More shameless spin-doctoring from the Gift of Grouse

Gift of GrouseTim (Kim) Baynes, Director of the grouse-shooting industry’s propaganda campaign, The Gift of Grouse, is shameless. He must be to have penned his latest bout of spin-doctoring, this time pointing the finger at raptor workers.

Before we begin, here’s a definition of a spin doctor:

A person whose job involves trying to control the way something is described to the public in order to influence what people think about it“.

Ladies and gentlemen, the spin doctor is IN.

The following article, authored by Tim (Kim) Baynes, appears in today’s Courier and is entitled: ‘Trust needs to develop quickly between raptor groups and land management‘.

Despite the grouse season ending more than a month ago, our moorland continues to fire passions on all sides.

Since Jim Crumley’s last column, The Courier letters’ pages have been alive with debate. Yet, much of the criticism levelled at estates does not reflect what I see on our moors.

The Gift of Grouse campaign demonstrates the benefits of moorland, including species conservation.

Since then, a number of reports have been publicised. One looked at species present on Invermark, the estate cited by Jim Crumley. It found that 81 different bird species were breeding or feeding there, including a range of ‘red-listed’ most at risk birds. Amongst those present were 10 species of raptor including peregrine, golden eagle and hen-harrier.

Similar is happening on many Scottish estates. Yet disappointingly, the politics of the past – pitting raptor enthusiast versus gamekeeper – are still being played. The RSPB’s report uses incidents from two decades ago to influence present-day policymaking.  But, official figures from the past five years demonstrate raptor incidents are now in the teens per annum, with only some linked to land management. There is always work to be done but the law is tough on anyone convicted of wildlife crime, and even higher sentences are likely soon.

At the heart of this is continuing mistrust between some raptor enthusiasts and land managers. There are also internal rivalries within the raptor groups on who monitors which area, and this leads to secrecy. This is a serious issue as land managers need to know which birds are on their land in order to better manage them, but the survey results are often not shared with them, even when funded by bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage.

To break down mistrust, we must develop ways of maximising both raptors and prey species alongside grouse.  It should not be an either/or scenario. The persecution of raptors is becoming a thing of the past, but there is also a duty on raptor lobby to engage and share information. Trust is developing in some places but it needs to spread – and rapidly.


Oh god, where to begin?

For context, perhaps we should begin by pointing out to those who don’t already know, Tim (Kim) Baynes is employed by the lairds’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates as Director of the Scottish Moorland Group. The Scottish Moorland Group is chaired by the one and only Lord Hopetoun – he of the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate – an estate with one of the worst records of illegal raptor persecution in the country.

Tim (Kim) is right in his assertion that there is distrust between some raptor workers and some landowners. Of course there is, and with bloody good reason!

Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) portrays itself as a wildlife-crime-fighting organisation and frequently points to its membership of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) as evidence of this. SLE has consistently stated that it is working hard to eradicate wildlife crime, and particularly illegal raptor persecution. The thing is, many raptor workers simply don’t believe them. Why not? Well probably because SLE has not sought to expel several member estates that have been implicated, over many years, in raptor persecution crimes. It would be an easy thing for them to do, but they haven’t done it. Until they do, raptor workers (and the general public) are justified to view SLE and their land-owning members with deep suspicion.

Another good reason for distrusting SLE is their continued denial of the extent of illegal raptor persecution, and their denial that the grouse-shooting industry (some of whom are members of SLE) is in any way implicated with these crimes (e.g. see here and here for just two recent examples). Where clear evidence has been provided, (e.g. 81% of all reported poisoning incidents in Scotland between 2005-2014 were on land used for game-shooting – see here), SLE has simply dismissed the figures and slagged off the RSPB for providing them (here).

RSPB persecution review 1994 2014 land use

In his article for the Courier, Tim (Kim) tries to claim that grouse moors are ‘good’ for species conservation and refers to a recent ‘study’ of breeding birds on Invermark Estate to back up this claim. The problem is, the full details of that ‘study’ (and a couple of others) have not been made available for public scrutiny, despite several requests to see it, and therefore has naff all credibility, especially when the ‘study’ of breeding birds was conducted, er, outside of the breeding season (see here).

But what interested us the most about Tim’s (Kim’s) article in the Courier was his (false) accusations (he’s good at those) about the raptor study groups. He said:

There are also internal rivalries within the raptor groups on who monitors which area, and this leads to secrecy. This is a serious issue as land managers need to know which birds are on their land in order to better manage them, but the survey results are often not shared with them, even when funded by bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage”.

This is absolute rubbish. The Scottish Raptor Study Group comprises 12 regional branches. These branches organise raptor monitoring within clearly-defined geographic regions, to avoid over-lapping and thus avoid ‘double-counting’ as well as ‘double disturbance’ of sensitive species. All the raptor workers who monitor Schedule 1 species are licensed (by SNH) to do so. These Schedule 1 disturbance licences are issued for specific areas; so if you have a licence to monitor, say, golden eagles in one area, you can’t use the same licence to monitor them in another area unless your licence specifically includes another area. Again, this is to regulate the amount of disturbance to sensitive species. There is no “internal rivalry” – raptor workers simply get on with monitoring in their own patch.

Raptor workers DO share their data – they provide their results to the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (SRMS) and have been doing so since 2002! Tim (Kim) is obviously annoyed that landowners aren’t given access to those data “in order to better manage” those species. We all know what he means by “better manage” and that is precisely why raptor workers would be reluctant to share location data about highly persecuted species with dodgy landowners. Duh!

Tim (Kim) tries to imply that raptor workers are funded by SNH and as such, the data they collect should be made publicly available. Again, he either misunderstands the system or he’s trying to spin it so that raptor workers look like the bad guys. The truth is, raptor workers are not ‘funded’ by SNH, or by anyone else. SNH does provide SOME funding to the SRSG, but this amounts to a small contribution towards raptor workers’ fuel costs. It certainly doesn’t cover the full fuel costs (the funding is actually well below the commercial mileage rate claimed by consultants) and it does not cover the thousands and thousands of hours of time that raptor workers put in to their monitoring efforts. As such, the data collected by raptor workers belong to the individual raptor worker; not to SNH, not to the SRSG, and not to anybody else. These raptor workers are volunteers – nobody pays for their time, experience and expertise. They can do what they like with their data. That they contribute those data to the SRMS is to their credit, and they do so because they know their data will be useful to conservation and scientific organisations who want to keep tabs on species’ populations. Tim (Kim) Bayne’s inference that raptor workers are the problem is disgraceful.

Trust him and the grouse-shooting industry? Not a bloody chance. Not until we see SLE expelling the estates where persistent raptor persecution continues. Not until we see SLE supporting the work of RSPB Scotland’s investigations team. Not until we see SLE acknowledging the extent of illegal raptor persecution. Not until we see healthy, sustainable breeding populations of raptors such as golden eagles, hen harriers, peregrines, over  a period of years, on driven grouse moors in central, eastern and southern Scotland.

By the way, Kim, you still haven’t provided an explanation for why hen harriers have been absent as a breeding species in the Angus Glens since 2006 (here). Try and spin-doctor your way out of that.

22 thoughts on “More shameless spin-doctoring from the Gift of Grouse”

  1. Sounds about right, Estates want access to raptor data, so they can disturbingly ‘manage’ the birds, but arn’t willing to share their data from the supposed ‘great’ estates in the Angus glens used in the SMG Gift of Grouse campaign. I did try to FOI that data/report from the Scottish parliament, given Gift of Grouse claimed on their website it had been submitted to a minister for consideration in the Land Reform Bill. Sadly the FOI was rejected on the grounds that it hadn’t been submitted for consideration. Regardless if it was used to formally/informally inform a single MSP on how land management can protect species for the benefit of the nation it probably should be made available to the wider public.

  2. I for one would be most dischuffed if I thought that any of the raptor data I have submitted either directly or indirectly to the SRSG or BTO or RSPB or SNH was to be made available to any shooting estate or gamekeeper or anyone else for that matter without my say so. Maybe it’s time we did a bit of spin doctoring of our own, instead of the majority of the information re raptor persecution and moorland destruction on the grouse moors staying mainly in house and on dedicated web sites such as this one, we should take off the kid gloves, de-sanitise it and spread it more universally across all media outlets. The thing I find most disturbing is the lack of any positive action from our main bird conservation society, they have the wherewithall and the media clout to make a real difference if only they would step outside the half closed door, start thinking about how to implement real bird protection on the grouse moors and tell everybody what is really happening at the hands of the shooting estate owners and their gamekeepers.

      1. Excellent report from the RSPB, would be interesting to hear Tim Baynes’s response to it. The part regarding the Red Kite population in North Scotland and the Chilterns was most revealing. It is well past time that our environment minister took some positive action regarding this sorry state of affairs. Maybe after the May elections we’ll have someone who will.

          1. Thanks RPS I obviously missed his reply first time round, also Aileen McLeod’s response. They all keep quiet about those shocking and disgusting Red Kite statistics though.

      2. Yes an excellent report, I read it when it was first released, unfortunately, like I said it only reaches the people who are already involved or who browse websites such as this one. To have an impact on the general public it needs putting out there on the open media in a format that everybody can read and make up their own minds. If we can’t get the backing of the public behind us it will take a long long time to bring raptor persecution to an end

          1. Yes I know, we all thought it was an excellent report but that’s it it’s a one off, how well did it get the general publics attention, what was the response from the general public, was there any feedback., when’s the next episode scheduled, 6 months, 2 or 3 years ?

            That’s what I’m getting at, we need to keep the public aware on all the media outlets as much as possible and as often as possible, a major report is very welcome but doesn’t hold peoples attention for very long, especially if they’re not dedicated ornithologists like ourselves. We need to publicise every dirty trick and incident the shooting fraternity get up to and we all know they get up to plenty.

    1. Thank you Anand Prasad for a brilliantly “funny” pastiche on the state of grouse moors (in this case above Hebden Bridge area), specifically for the mention of how they cause environmental damage on a large scale.

  3. Brilliant response as ever RPS, but don’t hold your breath too long awaiting a response from Hans Christian Baynes. We need you alive! At least he speaks – which is more than we can say about ‘Aileen the Silent’! On the good side, it is always good when an opponent shoots himself in the foot.

  4. How about a wee bit pressure on SNH to get them to stop promoting grouse (and anything else shot with lead) as wholesome, natural and healthy? Remember the “natures larder” debacle?

  5. Thanks again RPS for bringing this information to light. Quite a joke for raptor workers to read.

    Onwards and upwards with the campaign to rid the Scottish countryside of Victorian type land management which excludes anything that is not liked by the Estate owner or the ‘Doctors and Nurses’ of the countryside that they employ.

  6. Thanks RPS, for countering this piece of agenda led propaganda by Mr. Baynes. The truth seems to be that the shooting lobby is not interested in developing trust or they would not be submitting articles like this which appears intended to mislead the public. He tries to imply the reason for the lack of trust is purely the fault of raptor workers whose organisations, he claims, are in chaos. From what you have revealed in your response illustrates that this could not be further from the truth. What a pity the Courier would not publish this.

  7. Why would Tim Baines, Scottish Land & Estates and various land managers make demands that Raptor Study Groups share their information? From the lies and propaganda that spews out from the shooting industry on a regular basis (usually promoted by establishment media without any checks on facts or accuracy), I was under the impression that gamekeepers were expert in all things natural history, and no-one could ever possibly reach their knowledgeable heights.

    Are we supposed to believe that the shooting industry has supposed experts that are able to locate Dunlin nests, yet they are unable to pinpoint nesting raptors? I would have thought that a raptor, being a tad larger than a camouflaged Dunlin, would be a bit more obvious to the eye.

    Anyway, on this fabled list of 81 species thriving on grouse moors, a few weeks ago, I did ask those shooters that frequent this site if they would provide a full species list, but I am still waiting. Does this list actually exist, or is it yet another lie? The continued refusal to provide a list, would certainly point to the latter.

    But I’ve had another thought on this Gift of Grouse propagandist nonsense (out of interest, there is no such species as the Scottish cuckoo!), and I think the shooting industry has…., well, shot itself in the foot! The following is an archived link detailing the SGA press release and in their pathetic attempts to make their industry look good, they have succeeded in defeating their very own arguments.

    The two press release statements (for the Invermark Estate and the Glenturret Estate) read as;

    “A team of ecologists from wildlife management consultancy Taylor Wildlife conducted the survey at the Invermark estate. They recorded 81 different bird species either breeding or feeding, including 68 breeding pairs of golden plover, 32 breeding pairs of dunlin and 10 species of raptor, including merlin, peregrine, golden eagle and hen harrier.”


    “Sixty-one species were found at the Glenturret estate, including red-listed birds such as cuckoo, lapwing, twite and yellowhammer. The survey also showed two confirmed breeding attempts by hen harriers, and eight species of raptor present, all of which were breeding.”

    What does that tell us? Well, it tells us that if the information contained within those two statements is true, and that if all of these red-listed prey species are “thriving” alongside some considerable raptor populations, then raptors cannot possibly have an adverse impact on these species. Simples!

    Or is the SGA, Tim Baynes and all others that support this Gift of Grouse nonsense, just simply lying?

  8. Things are all coming together now – not only is grouse-management greedy and destructive, but now we know it poisons people, worsens flooding and releases carbon. It is no longer acceptable.

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