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):


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.


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.

28 thoughts on “Gift of Grouse issues statement on game shoot licensing proposals”

  1. Baynes tried to portray DGS as not only a saviour for willdife (yawn) but of rural economies and that conservation organisations do not have that focus, implying DGS is some humanitarian institution when of course it only employs people because it has to – it certainly doesn’t pay them well. We can’t let them off with this, Richard Lyle MSP in the recent vote on licensing also brought up the jobs argument, and of course the role conservation and ecotourism has in bringing in jobs and money for rural communities as well as making them considerably better places for people to live in and visit is conveniently swept under the carpet yet again.

    Once I came across a policy doc from the RSPB stating that local contractors should be given preferential treatment – so much for conservation caring or doing little for local people, but I only found that out by accident the RSPB work with decency and humility. Hardly a secret though that various bird of prey initiatives especially have brought very significant sums into local communities ospreys, sea eagles, red kites, but how much acknowledgement has there been for that – zilch within the huntin, fishin, shootin sector, and precious little within the wider community. Scottish Land and Estates is far, far more likely to show nestcam footage of a buzzard attacking an osprey chick (it survived) and try to peddle that as evidence they are ‘out of control’ than discuss the success of proper ecotourism projects and how they could be a very productive diversification for their businesses and rural communities. Anything that would marginalize the extremist cult of bagging a huge pile of grouse is a no no.

    Baynes’ statement is particularly puke inducing, it tries to redirect the mud currently sticking to the arrogant, thick and selfish parties decimating our wildlife for pathetic hobbies towards decent people trying to protect it. This is really disgusting, but maybe because it’s the standard we need to keep reminding ourselves how utterly contemptible and unforgivable this is.

  2. Take a look at that grinning baw face happily surrounded by his seedy mates,( more than half of whom in my opinion should be behind bars,) fronting a total pack of lies which he made no attempt to verify and still has made no attempt to distance himself from, and ask yourself if you would trust Dey as far you could throw him.How can he be seen as unbiased? I am speechless that he is in the position he is.

    1. There is an alternative explanation – that he was as misled as everybody else by the Gift of Grouse propaganda, which, on a superficial level, looks quite convincing. Dey is not a scientist so given that he was told that the surveys had been done by scientists, even if he had been suspicious he wouldn’t necessarily have been equipped to dissect the results.

      To be fair to Graeme Dey, his performance as Convener of the ECCLR Committee has been reasonable and balanced on the whole, with only a couple of things that have raised our eyebrows. Please remember he also voted in favour of pursuing further exploration for a licensing regime. That’s not the action of somebody supporting his ‘seedy mates’.

      It’s our opinion that Graeme Dey’s eyes have been opened, albeit slowly, and he’s beginning to realise that all is not as is claimed by the Gift of Grouse et al.

      1. Since GoG there’s been a bit of a political/public shift in awareness re DGS and the lovely, quaint view of it as part of Scottish rural life has taken a battering, doesn’t fit in with harriers being spooked from nests then blasted out of the sky, pole trapping or tagged eagles ‘disappearing’ over grouse moors. No doubt many MSPS signed up in good faith and now that will be fracturing quite severely. If GoG was rerun how well would it do this time? Baynes is getting nervous as well he should.

      2. “Misled” he is a more savvy cookie than that,the man is a populist and was falling over himself to get his photo plastered anywhere.The fact remains he is in a position of some influence and he was not overly keen to check his facts. Also how would it have looked if as Convener of the Committee he had not voted for further exploration given the performance of the two sides . He was between a stone and a hard place I’ll give you that. Remember where is constituency is, I once heard him described as a kipper , two faces and no guts , given the importance of the game licencing vote I genuinely hope i am wrong.

        1. Once more I tend to go along with J. Coogan as to paint Mr. Dey as being naive as far as power and wealth inter-act would decry the man as a fool. While some play the short game our opponents are masters of the long one. Remember where the grouse lobby’s long term strategies emerge from, given their background. Why do you think that the SGA threw Bert overboard? The powers that be understood that the facts on the ground had changed and old strategies of strenuous denial accompanied by abuse were no longer working and decided to get cute. The sitiuation has moved on and the players simply get different roles.

    2. J. Did you watch the debate meeting summary? Even his questions in the previous meeting were well put. He often started with the phrase ‘playing the devil’s advocate’ and it worked well. It allowed the grousers to hang themselves and allowed conservations to go into more detail.
      It is strange but the more questions asked of the grousers the deeper they dig their defence bunker and the more desperate they look whereas the conservationists get to explain the fact and science in detail.
      If you read between the lines, which Dey appears to be doing (but not Kate Forbes) the grousers motives become clear, stall, block, deny, and spin to allow the status quo to continue and show absolutely no regard for conservation, raptors, ecosytems, the rule of law and basic human norms.
      Read between the lines to the motives of the conservationists involved and if there are any gaps at all it just reveals one thing, care for the environment and the rule of law and all that that brings.
      Dey appears to have thought along the lines ‘Both these positions can’t be right’ and delved a little deeper. Forbes appears to think that opposing facts can both be true and we just have to start trusting each other. She is obviously a very trusting person.

      1. As an afterthought: Wouldn’t it be weird if we didn’t expect to see a change of views when people are confronted with the facts. If not what are we doing here? Is it just an outlet for grumpy old men?
        I am not sure all the SMPs would have studied the literature in detail but surely they read enough to have understood the basics although admittedly some of their questions didn’t demonstrate this. If we can’t convince them then how on earth are we going to get the public on board.
        All they needed was a small bullshit detector and it appears that they did. They took most if not all of the conservationist’s points at face value. Obviously they didn’t with the grousers.

        1. You paint those whose job it is to wield and manipulate power to their own ends as being less than intelligent anandprasad … which, basically, is the same strategy the grouse lobby used when calling conservationists as townies who understood nothing. When people engage in an activity daily as a part of their employment and reach such a level in the hierarchy then a lack of intelligence isn’t something I associate with them .. though I can and do distinguish between intellect and a prowess in deception.

  3. The curse of Grouse, there’s some free tax payers money up for grabs to help bolster the tourism industry, you can just guess who will be at the front of the queue can’t you. The usual scrounging benefit cheats, as if they don’t get enough public money to send off to their tax havens​ and that’s the only reason they can afford to keep half a dozen keepers employed during the close season with little to do apart from killing everything.

  4. I tend to agree with J. Coogan given the general political environment in Angus. When the Tories were ousted here in rural Angus many years back the hegemonic apparatus they had in place maintained, they simply changed their garb from Conservative to Independant and SNP. Their core philosophies and fealty remained untouched. We know who is behind the driven grouse shooting and their ties to Public Schools and Oxbridge and how valuable they believe infiltrating opposing organisations is .. as many in the conservation movement have experience of. All that has occurred in my opinion is that their champion Graeme Dey has been given a different role to play now that public opinion has been awakened and is now their enemy due to the efficacy of social media. Much of the established mainstream media is still very much a tool in their (grouse shooters/landowners) hands as any who are exposed to it will testify. How valuable it is for the grousers to have a leader of the reformists in their hands as many green and environmental protesters will concur through experience. In many supposed conflicts they have their members in positions of power on both sides of the fence. I have also witnessed Mr. Dey happily contributing to conversations on our friend Bert’s Blog a couple of years back. Now, I may be wrong, and I would be happy to admit it if I were, but at this stage of the campaign it is purely political and to do our side justice one has to think politically .. or be led up the garden path once more. Remember this is portrayed to the public as a multi million pound industry and in a right of center constituency any politician with a certain background would tend to see themselves as a fool to buch both the hegemonic power structure and public opinion at once. Facts, as Donald Trump has shown us, can be irrelevant. Be careful.

  5. “we are all conservationists – we just take different management approaches” – you ‘ave to larff don’t ya!

  6. This just goes on and on, and is tiresome and frustrating in the way that lies are propagated by the shooting community. It’s a bloody disgrace. Unfortunately it must be very difficult for anyone listening to both sides to be certain which side is being truthful, and this obfuscation is the tactic being quite effectively deployed by the grouse shooters. We can resist it with facts, but these are just dismissed as false by the opposition. An opposition which bends the truth until it snaps.

    As usual I appear to be out on a limb, but was dismayed to read of the ‘olive branch’ being offered to the shooting community by SRSG, SWT and RSPB. What on earth are conservationists doing, going to bed with these lying, corrupt subhumans? At first I assumed the appeal for unity with “forward-thinking representatives” and “progressive elements” in grouse shooting was ironic, but apparently not. The only side I can perceive to be putting forward sensible arguments are those who wish to see an end to driven grouse shooting. It might be an ultimate goal towards which we are heading incrementally, but we should be open and honest about it, and not get tied up in meaningless negotiations with irrational and utterly selfish wildlife killers. Not even just to prove a point. Our efforts would be better directed to bringing on board the many decent people who are outraged by raptor persecution.

    1. You are not out on a limb. I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis.

      I am a decent person who is outraged by raptor persecution and I do not take kindly to being called an extremist. An extreme person to me is someone, for example, who is licensed to use a gun by the police and then chooses to break the law.

      1. This is exactly how I feel and, I suspect, the majority of decent, thinking people who take an interest in this matter feel the same.

    2. Love what you said Iain – eloquently put. There is no negotiation with these bastards. Why do the conservationists keep trying? It’s been tried time and again. How long is all this bullshit going to go on for – till Scotland’s hen harriers have gone the same way as England’s?

  7. “A multi million pound industry”.

    How many millions of those pounds are via subsidy and how much tax is paid back into the public purse?

    1. This is what I’d like to know. Are there are any official figures for how much subsidy shooting interests receive in the UK?

      1. George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian on the 28th April 2014

        “ So now you might have to buy your own crutches, but you’ll get your shotgun subsidised by the state. A few days after it was revealed that an NHS group is considering charging patients for the crutches, walking sticks and neck braces it issues, we discovered that David Cameron has intervened to keep the cost of gun licences frozen at £50: a price that hasn’t changed since 2001.
        The police are furious: it costs them £196 to conduct the background checks required to ensure shotguns are issued only to the kind of dangerous lunatics who use them for mowing down pheasants, rather than to the common or garden variety. As a result they – sorry, we – lose £17m a year, by subsidising the pursuits of the exceedingly rich.
        The Country Land and Business Association – the armed wing of the Conservative party – complains that it’s simply not fair to pass on the full cost of the licence to the owners of shotguns; unlike, say, the owners of passports or driving licences, who are charged on the basis of full cost recovery.
        Three days later – on Friday – the government announced it would raise the subsidy it provides for grouse moors from £30 per hectare to £56. Yes, you read that right: the British government subsidises grouse moors, which are owned by 1% of the 1% and used by people who are scarcely less rich.

        Friends of the Earth did some research and published the following statement regarding English estates,
        “ Our investigation identified 30 grouse moor estates, covering around 300,000 acres and in total receiving over £4million in farm subsidies in 2014.”

        I had some figures on Scottish Estates but can’t recll them at the moment, If I remember correctly the average payment to a Scottish Grouse moor was £250,000. These are agricultural payments, during this time we have lost many Dairy farms, pig farms and chicken farms due to increasing costs of feed and falling wholesale costs, these farms recieved bugger all in comparison to the grouse farms, heather moorland continues to flourish despite Grouse farmers complaining they can’t make it pay and just do it for the love of the sport

        with the recent spike in shooting of Raptors in England especially, it makes you wonder if the police have been scrimping on background checks when issuing shotgun licenses? there are certainly a lot of nutters out there with no regard for the law!

          1. I have no doubt they are, if these estates didn’t receive the subsidies they get I’m fairly certain they would not employ the amount of keepers they do,

  8. The letter mentions white hares being a protected species. Is this right? Are these the hares shot in such numbers that they should be covered with tarpaulins?

    1. Mountain Hares are a protected species. However it is legal to kill them outside the close season (1 March-31 July). Why? SNH justifies it thus: “Local mountain hare population sizes can fluctuate widely. Both species of hare are quarry species and may be legally controlled. In the case of mountain hares, control usually takes place on managed grouse moors to reduce tick numbers, or to protect young trees, but the impact of culling on mountain hare populations is not well understood. Whilst reviewing the management of mountain hares we have agreed an interim position on this issue with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and Scottish Land & Estates. Research is also underway in partnership with GWCT and the James Hutton Institute to trial methods of assessing mountain hare numbers to provide population density estimates. With this knowledge we can then improve our understanding of the overall status of mountain hares and the sustainability of hare management measures.” This is just about the weakest justification imaginable for culling a very special animal, and it is significant that SNH relies on the notorious game shooting bodies to provide the scientific evidence.

  9. Welll, that statement really takes the breath away! Perhaps that’s the intention… to literally choke us all into submission!
    Your summing up excellent as always RPUK, especially final paragraph.

  10. The usual argument for those wishing to monitor our online activity is that we have nothing to fear if we are not doing anything wrong. So why would the ‘good’ grouse shooting estates have anything to fear from licencing? Surely all the ‘bad’ grouse shooting estates would lose their licences and hand all their customers to the ‘good’ ones? The ‘good’ ‘law abiding’ estates have everything to gain…surely?! [pffft..!]

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