Scottish government’s support for grouse shooting “goes beyond words”, says Environment Minister

Here’s a fascinating insight into the Scottish Environment Minister’s views on driven grouse shooting.

In a letter addressed to the Earl of Hopetoun (Scottish Land & Estates’ Moorland Group), Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP tells him: “I think it is clear that the Scottish Government’s support for this industry goes beyond words“. He goes on to comment about well-managed moorland as a valuable resource for biodiversity, the significant contribution the industry makes to the rural economy, and how hard the Scottish Government has fought to retain the use of snares for predator control.

It’s all a bit depressing until towards the end of the letter he addresses the issue of vicarious liability. It’s not clear what the Earl of Hopetoun said to Stewart Stevenson, but it seems to have been something along the lines of arguing against the introduction of vicarious liability (which is due to be enacted sometime this winter). Stevenson responds:

Turning to the issue of vicarious liability, I am afraid I do not agree that this poses a threat to the public benefits that well-managed moorlands deliver. The introduction of vicarious liability in this area is a response to a long-standing and continuing problem and reflects the wishes of a clear majority in Parliament. However, any grouse moor manager or owner who takes their staff and land management duties seriously and can show, if required, that they have carried out due dilligence in this respect, as required by the law, will not have any reason to be concerned“.

He continues: “I hope that we are beginning to see a significant reduction in crimes involving birds of prey. Any reduction in the numbers of birds that are found poisoned will be very welcome. We are however clear that the number of birds analysed by SASA is not the complete picture, and we will continue to be guided by the scientific advice from SNH on the overall population levels and distributions of birds of prey“.

Full letter available for download here: Stevenson response to Lord Hopetoun Aug 2011

Interestingly, the Earl of Hopetoun is a Director of Scottish Land and Estates and appears to be connected with the management of estate land in Lanarkshire. His profile biography on the Scottish Land and Estates website says the following:

Andrew Hopetoun is Chairman of Hopetoun Estates and Deputy Chairman of the Hopetoun House Preservation Trust. These two organizations manage Hopetoun House (home of the Hope family for over 300 years and a successful tourism, corporate and private functions business) and its related estates, mostly at Hopetoun near Edinburgh and around Leadhills in the Scottish Borders (See profile here).

This wouldn’t be the Hopetoun Estate (aka the Leadhills Estate), would it? If this information is accurate, then it’s easier to understand the Earl’s interest in vicarious liability, although it has previously been reported  that the Hopetoun family did not run the grouse moor and the shooting rights had been put up for sale (see here).

5 thoughts on “Scottish government’s support for grouse shooting “goes beyond words”, says Environment Minister”

  1. I think it would be useful if the Scottish Government were asked to explain what is meant by “beyond words”….sounds rather sinister?

  2. Well managed moorland, valuable resource for biodiversity, you have a problem with that? Why is that depressing? The money to manage is not coming out of the nearly empty public purse. Every spare penny is needed for our education, health and welfare budgets. We’ve seen the damage caused by wildfires from unmanaged heather moorland devoid of grazing animals. Private money prevented an even greater spread of the fires. There is nothing sinister about recognition of the contribution of private money to our economy. Government coffers are pitifully low. I , like many farmers am also subject to the threat of vicarious liability on my little farm, although I have a great deal less to lose financially than a big estate. However the weight of shame would be equal if a poisoned bird was found on my farm. It is a matter of fact that birds do not respect boundaries, but proven or not, guilt by association as you have just proved by your closing remarks sticks. It is also a matter of fact that shooting leases allowed an element to creep into the grouse shooting industry which has done enormous damage and many estates have already taken their shooting back in hand.

  3. Yes there is private money involved in the management of shooting estates…but they are nearly always supported by large pots of agri-support cash and gilt edged by rate relief.
    The truth is that the public purse makes a huge contribution to the way these moorlands are managed but in practice, public aspirations for this investment are not realised.
    The moorlands are not the biodiversity hotspots that they are made out to be. The management practice of burning reduces biodiversity, skewing the habitat in favour of a narrow group of species. AN ABUNDANCE OF THE SPECIES IN THIS NARROW GROUP DOES NOT INDICATE RICH BIODIVERSITY. Has anyone ever suggested that burning the rain forest has been a boon for biodiversity?
    Burning does not prevent wildfires, very short heather does not burn well but if its dry it will still burn non-the- less. Wet flushes, streams, grassy banks and broadleaf woodlands are more effective for stopping a fire. This habitat diversity brings increased biodiversity.

  4. Congratulations on your new role as Director at Scottish Land and Estates, Daye. Glad to see you’re already toe-ing the party line. Perhaps you can explain why the letter from the Environment Minister to the Earl of Hopetoun ‘mysteriously disappeared’ from the Scottish Land and Estates website yesterday? Did it go the same way as all those raptors that ‘mysteriously disappear’? Not to worry though, one of our contributors had already saved it and sent us a pdf copy.

    Yes, I found the letter deeply depressing. His and your notion of biodiversity is clearly not the same as mine. I expected better from an Environment Minister. I was pleased though to see that he’s standing firm in favour of vicarious liability, despite the backdoor attempts to block it. I have to ask why would any group want to block it anyway? Are these the actions of a group committed to stamping out raptor persecution? Perhaps you could explain for us?

    1. One person’s notion of biodiversity will always be but a small part of a very large collective jigsaw leading to a collaborative agreement for biodiversity appropriate to an area or zone. Our crafted living landscape evolves continuously, shaped by natural and man made externalities. It would be arrogant for any one person or organisation to assume that their view of biodiversity is the correct and only one. A Minister, like Solomon will have to make a judgement based on the greater, consensual view, parts of which may appear wholly irrelevant and perhaps even offensive to some. Whilst I respect and understand the genuine passion and frustration behind your question, that is how democracy works and all concerned, can only continue to do their best to work with others to bring consensus, understanding and balance to a collective agreement.

      I can assure you that the proposal to introduce Vicarious Liability is not being blocked. I can further reassure you that Scottish Land & Estates continues to utterly condemn all forms of raptor persecution. You will no doubt be aware of the letter to the Minister at the time, signed by large numbers of members of Scottish Land & Estates condemning wildlife crime.

      To lift your mood of depression, I would urge that you take some time out to focus on some of the overall positive sea changes that have taken place over the last year in particular. Peer pressure may take time but is a powerful element in progressing change, try not to weaken it by failure to recognise progress.

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