Posts Tagged ‘scottish parliament

25
Jun
17

Game shoot licensing discussed on BBC’s Landward programme today

Today’s edition of the BBC’s Landward programme had a small feature on proposals for the introduction of game shoot licensing, including contributions from Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB Scotland) and Lord David Johnstone (Scottish Land & Estates).

It is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days (Episode 12, starts at 17 mins – here).

We’ve reproduced the full transcript:

Presenter, Euan Mcllwraith: “The majestic golden eagle, soaring above Scottish hills. It’s an iconic image of wild Scotland. But a Government report has found that almost a third of all golden eagles which have been tracked by satellite died in mysterious circumstances, and the majority of those cases were found on land which is managed for grouse shooting. And the demise of the golden eagles has kick-started a re-examination of the way that game shooting is managed.

Game shooting is a major contributor to the Scottish rural economy and supports jobs in rural areas. But the field sport relies on there being a large population of grouse to shoot. The report’s findings led Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham to propose an inquiry in to whether or not shooting estates should need a licence to operate.

But why would a licence protect eagles? Well at the moment, if a gamekeeper for example was caught killing a bird of prey, he might be prosecuted and in extreme cases be sent to jail, but the estate would still be allowed to carry on doing business. But the threat of a removal of a licence to operate could prove a more effective deterrent.

The proposal has delighted some groups and horrified others.

With me now are Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland and David Johnstone of Scottish Land & Estates.

Duncan, from your point of view, what’s the attraction of a licence, ‘cos there’s a lot of penalties at the moment, if a keeper gets convicted he goes to jail. Why a licence?”

Duncan Orr-Ewing: “Well, we very much welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s statement that she will look at options including a licensing system. The reason we support a licensing system is because we believe it will raise standards in the grouse moor sector in particular, which has a whole range of problems that have been highlighted in recent years and we think there is a need to reflect the public interest”.

Euan Mcllwraith: “David, from your point of view, you’re not in favour of licences. Why is that?”

David Johnstone: “There’s a number of reasons within that. There’s the SNH report that came out showing licensing going on around Europe, it clearly demonstrated that licensing, wildlife crime still exists in parts of Europe where licensing also takes place. But also we don’t think that it will actually be effective, we think that there are better ways of doing it that will lead to the higher standards that Duncan was talking about, creating good working relationships between ourselves and other stakeholders within, especially the Government”.

Euan Mcllwraith: “But is it not quite simple? If a nightclub has a licence, they break the rules, they go out of business. If a landowner on an estate was seen to be killing birds of prey, which does happen, you cease to have that right to run a business”.

David Johnstone: “This is a very, very different situation because within a nightclub, when a nightclub finishes business, the doors are shut and nobody else is allowed in to that nightclub at all, you control everything that’s going on. Within an estate on land in Scotland, under the 2003 Act, people have a right to roam anywhere, at any time, which we fully support, therefore you have people wandering across the land you’re managing, doing whatever they may wish to do and we have…”

Euan Mcllwraith: “Yeah, but people aren’t going to walk on to an estate and kill a bird, I mean it may happen, but the vast majority…”

David Johnstone: “I’m sorry but we have examples of people who have been interfering with legally set traps and everything else so it does happen, nefarious activity does go on, and that puts at risk people’s livelihood, their jobs, the economy, everything. You’ve got to prove you didn’t do something, as opposed to somebody proving that you did do something”.

Euan Mcllwraith: “Is that a real worry though? That an estate can go out of business, a vital part of the rural economy will cease to exist, on a very low level of proof?”

Duncan Orr-Ewing: “Look, we’re in this position because of a failure of self-regulation, despite repeated public warnings that the estate sector, particularly driven grouse moors, need to get their house in order. They have failed to deliver, that is why we’re at this point.

We believe a system of licensing can be developed, that has the right checks and balances in place, they do it in other countries, we imagine this won’t be done routinely….”

Euan Mcllwraith: “Duncan, David, I think this debate will rage for a long time to come. At the moment it’s in the hands of the Minister who will make a decision in the months and years to come”.

ENDS

When do you think Scottish Land & Estates will realise that the game’s up? That everybody, even the Scottish Government, now accepts the huge weight of evidence showing that illegal raptor persecution is undertaken as a matter of routine on many driven grouse moors?

Does David Johnstone honestly think that anybody is going to believe his inference that 41 satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on driven grouse moors as a result of ‘nefarious activity’ undertaken by random members of the public?

If he’s so sure of this (without any supporting evidence), then presumably SLE members won’t have any problem accepting the placement of monitoring cameras at raptor nest and roost sites on driven grouse moors? You’d think they’d welcome this measure, which would clear estate gamekeepers from the frame, right? It’s funny then that certain estates continue to refuse to participate in the placement of cameras by SNH’s Heads Up for Harriers project.

Lord Johnstone has used this tactic of blaming members of the public before, when objecting to the introduction of vicarious liability. In 2012 he was cited as saying there was a risk of estates being set up. Five years on, there hasn’t, as far as we are aware, been a single case of an estate being ‘set up’.

Johnstone talks about instances of interference with legally set traps as an example of ‘nefarious activity’. Yes, it does happen, although not as widely as the game-shooting industry claims (see here) and most, no, all of the examples that we’ve seen show vandalism of the trap (thus rendering it inoperable) as opposed to some random person placing illegally-set traps (e.g. pole traps, as pictured above (RSPB photo)) to infer guilt on the estate gamekeepers.

We should really be congratulating whoever is responsible for SLE’s media strategy (‘deny, deny, deny’) because the longer SLE and the grouse-shooting industry takes to accept responsibility, or continues to blame it on others, the more idiotic, the more complicit, and the more incapable of self-regulation, they look, and then the quicker a licensing regime will be imposed.

Former police wildlife crime officer Alan Stewart wrote a blog recently about the grouse shooting industry’s refusal to accept responsibility for raptor persecution and specifically about SLE’s Moorland Director Tim (Kim) Baynes’ accusations against so-called ‘extremists’ (that’ll be us) for ‘derailing progress’. It’s well worth a read – here.

24
Jun
17

Further comment on admissibility of video evidence from more law academics

Last week we blogged about a commentary from Professor Peter Duff (Aberdeen University Law School) on the admissibility of video evidence in wildlife crime prosecutions (see here).

As a quick summary, we fundamentally disagreed with Professor Duff’s conclusions that “the courts would not excuse such an irregularity in obtaining the video evidence and prosecutions would be fruitless” because the Scottish courts HAVE excused the irregularity of obtaining video evidence without the landowner’s permission and far from those prosecutions being ‘fruitless’, they actually resulted in the conviction of the accused (e.g. see the Marshall trial here and the Mutch trial here).

On the back of that blog, another Aberdeen University Law School academic, Dr Phil Glover, has now written a blog on the same subject – see here and he appears to support the opinion of Professor Duff that the COPFS was correct to apply caution and reject the RSPB’s video evidence as inadmissible. Dr Glover addresses the two case studies we had previously mentioned whereby video evidence had been deemed admissible by the courts (the Marshall and Mutch trials) and his opinion is that the two Sheriffs presiding over these cases were wrong to accept the video evidence.

Dr Glover’s blog is technical, dry, and stuffed with specialist knowledge of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 (RIP(S)A) and the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). As such, it is way beyond the scope of our limited knowledge of this legislation and thus we won’t even attempt to critique it. That is not to say it should be dismissed – on the contrary, we welcome the opportunity to read the informed opinion of a law academic, particularly one whose PhD research focused on the very subject of RIP(S)A, and hopefully some of our legally-trained blog readers will be willing to provide a critique.

Another blog has also been published on this subject, this time by Malcolm Combe, a lawyer also working within Aberdeen University’s Law School. Malcolm’s blog (here) is written in a way that is easier (for us) to comprehend and features some pertinent commentary on privacy and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, of which he has detailed, specialist knowledge.

What is clear from all three legal blogs is that the issue about the admissibility of video evidence in relation to wildlife crime prosecutions in Scotland is complex and confusing and, like most legislation, subject to interpretation, which has led to an inconsistent application in recent years. It has been fascinating to read the opinions and the rationale behind them; it’s a shame that the COPFS has not put as much time and effort in to explaining the recent decisions made by the public prosecutors to drop five wildlife crime prosecutions, leaving many questions still unanswered and public confidence in wildlife crime prosecutions at an all time low.

What is also clear is that the current legislation is practically unenforceable in cases of alleged wildlife crime that takes place on large, remote game shooting estates where the likelihood of anybody witnessing the crime is pretty slim. Back in 2014, when this issue was again at the centre of attention, the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse told a Parliamentary Committee that he was “confident” that surveillance cameras could be used in wildlife crime investigations where it was appropriate and the Lord Advocate had apparently made it clear that the option was available to Police Scotland (see here). Police Scotland had a different view and said, “Police Scotland will not be routinely deploying these tactics” (see here).

So where do we go from here? As both Dr Glover and Malcolm Combe note, there is a wider debate to be had here and maybe, on the back of the recent COPFS decisions, these commentaries from legal academics will prompt a review, leading to much-needed reform. In his blog, Dr Glover makes several suggestions for improvement, and some of our blog commentators have, in previous posts, suggested that a condition of any proposed game shoot licensing scheme could be that landowners have to agree to the installment of cameras at the nests of certain raptor species. A review of this type would come under the remit of the PAW Scotland Legislation, Regulation & Guidance sub-group, whose objectives include:  ‘To review the operation in practice of wildlife legislation and regulations; identify areas for improvement and make recommendations; produce guidance for wildlife crime law enforcement practitioners, land managers and other countryside users‘.

What absolutely cannot be allowed to continue is clear-cut evidence of illegal raptor persecution being routinely dropped on the basis of a legal technicality. If the current legislation doesn’t work (it doesn’t), it needs to be amended. We’ve seen the much-welcomed review of wildlife crime penalties, the recommendations of which have been agreed by the Scottish Government (here) but there’s no point in having stronger penalties as a deterrent if the offender knows that the chances of being caught and receiving the punishment are minimal.

16
Jun
17

Scottish Government to review use of stink pits on game shooting estates

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament debated the use of stink pits (middens) on game-shooting estates, following a motion from Christine Grahame MSP.

Stink pits are piles of rotting animal carcasses (often including the corpses of wild and domestic animals) 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 pit. This is all quite legal as long as the animals have been lawfully killed.

The official transcript of the debate can be read here: Stink pit debate_ScotParl_15June2017

Take note of the comments made by Peter Chapman MSP (Conservative, NE Scotland, a former vice president of NFUS and now serving as Shadow Cabinet Minister for the Rural Economy & Connectivity). According to Peter,

On baiting, a proper midden is located in an area where target species can be naturally channelled and, as such, I am told that descriptions of piles of carcases are frankly incorrect. Indeed, such piles are not necessary: it does not take a tonne of wheat to attract a rat—a small pile will do—and it would be the same for a midden“.

This was challenged by Christine Grahame who asked whether Peter had seen the online photographs of piles of carcasses. He had to admit that he had (so therefore his assertion that Christine’s claim was ‘frankly incorrect’ was, er, totally incorrect). Peter claimed that “despite spending my whole working life living and working in the countryside“, he had not ever seen a stink pit nor even heard of one before yesterday’s debate. Perhaps he needs to get out a bit more. Here’s one, photographed in his own constituency (on Glenogil Estate) – a pile of bloodied, rotting mountain hares dumped underneath a tree and surrounded by snares (Photo by one of our blog readers who wishes to remain anonymous):

Aside from Peter’s uninformed comments, other MSPs spoke of their revulsion of stink pits and expressed shock that there is currently no regulation or legislation covering stink pit use in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham spoke at the end of the debate and claimed that “stink pits are used as a way of maximising the effectiveness of snaring as a means of fox control. They are used to draw foxes into fewer, more easily checked sites; thus, they have the benefit of concentrating snaring effort and reducing the number of snares that are set in the wider countryside“. That’s an interesting claim. Is there any evidence to support it? Given that nobody knows how many stink pits are in use at any given time, or how many snares are set at any given time, it seems a bit of a jump to argue that stink pits reduce the number of snares used in the wider countryside, doesn’t it? You could equally argue that stink pits ADD to the number of snares being set on these estates. Without supporting data, both claims are as valid/invalid as each other.

Anyway, the good news is that Roseanna has confirmed that stink pit use will be under review by two separate groups. One is the Scottish Government’s Technical Assessment Group, who will review stink pits as part of their overall snaring review. The other is the yet-to-be established independent group that will review grouse moor management practices, as announced last month in response to continued illegal raptor persecution. We look forward to hearing more about that group, and its full remit, in the very near future.

14
Jun
17

MSPs to debate use of stink pits on game shooting estates

Tomorrow (Thursday 15 June 2017) Christine Grahame MSP (SNP) will lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the use of stink pits on game shooting estates.

Stink pits (also known as middens) are piles of dead, rotting carcasses, surrounded by snares, that are used by gamekeepers to lure in predators that can then be killed and added to the death pile.

The use of stink pits is currently legal in Scotland, under a special derogation for gamekeepers. Charity OneKind has been campaigning to ask the Scottish Government to consider banning the use of stink pits on ethical, animal welfare and public health grounds and they’ve published a gruesome blog on this issue (here). Here are some of the images from that blog:

Leadhills Estate, South Lanarkshire, November 2016: Note the snare around the muzzle of the young fox in the bowl

Marchmont Estate, Berwickshire, October 2015: a dozen pink footed geese dumped in a stink pit

Glen Turret Estate, Perthshire, June 2016: as well as this dead cat, the stink pit also contained deer, pheasant, crows, salmon and a fox

Glenogil Estate, Angus Glens, May 2011: a decomposing fox that had been thrown over a tree stump next to a line of snares. Another dead fox was found nearby with a snare still around its neck

In May 2017, Christine Grahame MSP lodged a parliamentary motion (S5M-05662) as follows:

That the Parliament notes the continued use of stink pits, which are also known as middens, as part of the predator control regime on shooting estates in in the Scottish Borders and elsewhere; understands that these are pits or piles of animal carcasses that are left to decompose so that the smell will attract foxes and other predators into snares placed around them; believe that the dead animals found in these pits recently have included foxes, deer, whole salmon, pink-footed geese, pheasants, rabbits, mountain hares and domestic cats; considers that killing and dumping animals, including protected species and domestic pets, to rot and act as bait to trap other animals, is inhumane and fundamentally disrespectful to the creatures; believes that current use goes beyond good practice in many instances; notes the view that it is necessary to assess the justification for permitting their use when the disposal of farm livestock is strictly controlled, when the extent to which their use is associated with the killing of protected species and domestic animals is taken account of and when the association between the pits and intensive predator control regimes as practised on driven grouse moors is examined, and notes the calls for Scottish Government to consider the merits of banning the use of stink pits in Scotland altogether, on ethical, animal welfare and public health grounds.

This motion received cross-party political support as follows. Is your MSP on this list? What, no Conservatives?

Colin Smyth (Labour), Gillian Martin (SNP), John Finnie (Greens), Ruth Maguire (SNP), Stuart McMillan (SNP), Rona Mackay (SNP), Alex Rowley (Labour), Joan McAlpine (SNP), Alison Johnstone (Greens), Emma Harper (SNP), Bill Kidd (SNP), Ash Denham (SNP), Iain Gray (Labour), Kenneth Gibson (SNP), Clare Haughey (SNP), Mark Ruskell (Greens), Johann Lamont (Labour), Pauline McNeill (Labour), Ivan McKee (SNP), Sandra White (SNP), Patrick Harvie (Greens), Elaine Smith (Labour), John Mason (SNP), Richard Lochhead (SNP), James Dornan (SNP), Fulton MacGregor (SNP), Claudia Beamish (Labour), Andy Wightman (Greens), David Torrance (SNP), Tom Arthur (SNP), Ben Macpherson (SNP), Jackie Baillie (Labour), Gail Ross (SNP), Clare Adamson (SNP).

Because MSPs from several political parties (with the exception of the Tories) have supported the motion, it will now be debated in Chamber tomorrow afternoon after First Minister’s Questions (FMQ starts at 12 noon). You can watch the debate live here and we’ll post the official transcript when it becomes available.

Well done OneKind, well done Christine Grahame MSP, and well done all those MSPs who supported this motion. The more political scrutiny of obscene gamekeeping practices, the better.

07
Jun
17

New petition calling for study on economic impact of driven grouse shooting

A new public petition has been launched by Les Wallace asking the Scottish Parliament to ‘urge the Scottish Government to sponsor a comprehensive and independent study into the full economic impacts of driven grouse shooting’.

The petition can be read here.

It seems that Les was way ahead of the game because as his petition was being finalised, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham surprised everyone with her announcement last week that, among other things, she intends to ‘commission research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity‘.

This would appear to supercede Les’s petition, although the wording is slightly different and we don’t yet know the finer details of Roseanna’s plans, including whether there’ll be a focused assessment of the economics of driven grouse shooting, as Les is calling for.

The grouse shooting industry often shouts about its economic benefit to the Scottish economy and uses this as justification for rejecting calls for regulation. However, the main study used to support this claim of economic benefit has been widely criticised (see a useful recent summary here, pages 22-23) and so there is every reason to support Les’s call for an updated and independent study.

Les’s petition can be signed online here (closing date 18 July 2017).

 

31
May
17

Scottish Government announces significant action in fight against raptor persecution

Today is an historic one in the fight against illegal raptor persecution in Scotland. This is the day that the Scottish Government has finally agreed to take bold, innovative action against a criminal sector of society that has got away with so much for so long.

This afternoon, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, has announced a package of measures to tackle wildlife crime, and specifically the illegal killing of protected birds of prey on some driven grouse moors.

This package has been triggered by the publication of the much anticipated review of golden eagle satellite tag data, which shows clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution over a number of years.

Here is a copy of the report: Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland

Here is a brief summary of the review’s findings:

We will be blogging about this review extensively in due course, but for now, have a look at these maps we’ve created. The first one shows the locations of the last known fixes of satellite-tagged golden eagles that have disappeared in suspicious circumstances across Scotland, and the second map zooms in on some significant clustering on several driven grouse shooting estates in and around the Cairngorms National Park (including the Monadhliaths, Angus Glens and North Perthshire).

NB: These maps are copyright of RPUK and may not be reproduced without written permission

In response to this latest evidence demonstrating the appalling scale of illegal raptor persecution, the Cabinet Secretary has announced the following measures designed to protect birds of prey, the wider Scottish environment and the reputation of those who abide by the law:

We will comment on each of these measures in due course when we’ve had time to consider the implications. As an immediate response, we very much welcome the majority of them, but we’re disappointed that the SSPCA will not be given increased investigatory powers. Nevertheless, we are delighted to see both long and short-term action, which is exactly what we asked for.

Roseanna Cunningham said:

This day has been a long time coming. Many, many people have been involved in this protracted battle for several decades and each and every one has played an important part. From the highly skilled raptor fieldworkers, to the RSPB and particularly its Investigations and behind-the-scenes advocacy teams, to the academics who have analysed and published the scientific data, to the campaigners who have brought this scandal to the attention of the wider public. It is the efforts of all of these people combined that has influenced public opinion and brought us to this watershed moment.

We would like to pay tribute to Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. Be under no illusion about the strength and power of the dark forces that have influenced and manipulated this situation for so many decades. It takes considerable courage to go up against that and we applaud her all the more for it. Please, take the time to send her a message of thanks and let her know that you welcome and support her announcement. Emails to: CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

RESPONSES & MEDIA COVERAGE

Scottish Government statement here

RSPB Scotland press statement here

Blog from RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson here

Scottish Land & Estates press statement here (PS. they’re still in denial)

Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association statement here (still clinging on to the wind farm myth)

BBC News here

Cairngorms National Park Authority statement here

Herald here

Independent here

UPDATE 5 June 2017: Our analysis of the SGA’s response here

30
May
17

Gift of Grouse issues statement on game shoot licensing proposals

As you know, last week the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee voted to recommend that the Scottish Government undertakes further exploration for the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse moors (see here).

The game-shooting industry responded with a joint statement that included a set of proposals for ‘reform’ – none of which included licensing and basically just called for the maintenance of the status quo (see here).

Wildlife conservationists responded to the Environment Committee’s decision with a joint statement that included the offering of an olive branch to “forward-thinking representatives” and “progressive elements” of the game-shooting industry (see here).

Now the Gift of Grouse has responded with this statement, written by Tim (Kim) Baynes (Director of SLE’s Scottish Moorland Group):

WILDLIFE CRIME: PARTNERSHIP, PREVENTION AND PUNISHMENT IS THE WAY FORWARD

The shooting community was pleased to see the press release from RSPB, Scottish Raptor Study Groups and the Scottish Wildlife Trust calling for a progressive partnership. The press release marks a welcome change from some of the recent comment and allegations and backs up our community’s approach, embodied in the set of proposals put to the ECCLR Committee on 19th May and noted in the Committee’s decision on 23rd May to write to the Cabinet Secretary.

All six organisations have working relationships with RSPB, SRSG and SWT in certain areas and we are all conservationists – we just take different management approaches.  Many raptor study volunteers help estates and vice versa.  We work with RSPB on many projects,  for instance the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project, and we have a long standing relationship with SWT.  There is much more to unite than to divide, but we do need to resolve the issue of bird of prey persecution and put it into context.

The issue is not one of raptor “body counts” which all acknowledge is now at a historically low level.  It is about what might be happening unseen, with areas of relatively low populations of certain raptor species raising suspicion.  We are very keen to work with SNH, and any other organisation with constructive intentions, to find out more about these areas and have welcomed the Government’s satellite-tagging review to get clarity on all the conflicting facts and comment.

We have been disappointed at the muddled thinking behind the petition for a licensing system.  Initially it was for all types of game shooting, but soon became clear that it was really another attack on driven grouse moors.    The idea of licensing specific types of shoot management or parts of land holdings in multiple use has not been thought through either in terms of practicality, collateral impact, unintended consequences or even whether it would hit the target specifically identified by the Cabinet Secretary in her letter to the ECCLR Convenor of 7th March. The set of proposals put forward by our sector were to home in on the difficulty of evidence and enforcement which has been elusive. The solution to that is prevention, working with police, SNH and any other expert body such as RSPB and SRSG.  A storm of media coverage is trying to put pressure on Government to implement yet more regulation but that is the wrong solution. To be clear we wholeheartedly believe that a combined strategy of punishment and prevention is the most effective way forward. This would be in keeping with the view of Police Scotland in relation to all forms of crime.

If there is to be a genuine partnership, there does need to be an understanding that driven grouse shooting is an important land use in specific parts of Scotland, with benefits for many species such as waders (the subject of a major new national conservation project) black grouse and white hares – all protected species.  It is also important for rural investment, jobs and tourism which are of lesser concern to organisations with a focus on birds, but vitally important in the wider world.  Those public benefits only come with proactive management.  Walked up grouse shooting is not a solution; it may look nice superficially and is certainly an important part of our community, but it  cannot generate the income necessary to pay for long-term, sustainable moorland conservation; it is often a stage in the progression towards loss of birdlife, as can be seen only too clearly on the abandoned moors in south west Scotland or Wales.  We want the opportunity to explain these facts in a calm atmosphere so welcome the idea of a constructive partnership which could build for instance on the solid work of  Scotland’s Moorland Forum.  We also have the model of the SNH led raptor survey protocol signed in 2016 by RSPB and SRSG, which although adherence was not 100% is still a workable model, setting out what is expected of all parties, and the ability to learn lessons from it.

There needs to be a pause for reflection in the current social media frenzy. Raptor incidents are at a historically low level.  There have been difficult issues with historic cases not coming to court and a more recent problem with adherence to GL restriction order and there will be incidents which the law will deal with as appropriate, but the underlying situation has never been better and we cannot risk letting extremists force their agenda on upland management policy, which is so important for Scotland.

We look forward to arranging a scoping meeting to discuss how such a partnership can be structured.

ENDS

Before we comment on this statement, it’s worth reminding ourselves about the Gift of Grouse. This is the grouse-shooting industry’s propaganda machine that made great claims in 2015 about the number of bird species that had been recorded ‘feeding and breeding’ on three driven grouse moors – Invermark & Glenogil (both in the Angus Glens) and Glenturret in Perthshire. We blogged about these claims (here) and we made repeated requests to see the actual data/reports (as did others – e.g. Andy Wightman here), but all to no avail. The Gift of Grouse refused to publish the reports and instead pointed everyone to a summary, written by The Gift of Grouse and not by the ecological consultants who had conducted the surveys. Indeed, on the back of these apparent survey results, the Gift of Grouse even held a prestigious Parliamentary reception at Holyrood, hosted by Graeme Dey MSP on 23 November 2015,  with wide media coverage, to “celebrate diversity through grouse moor management“. Here’s a photo of them at that parliamentary reception, including Alex Hogg (SGA), Graeme Dey MSP and a load of gamekeeepers including some from the Angus Glens and some from the Lammermuirs.

A year later, the ecological consultants published their report and surprise surprise, it turned out that the Gift of Grouse had, how shall we put this, ‘somewhat embellished’ the results (see here).

The Gift of Grouse has also made the unbelievable claim that raptors are ‘thriving’ on Scottish grouse moors (see here); a claim refuted by RSPB Scotland as “risible, make-believe tosh” (see here).

Going by their track record then, the Gift of Grouse’s latest statement should come as no surprise. Once again, Tim (Kim) tries to deny the prevalence of illegal raptor persecution, saying it’s ‘at a historically low level’ (it isn’t) and suggests it needs to be ‘put in to context’, which implies that the extent of raptor persecution has been exaggerated. He just doesn’t get it, does he? The context is there for all to see, and has been for several decades. How many scientific surveys, reports and reviews do we need? We’ve said this so many times but we’ll repeat it, again:

Systemic, illegal raptor persecution on intensively managed driven grouse moors is having population level impacts on several raptor species (e.g. golden eagle, peregrine, hen harrier, red kite). These aren’t the embellished results of some crappy, one-off, four-day ‘survey’ conducted in snow, rain and hail by a bunch of German students (which is the Gift of Grouse’s idea of sound evidence); they are the findings of multiple, long-term, rigorously conducted, peer-reviewed scientific studies published in high quality academic journals. To continue to deny this wealth of evidence is as bone-headed as President Trump’s denial of climate change data. Tim (Kim) does say that the industry has ‘welcomed’ the Government’s satellite-tagging review – it’ll be interesting to see whether the industry ‘welcomes’ the findings of that review, which is due to be published imminently, and is expected to demonstrate, once again, that satellite-tagged raptors ‘disappear’ with disproportionate regularity in certain areas where intensively managed driven grouse shooting is the predominant land use.

Tim (Kim) claims that ‘prevention and punishment’ is the way forward, not licensing. That might have been the way forward 63 years ago when raptors were given protected status but this approach has patently failed, which is why we’re in the position we are today. The game-shooting industry has been unsuccessful at reigning in the criminal element within its ranks – indeed, these criminals have often been shielded and defended by the industry. How many of these raptor-killing criminals have ever been reported to the Police by industry representatives? The industry has been gifted opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to clean up its act and yet still the illegal killing continues. Stamping their feet and shouting ‘it’s so unfair’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Tim (Kim) also suggests that the licensing petition ‘was really another attack on driven grouse moors’. Actually, it was nothing of the sort. As Tim (Kim) acknowledges, the petition called for the licensing of ALL types of game bird shooting; it was the politicians on the Environment Committee who honed in on driven grouse shooting (because that’s where the majority of illegal raptor persecution takes place), not the petitioners. And actually, Tim’s (Kim’s) derision about licensing only ‘specific types of shoot management’ could well backfire during the forthcoming inquiry. If it’s an impractical solution, as Tim (Kim) suggests, the political decision-makers could well turn the licensing proposal back on to ALL types of game bird shooting and not just driven grouse shooting, which we’d be very happy with.

And then finally, Tim (Kim) draws his thesis to a close with this:

There needs to be a pause for reflection in the current social media frenzy…….The underlying situation has never been better and we cannot risk letting extremists force their agenda on upland management policy, which is so important for Scotland“.

It’s not the first time he/his organisation has complained about too much media coverage of raptor persecution (e.g. see here) and he needs to understand that coverage is high because it reflects the huge level of public, and now political, concern about the persistence of these abhorrent crimes in 21st Century Scotland. If nobody cared, nobody would read it and thus nobody would bother writing it. More and more people are being made aware, they are incredulous that not only does this continue but that it has been allowed to continue without proper regulation, and as a result, media coverage is only going to increase – this is not going away, Tim (Kim).

Oh, and by the way, we’re not ‘extremists’ and it’s pretty distasteful to label us as such in the week when an actual extremist blew up himself and 22 others in Manchester. We, and everyone else, including those politicians on the Environment Committee who voted to progress the licensing petition, are law-abiding, rational human beings who expect to see the law upheld and criminals brought to justice. That’s as ‘extreme’ as we get.




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