Public funds to promote wildlife criminals in Scotland?

In December 2016 we blogged about the ‘Game for Growth’ strategy, which is a plan to promote Scottish country sports and boost its value to the economy. The strategy, which was launched at a parliamentary reception on 20th December 2016 (here) is being led by the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) and is being part-funded by VisitScotland using tax payers’ money (see here).

You may recall that Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman lodged a parliamentary question about the use of these public funds, as follows:

Question S5W-05930: Andy Wightman (Lothian, Scottish Green Party). Date lodged: 22/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of the recipients of financial contributions from VisitScotland to the strategy, Game for Growth Strategy – Country Sports Tourism in Scotland 2016; what information it has regarding how each recipient will use this; what action it has taken to ensure that no money was provided to the owners or managers of landholdings on which crimes against wildlife have been committed; whether it will publish the strategy on its website, and what aspects of this it is supporting or plans to support with public money.

This question has now been answered:

Answered by Fiona Hyslop MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs) on 11/1/2017:

VisitScotland has approved a grant of £17,925 to the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group to promote Scotland as the destination of choice for all country sports. The Group will use this to develop content and supporting digital activity to attract visitors from across the UK and Scandinavia. As this money is for a specific project, no funding will be provided to individual estates or land owners. There is no intention to publish the strategy on VisitScotland’s website and so there will be no funding support for this.

It’s an interesting response. It does clarify that public funds (at least these public funds) will not be given directly to individual estates or landowners, but it is also clear that individual estates will still benefit from this public funding, albeit indirectly, because the SCSTG will use the funds to promote these individual estates as part of an online PR campaign.

In our December blog, we noted that the SCSTG website was promoting the Dunmhor Sporting Agency as a provider of country sports activities in Scotland:

We were surprised to see Dunmhor Sporting being promoted on the SCSTG website because Graham Christie of Dunmhor Sporting was convicted in December 2015 of being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of his gamekeeper, who had used an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard on the Cardross Estate. We just looked at the SCSTG’s website again and Dunmhor Sporting is still being promoted as a country sports provider.

So much for the game shooting industry ousting its criminal members.

We wonder whether the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, is aware that a now (part) publicly funded organisation (the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group) is promoting a convicted wildlife criminal and if so, whether she thinks this is an appropriate use of public funds?

Emails to: and mark it FAO Fiona Hyslop

19 thoughts on “Public funds to promote wildlife criminals in Scotland?”

  1. We continue to see the SNP supporting the “wrong side” in the long fight for real wildlife conservation – very sad but a warning that those of us who want an independent Scotland and want real Land Reform/Community buyouts should be very careful about what replaces the present status quo….in terms of land use.

  2. My email to Fiona Hyslop:
    I am very concerned about the Scottish Government’s lack of commitment to eradicate crimes against raptors on Scottish shooting estates.

    A website for tourism led by Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group is promoting an estate where a gamekeeper was found guilty of killing a buzzard with an illegal gin trap, following this the estate was guilty of vicarious liability.

    Why is the Scottish government supporting criminal shooting estates? The funding involved should not be for criminals.

    If as in England the land subsidies were grossly increased, a few years ago, to support these cruel activities played out by the wealthy people that do not need subsidies from ordinary tax paying folk. Why should we pay for the rich to have fun at the expense of the animals destroyed (not just the game), the environmental damage and pollution caused by these archaic activities?

    It is long past time to rid the country of these shooting estates, they are guilty of damage to our raptor species as is evident by the lack of breeding birds of prey on grouse moors. The other aspect is the killing of birds and mountain hares and most are wasted, never entering the food chain.

    Stop supporting this archaic and cruel industry and turn to much better, real tourism. The Dumfrieshire Red Kite project has been shown to introduce large amounts of money into the local economy, perhaps wildlife tourism is the way forward rather than a few people paying to kill animals they never eat. My guess is that the Estates, apart from the few staff they employ, stash away their profits in overseas tax havens or other tax dodges. The country does not benefit from them in any way.

    1. Doug,

      Some clarification is needed here.

      The estate was NOT “guilty of vicarious liability”. It was the sporting agent (Graham Christie, of Dunmhor Sporting) who was convicted because he employed the gamekeeper.

      Sir Archie Orr-Ewing of Cardross Estate issued a statement at the time, clarifying that “the estate had no involvement whatsoever in the sporting management of the land in question” as the land where the offences took place was “let on a long-term lease to a third party who had full rights and responsibilities for the management of sporting activity”. See:

      1. Apologies for my incorrect statement. Please read “The sporting agent, Graham Christie, of Dunmhor Sporting” instead of the “Estate”.

        Funding of any shooting estate from the tax payers purse is grossly out of order. But those in high places with wealth to spare can get away with rather too much and the government allows and encourages it.

      2. Maybe the estate should be guilty of vicarious liability in view of the actions of its lessee – the sporting agent (Graham Christie, of Dunmhor Sporting) :)

    2. Mine covered similar points.

      FAO Fiona Hyslop Question S5W-05930

      3 days ago you answered the above question of Andy Wightman’s.
      You don’t appear to be aware of why the question was asked and have certainly not addressed any of the concerns of Andy and others like myself.
      I am definitely not going to vote SNP again if this support of this particular illegal activity continues.

      The SCSTG website promotes the Dunmhor Sporting Agency as a provider of country sports activities in Scotland. Graham Christie of Dunmhor Sporting was convicted in December 2015 of being vicariously liable for the criminal actions of his gamekeeper, who had used an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard on the Cardross Estate. Dunmhor Sporting is still being promoted as a country sports provider.

      The answer, which i am sure will happen, is not to remove this estate from the advertising but for the government to stop using tax payers money to promote a sport which benefits a rich elite minority that is dependent on wild like crime to exist. This is no exaggeration. Although every driven grouse moor estate is not guilty of wildlife crime EVERY estate profits and depends on it because of the simple fact that, as shown by the Langholm experiment, driven grouse moors and Hen Harriers cannot co-exist without illegal persecution. Mark Avery explains all this clearly in layman’s terms in the book Inglorious.

      This is without even getting into the damage to the public in the form of water pollution, flooding, CO2 emissions, slaughter of Mountain Hares, habitat and ecosystem destruction by muirburn, drainage ditches and roads and the illegal persecution of other rare birds of prey etc.
      The Red Kite project in Dumfries and Galloway and the White-tailed Eagles on Mull have proven that the benefits of eco-tourism are substantial and effect the whole local economy.
      Whereas the shooting lobby which is already being subsidised by the taxpayer increases the value of their property and concentrates wealth into the pockets of rich landowners who as Andy Wightman has proven is funnelled into off-shore bank accounts and tax havens which coincidentally also become untraceable and therefore immune from wildlife crime in the form of Vicarious Liability. I have proof of all these claims and can provide evidence for all my statements.

      Now you tell me you are using my tax money to sponsor these criminals and their co-conspirators. Your party is being taken for fools.

      I repeat i will not be voting SNP again until this chumming up to the rich elite stops.
      The Environmental Ministers have proven to be incompetent and so it appears is your ministry.

      1. ‘i will not be voting SNP again until this chumming up to the rich elite stops.’


        I’d suggest that the (unspoken) reaction of an SNP MSP to such a threat might be something like this:

        ‘So you’ll vote Green, who’ll support the SNP on the issues that are of critical importance to the SNP?

        Which means that the loss of your vote is no loss at all.

        Particularly if our stance increases the chances of attracting or retaining the votes of those in the other camp, the ones that Fergus is so chummy with.’

  3. An FOI request to Visit Scotland should be able to see the conditions attached to the grant made to SCSTG.
    I doubt that they will have a clause saying “please do not use this money to benefit criminals” … its too obvious…

    I have not found the Visit Scotland Biodiversity Report yet.. their web site is not that helpful….but neither can I find any reference to it on the SG website.

  4. My email to Fiona Hyslop…

    Dear Fiona Hyslop

    Please be aware that the public money being used to partly fund the Game for Growth could be helping to support criminal members of the shooting industry – see here (link attached to email)

    It is false to think that driven grouse shooting is in any way good for wildlife.
    In fact it is quite the opposite; driven grouse shooting is underpinned by the persecution of protected birds of prey.
    And if you have any doubt about the above then please go to Raptor Persecution UK and Mark Avery’s blogs –

    Raptor Persecution UK (link attached to email)

    Mark Avery (link attached to email)

    In many ways ‘the economy’ can override the welfare of our natural heritage.
    Please don’t allow the shooting industry to pretend that what they do is good for tourism, it may be good for its own in-house tourism but that is a tiny part of overall tourism.
    The problem is that a ‘tiny part’ can have a big effect on the overall.
    Scotland could be a fantastic world wildlife tourism venue if only the shooting industry weren’t ‘allowed’ to suppress that potential.
    Money should be put into helping our wildlife, not hindering it.
    When thinking about the economy do not forget that wildlife criminals are a part of that.
    In time, the UK’s wildlife crime, such as raptor persecution, will be looked upon in the same manner as the ivory and rhino horn trade are now.
    It is time to wise up and stop burying economy heads in the builders’ sand.
    Our wildlife needs protecting like never before.
    Our wildlife does not need the shooting industry to suppress it.
    Public money should not be put into a private industry’s purse.

    Andy Holden
    North Yorkshire

  5. I see that Peter Swales is also being promoted on the website, even though Visit Scotland removed his company from another site in 2005.

    The website linked from CountrysportScotland is .. but the main site is still offering big game hunting. So on one hand Visit Scotland is removing him from their own site, yet happy to provide funds to the same site for hunting and shooting in Scotland.

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