Posts Tagged ‘scottish parliament


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: 


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 ( 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.


“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:

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…..


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.


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]


Does your MSP support the raven cull licence?

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

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

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

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

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

We believe that if this licence (and the process used to approve it) remains unchallenged, it is likely to be replicated in other areas dominated by driven grouse moors, and we’re likely to see similar applications for other species, especially buzzards, to be killed ‘just to see what happens’. If you think this is unlikely, read the comments made by SNH’s Nick Halfhide earlier this month, including the words: “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things so we can really test to see what we can learn from this kind of approach“.

This kind of approach” means SNH basing future conservation decisions on rural myth and old wives’ tales instead of peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

[Cartoon by Mr Carbo]

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

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

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

So who has supported it?

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you


Stink pits – the disgusting reality of 21st century grouse moor management

Over the weekend, charities OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland released the following video footage, filmed on a Scottish grouse moor earlier this year.

It shows a ‘stink pit’ (also known as a ‘midden’) which is a pile of rotting animal carcasses (including the corpses of native wildlife and sometimes domestic pets) that are dumped in a heap and surrounded by snares. The putrefying stench from the corpses attracts predators to the pit who are then caught in the snares, killed and thrown on to the pile of death.


This is the grisly reality of how the so-called ‘Custodians of the Countryside’ deal with native wildlife, including inside the boundaries of our National Parks. Snared, trapped, shot, killed and then dumped, like a pile of rubbish.

You have to wonder how this is still legal in the 21st Century, especially given the strict regulations imposed on farmers who generally cannot bury dead livestock unless at certain remote, designated locations. Gamekeepers? They can do what they like, even hanging the corpses of dead foxes over tree branches so their stench can be carried further afield.

We’ve blogged about stink pits before, as have others, e.g. see this blog written last year by OneKind and this article published by The Ferret (but beware, both contain more disturbing photographs).

In May 2017, Christine Grahame MSP (SNP) lodged a Parliamentary motion on the continued use of stink pits on game-shooting estates (see here). Her motion received cross-party support and resulted in a Parliamentary debate, in which Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the use of stink pits would be reviewed as part of the grouse moor management review, which is currently underway.


Alison Johnstone MSP lodges parliamentary motion on raven cull licence

Further to yesterday’s blog about a series of Parliamentary questions lodged by Claudia Beamish MSP (Labour, South Scotland) on the raven cull licence (here), another MSP has also raised political concerns.

Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens, Lothian) lodged the following Parliamentary motion on 30 April 2018:

Motion S5M-11986

That the Parliament expresses concern that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has granted a licence to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders, which authorises the killing of 300 ravens; notes that this will take place in an area of Perthshire where eagles, which have been satellite-tagged have, it understands, previously disappeared and where the illegal persecution of raptors is believed to be well-documented; understands that this is as part of an experiment, which reportedly has no control measure in place, to assess the impact of such a cull on the wader population; regrets what it sees as the lack of consultation with expert organisations, including the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the RSPB; understands that these groups maintain that there “is no justification for this extreme course of action”; believes that there is a lack of robust scientific evidence to support this action; understands with regret that it is only now, following a notable and concerted public outcry, that SNH is calling on its Scientific Advisory Council to scrutinise the cull, and calls for the withdrawal of the research licence and the removal of the open general licence in this area as a matter of urgency.

Well done, Alison, and thank you for doing what every politician should be doing – holding power to account on behalf of the public.

Meanwhile, the public petition calling for a halt to this raven cull licence has now reached over 147,000 signatures. If you haven’t yet signed it, please consider adding your name HERE

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

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