?

From an unnamed Government spokesperson:

The continued targeting of birds of prey is an extremely serious issue and we strongly condemn all those involved in it. We would urge anyone with information to contact the police. 

We are determined to protect birds of prey and have established an independent group to look at how we can ensure grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law. 

The review is due to report later this summer and we will consider fully any recommendations or proposed actions put forward by the group“.

The full article at CommonSpace can be read here.

It’s no wonder it took so long for the Government to say anything. It’s pretty clear from this that it has nothing new to say at all – just the same old rhetoric and platitudes and vague statements that don’t actually amount to anything. At all.

Here’s a stark reminder of the effectiveness the Scottish Government’s so-called ‘determination to protect birds of prey’. The spring-trapped hen harrier. He didn’t make it, despite the very best efforts of specialist vet Romain Pizzi and his team at the Scottish SPCA. [Photo by Ruth Tingay]

How many more victims will there be while we wait for the Scottish Government to actually do something?

Emails (polite ones, please) to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon at: firstminister@gov.scot 

16
Jul
19

Questionable commitment as Scottish Ministers ignore barbaric raptor persecution crime

Look at this.

It’s a personalised card, crafted in gold, pleading with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take action following the recent news that yet another two satellite-tagged golden eagles had vanished in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor, shortly after a satellite-tagged hen harrier had been found dead on another nearby grouse moor with an illegal leg clamped to its leg.

This exquisite artwork was sent to Ms Sturgeon by Jackie Morris, co-creater of The Lost Words.

It’s one of many that have been sent, inspired by a drawing by children’s author Gill Lewis, including drawings by seven and nine-year old boys, all sufficiently motivated by the loss of these eagles to want to ask for their protection (e.g. see here).

And there have been even more:

And it’s not just drawings. We know that many of you have been emailing the First Minister (firstminister@gov.scot) asking for action, following the example of Andy Wightman MSP, the golden eagle species champion who wrote to Ms Sturgeon the day the news broke that ‘his’ golden eagle, Adam, was one of those that had vanished.

The response from the First Minister, the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon? Complete and utter silence.

That was two weeks ago.

Then yesterday came the news of the sadistic trapping of another hen harrier on another Scottish grouse moor, with a graphic video showing the extent of this bird’s injuries and suffering. It was sickening viewing, made all the worse by knowing that the traps had been deliberately set to target this bird at its nest. This was no accident. It was a brazen, brutal and ruthless attack and because there were no witnesses, the perpetrator hasn’t been identified and is likely to escape justice, just like so many others on so many other occasions.

The public outpouring of shock and disgust on social media, even from many within the shooting community, was instantaneous. These were the responses of decent human beings, with a visceral reaction to the distress of that traumatised hen harrier.

The response from the First Minister, Environment Cabinet Secretary and Rural Affairs Minister?

Total silence.

It is utterly baffling why these three intelligent, thoughtful, decent and normally dynamic people have refused to comment on such barbarity. It’s not because they’re on holiday (they’re all still tweeting about other stuff) and it can’t possibly be because they don’t know what’s been going on.

No, this is clearly a political decision – but why? Who’s advising them?

Is it something to do with the Werritty review? Who knows, and to be quite frank, who cares? We don’t need to wait for the findings of yet another review (already overdue) to know that change must come and it must be led by these senior politicians. But even if they are waiting for Werritty to report, that still shouldn’t prevent them from condemning these ongoing crimes and committing to addressing the issue, once and for all. This silence is what we’ve come to expect from Westminster politicians, not those in Holyrood.

What can they possibly gain by remaining silent? If anything, their refusal to comment must actually be pretty damaging – it looks like they just don’t care and to be honest, I’m tired of making excuses for them.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr Martin Luther King.

01
Jul
19

“It is long past time for reviews & inquiries”: Andy Wightman’s letter to Nicola Sturgeon

This morning we blogged about two satellite-tagged golden eagles, named Adam and Charlie, who have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor (here).

We published a video about the loss of these eagles and we all watched an emotional Andy Wightman MSP try to retain his composure as he talked to Chris Packham about how he felt when he was told that ‘his’ eagle, Adam, was one of those that had vanished.

Watch the video here:

This afternoon, Andy has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to take action against the ongoing issue of illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors.

Here is a copy of that letter:

Like Andy, you too can write to the First Minister. You can write her an email.

You can talk about how you felt when you heard about these two missing golden eagles.

About how you felt about the 50+ other satellite-tagged golden eagles that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on or near to grouse moors in the last ten years.

About how you feel every time you read another news article about the illegal killing of birds of prey on land managed for game shooting.

About how you feel when what looks like clear cut video evidence of an alleged crime against birds of prey is thrown out of court and the suspect walks free without trial.

About how you feel every time the Scottish Government says ‘raptor persecution won’t be tolerated’ but then it is, time and time again.

Please take the time to contact Nicola Sturgeon. She’ll be delighted to find out just how many people would support her to take action. You don’t need to be a Scottish resident to write to her – in fact the more correspondents from overseas, the better. This is an international embarrassment to Scotland and the time has come for regulation.

Please send your emails to: FirstMinister@gov.scot

Thank you.

The next blog will include some AMAZING eagle illustrations that have been drawn today and sent to the First Minister. If you thought Andy’s interview was powerful, wait until you see these…..

25
Jun
19

Alison Johnstone MSP launches draft Bill to protect foxes and hares

Alison Johnstone MSP has launched a public consultation as part of her draft Member’s Bill to provide protection for foxes, brown hares and mountain hares in Scotland.

Here is the press release from the Scottish Greens (24th June 2019):

Scottish Greens Parliamentary Co-Leader Alison Johnstone MSP will today (24 Jun) launch a consultation on her member’s bill to provide legal protections to foxes and hares. The consultation, which will run until mid-September, will gather views from people across Scotland and help shape the final bill proposal.

The fox and hare bill will deliver a real fox hunting ban, closing the loopholes that allow hunting to continue in Scotland now much as it did before the 2002 ‘ban’, and end the killing of hares, which has become routine on grouse moors across Scotland. The proposed Bill would also protect foxes, mountain hares and brown hares, prohibiting the killing of these species without a licence.

Ms Johnstone has brought this Bill forward because foxes and hares are routinely killed in huge numbers, the Scottish Government have consistently indicated their support for action, and because there is widespread public support for action.

[Alison Johnstone MSP launching her consultation outside the Scottish Parliament yesterday supported by League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and OneKind. Photo from Scottish Greens]

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

Foxes and hares are iconic species that are widely celebrated in popular culture and valued by rural and urban Scots alike. They deserve our compassion and respect, yet they are routinely slaughtered across the country in huge numbers. My proposal would give these animals the protection they so urgently need.

The Scottish Government and the First Minister herself have expressed their support for action but have been unable to find the time to bring forward a legislative proposal themselves. I’m confident they will get behind my proposal and together we can protect Scotland’s foxes and hares.

Fox hunting was meant to have been banned in Scotland in 2002, but little has changed. Hunts still go out, pursuing and killing foxes, and foxes are still being killed by hunting dogs. My proposal would remove the loopholes and result in a watertight ban, ending hunting for good. Politicians have repeatedly promised to end hunting, and the Parliament passed the Protection of Wild Mammals Act back in its very first session. For hunting to continue despite this leads to distrust in our institutions and those leading them. My proposals would represent a new contract between land managers and the wider public that could help restore good faith.

Mountain hares are routinely being killed in huge numbers on grouse moors in particular, with an average of 26,000 killed every year. This is a native species whose population has crashed in some parts of the Highlands, and there is simply no justification for the killing.

ENDS

This news received broad coverage in the national press yesterday but this article from Common Space provides the best overview and includes a quote from Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon.

There’s also a video of Alison encouraging everyone to participate in the consultation:

The consultation is now open and anyone can participate online HERE. The consultation closes on 15th Sept 2019.

Alison has produced a consultation document which is well worth a read. It provides an overview of how the consultation process works and how Member’s Bills work and then goes in to more detail about the proposed Bill.

Download the consultation document here: Protecting Scotlands Wild Mammals_consultation2019

Alison deserves our thanks for her work on this topic to date, particularly on highlighting the obscene slaughtering of thousands upon thousands of mountain hares on grouse moors every year for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

How often do we complain that politicians aren’t doing enough? All the time! Well here’s one who’s going the extra mile, who has created an opportunity to address what she calls the ‘casual and unmonitored approach’ to killing wild mammals in Scotland (sounds familiar – think General Licences) and her consultation deserves our best support.

If scenes like this sicken you, please support Alison’s proposed Bill by filling in the consultation form.

[Slaughtered mountain hares left to rot in a bloodied pile on a grouse shooting estate in the Angus Glens. Photo RPUK]




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