SNH refuses to recommend golden eagle as national bird

Fearnan2Last month, the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee took oral evidence on the petition to designate the golden eagle as Scotland’s National Bird.

Evidence in support of the petition was provided by Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB Scotland) and wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan. The hearing descended into farce when Tory MSP committee member Jackson Carlaw suggested that the eagle was an unsuitable candidate as it was symbolic of the Nazi regime (see our blog here).

The hearing was available to watch on Scottish Parliament TV but for those who missed it, you can read the official report here: Public Petitions Committee official report 28 Jan 2014

The hearing ended with the Petitions Committee agreeing to seek written advice from key organisations including the Scottish Raptor Study Group and SNH.

That written advice has now been submitted.

SNH advice: SNH response to petition 1500 Feb 19 2014

SRSG advice: SRSG response to petition 1500 Feb 23 2014

SNH, the Government’s statutory conservation agency, has refused to recommend the golden eagle to be Scotland’s National Bird. They say it is a contender, but suggest that other species are also worthy of consideration, such as the Scottish crossbill, crested tit, various sea birds, golden plover, curlew, osprey, white-tailed eagle, and wait for it….the red grouse.

Yeah, brilliant suggestion – let’s have the red grouse, a species that is intensively managed on an industrial scale (kept at artificially high densities and repeatedly dosed with toxic medications) across wide swathes of the Central, Eastern and Southern uplands at the expense of every predator with teeth, claws or a hooked beak. Predators that are ruthlessly and systematically killed, both legally and illegally, just so some grouse moor owner can impress his cronies with a large ‘bag’ of dead red grouse.

In stark comparison, the Scottish Raptor Study Group expressly supports the designation of the golden eagle as Scotland’s National Bird and makes clear that this designation would go some way to reducing the current illegal persecution of this species.

SNH (who quite tellingly didn’t once mention persecution in their response) has missed an important opportunity to promote the conservation of the golden eagle and send out a clear message to those who continue to poison, trap and shoot this species as part of grouse-management activities. They have actually sent out a message, just not one that’s fitting of a conservation agency that knows, through its own commissioned research, that this species needs all the help it can get.

The next stage of the petition process will likely be a public consultation. We’ll post links in due course.

Photo of young golden eagle ‘Fearnan‘ taken in his Perthshire nest by Keith Brockie. Two years later (Dec 2013) he was found dead on an Angus grouse moor. He had been illegally poisoned.

27 thoughts on “SNH refuses to recommend golden eagle as national bird”

  1. This just puts into perspective SNH’s true colours where wildlife protection is concerned, it’s obvious that their true allegiance is to the shooting fraternity above all others. To even suggest that Red Grouse should be considered is like a red rag to a bull where conservation of protected Raptors is concerned.

    The brass necked stupidity of these people knows no bounds !!!

  2. we shouldn’t be surprised. SNH are a government body, whatever their designation as a NDPB they will take their lead from government. Past events have shown that the SG are too easily swayed by the tweed-jaikit brigade. Time now for the RSPB to publically and vocally pass a vote of no confidence in SNH.

    1. Quite ! Given future climate chaos it’s a bird that could very well disappear from our hilltops. Imagining the Cairngorms without Ptarmigan is like imagining Scotland without the Golden Eagle. I have no idea what’s in those heads of theirs – cotton wool ?

  3. Well Lads we are not really looking far enough ahead, for the national bird throughout Britain never mind here in Scotland, it has to be the last bird standing….The Pheasant of course.

  4. For comparative purposes, take a look at SNH’s response (given jointly with FCS) to the petition to designate the Scots Pine as the National Tree.

    Click to access PE1457_B_FCS-SNH_04.02.13.pdf

    You’ll notice some distinct differences to how they responded to the eagle petition. Specifically, they supported the nomination of the Scots Pine and dismissed other potential contenders. Why was their approach to the Golden Eagle petition so different?

    Complete double standards and its pretty obvious why.

  5. Here are some responses to the story from Twitter:

    @wildaboutsussex: Shocking cowardice by SNH.

    @debbiejay35: This is all about protecting game shoots. Game estates big money with political influence on Scot Tory MSPs.

    @aluvmabirdsrab: Bloody ars*****s!!!

    @Pere_Grine: Shocking!

    @TimFox3: Once again, dumbfounded.

    @RoseACam: What???? And they are serious about recommending red grouse as an alternative? Shooting themselves in the foot I think.

    @CaltonHillEagle: If they had decided to have Sea Eagles instead I’d have let them off but Red Grouse????? They’re aff their heids.

    @RantinRovin: Red grouse, as in the over-stocked bird useless ‘hunters’ shoot on estates? I do wonder if SNH are in their pockets.

    @brocanteuse1: Because some idiots think its symbolic of the nazi regime??? Bullshit – collusion with the shooters, more like.

    @_Polinard: SNH I think your advice is a limp cop out, and total cave in to interests who want to see fewer, not more g. eagles in Scotland. #Shame

  6. SNH are simply saying that national symbols emerge from a popular recognition of their cultural significance and it is not for a technical body like SNH to judge the golden eagle, or any other symbol, in these terms. They have simply stuck to their remit and presented a list of options, from species for which Scotland has some international significance. They left open the starting point for the whole issue which is whether a country awash with symbols really needs a national bird, particularly one chosen to further a particular line, however worthy. Are we going to fight the bedroom tax by nominating a national bedroom ?
    The national bird is fantasy Scotland from the marketing men, the conservation equivalent of the embarrassing pre match mince at Murrayfield. It doesn’t win games or do anything for credibility. How about looking at the tax breaks for estates instead of the outraged focus on public opinion which, as Dave Dick pointed out last week, has had minimal effect in 30 years.

    1. We’re talking about a national symbol for Scotland, something which anyone can associate with the esteem it represents and deserves, nothing to do with politics or sport or religion, just a symbol everyone can relate to and be proud of. SNH should honour the will of the people not their puppetmasters on the shooting estates and do the right thing for once.

  7. just remembered- the Golden Eagle is one of the much lauded Scottish Big 5 (although if memory serves the powers that be managed to nouse up the publicity photos for that) Nice that the government’s own conservation body now wants to have a big 4.

    The ptarmigan may be a worthy conservation cause, but the Golden Eagle is a far more vibrant icon which sends a statement to those sectors who will abuse the land and wildlife for the sake of the shotting industry..

  8. SNH might want to consult a taxonomist about Scottish crossbill before proposing it as our national bird …since what we have been calling “Scottish crossbill” for years is actually a parrot crossbill, and Scottish crossbills (if they exist at all) are something else entirely. At least people would stand a chance of recognising a golden eagle!

  9. Red grouse!? I mean I could buy an argument for the Black Grouse, that is a distinctive bird which a lot of people have a great deal of nostalgia for, and maybe the Capercaillie, but not the bog standard red grouse. As for the rest, take out the sea eagle (which is still too new a re-introduction to make it to the national consciousness) and you’ve got a list that practically screams “Too wee, too poor, too stupid”. SNH’s problem with the Golden Eagle is the fact that it doesn’t seem wee and timid enough for the London mob which pulls the strings.

  10. Somewhat rotund, exploited by the wealthy/English (insert whichever you feel is more appropriate), and strongly associated with booze. The red grouse could very well be a symbolic icon of modern Scotland. As a Scot that makes me sad, and would think that therefore a symbol of aspiration should be used. The golden eagle would fit that perfectly.

  11. It’s been obvious for some time, that SNH are easily manipulated and controlled by the shooting estates and big industry. This gives further evidence to that theory, and has proven to be yet another shameful episode in their recent history. They are an absolute disgrace.

    1. Maybe Alex Hogg will tell us if they are now affiliated members of the SGA, if they are not perhaps they should be!

  12. On reflection this is a really odd position to take….because if Holyrood decides it is going to have a national bird…eagle or not…then SNH will become the chief source of knowledge and official champion…….and they have said they nothing and care little?

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