How divisions within SNP affect rural policy decisions, including tackling raptor persecution

A couple of days ago we read the following short conversation on Twitter, which followed the news that Police Scotland are investigating the shooting of a short-eared owl on Leadhills Estate:

Dominic Mitchell (@birdingetc): Another day on a Scottish grouse moor, another protected bird of prey shot. When will the authorities take effective action to stop this?

Scottish Birding (@birdingscotland): In @strathearnrose [Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham] I believe we have someone who will act! These morons are simply highlighting the case against themselves.

There’s no doubt in our minds that Roseanna Cunningham is as angry as the rest of us about the continued illegal persecution of birds of prey on grouse moors. Those of us listening to her speech at the SRSG conference earlier this year all saw, heard and felt that anger.

But will she act? Well, her recent announcement of a new package of measures to fight raptor persecution was a sure sign that she intends to act, and a recent tweet from the First Minister’s Special Environment Advisor (David Miller), also in response to a question about what Scot Gov intends to do following the news of the shot short-eared owl on Leadhills Estate, suggests progress is being made:

Trust me. Minds are very definitely focused. Further high level discussions held today. Pushing ahead“.

But as we said when Roseanna announced her package of new measures, we should be under no illusion whatsoever about the dark and powerful influences who will be doing their utmost to disrupt and derail those plans.

Some of those influences will come from external individuals and organisations (no prizes for guessing who), but some of them will also come from within the Government itself. Political divisions within a party are nothing new; we see examples of them all the time. Sometimes they’re just minor squabbles but sometimes they can have enormous consequences.

As an excellent introductory primer to internal SNP divisions, Jen Stout has written an article for the New Statesman. It focuses on why the SNP recently voted, controversially, to lift the ban on tail docking, permitting what many see as a ‘barbaric’ procedure, without anaesthetic, on three-day-old puppies. However, the article also has a broader perspective and Jen ends with this:

The next big showdowns in Holyrood on animal welfare are likely to be just as emotive: the use of electric shock collars on dogs, and the prosecution of wildlife crime (or, how to deal with the fact that poisoned, bludgeoned birds of prey keep turning up on grouse shooting estates). The latter in particular will test, once again, the direction of a party split between appeasing a land management lobby, and meeting the high expectations of its newer members“.

For those of us interested in rural policy decisions in Scotland, and particularly those related to dealing with illegal raptor persecution, it’s well worth taking a moment to consider the political divisions within the SNP because those divisions will undoubtedly make Roseanna Cunningham’s endeavours all the more difficult, and we should all bear that in mind when voicing our criticism. That’s not to say we shouldn’t continue to criticise; on the contrary, the Government should expect to be held to account and public pressure over the last few years has brought things a very long way, but we need to make sure our criticism is aimed at the right target.

15 thoughts on “How divisions within SNP affect rural policy decisions, including tackling raptor persecution”

    1. Cynical one liners abound on this site where the Scottish Government is concerned. Which Holyrood law makers own grouse moors ?

      The SNP will need support over the next couple of years if the Scottish Government is to retain the powers over agriculture and the environment which it currently exercises directly from Europe. These are key powers influencing land use and the future of the uplands and specifically the future, or lack of it, of grouse shooting. If they are repatriated from Europe to Westminster as the Tories seem inclined to do then the prospects of change in the Scottish uplands are nil.

    2. Dont see any criticism of Tory, Liebour or LibDumb Parties…but then they are the dark forces to which you refer..maybe frightened to criticise perhaps?

  1. In what is called a democracy nurder,rape,arson and the rest are all game activities if you can pay your way out of liability.
    So it is with all and any species on this earth country or land.
    No prisons for the perpetrators yet.Any tomorrow,not sure.

  2. It is no surprise the main swing away from the SNP towards the Tories in the recent GE happened in the Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing heartlands. It is no surprise there is then pushback within the SNP against modifications of the Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing legislation as it has played a part in losing them seats. A lot of the rural electorate in those regions believe in the Victorian and Edwardian Highlandism which underpins the economy of those regions and it is going to take a long time to undo that belief, especially when then can concretely see some jobs going and while there will be more jobs coming in the wildlife tourism and land management sectors, those are abstract concepts in the future to them. The SNP are in a unique political bind there.

    Obviously I believe they should push on, but it is easy to see how fear can make them want to slow down or even reverse course. The question has to be how to convert and reassure a frightened and uncertain electorate in order to let them see how changing the way things are done is a good thing and will enrich them instead of impoverish them as they fear, especially when the latter is more obvious.

      1. That’s simply not true. Check each of the seats the Tories won, look at their increase share of the vote, and look at the swing for or to Labour. Take Banff and Buchan as an example. SNP share down 21%, Tories up 19%, Labour up 3.7%.

        The figures contradict your claim.

  3. It’s not too difficult to see how the SNP will have to keep their wits about them – Brexit, and the subsequent commercial pressures on the Agriculture and Fisheries front will have local representatives having to become active on their behalf. We wouldn’t be far wrong in thinking these issues will be high on the agenda, introducing a bit more uncertainty and some priority changes in land management – As good a time as any therefore to get in quickly and get the licensing of shooting estates done or conditionally agreed as a pre-emptor to a grant system.

  4. To be blunt the SNP should have pushed the Land Reform agenda much further when they were at the peak of their powers. The !Indepdants” on Angus Council are no such thing … they are simply fifth column Conservatives emboldened by the recent results in the Council and General Elections. If the SNP sought to make deals with the Devil then they should have supped with a much longer spoon. I know who the hidden powers are, as do many who choose to remain silent .. their main power base is in the NGO’s .. and they are appointees, never having been elected. However, in my opinion, that should not stop politicians confronting them because, to be blunt once more, if they do not they will be enabling criminality.

  5. I am sure that RC is angry at the current levels of wildlife crime but she will be judged solely on what she does to combat it.

    To date she has delivered very little and let serious opportunities pass her by.

    Stating that wildlife crime is a priority and refusing to grant sspca additional powers in the same sentence is a major mistake.

    And to suggest that additional special constables in the national park will help improve such a complex and difficult area of crime is frankly insulting.

  6. Really getting fed up with your comments about the SNP and no other party.
    Tail docking is an issue folk make up their mind about and even the folk who were against it, apparently didn’t put up a convincing argument and my local MSP abstained simply because there was insufficient information ONE WAY OR THE OTHER and I know she did a helluva lot of research in trying to find out where the truth lay. As a result, she abstained. Maybe you wanted her to vote blindly one way, or the other?
    Back to the real issue, which I thought was raptor persecution: You seem to be saying that a party which disagrees about issues AND DISCUSSES THEM, shouldn’t be trusted. On what basis was that opinion formed? Democracy is about disagreement and agreement and if you want to be part of that, you have the option of joining ANY political party.
    Don’t rush to judgement on an issue which you hope to encourage people to support you on.
    I’m in the SNP. I have not met anyone so far (and I expect there will be some) who have a personal view about birds of prey and their protection, which favours wanton killing. Considering the people who have most to lose by our land policies and wildlife protection policies, don’t favour Scottish independence, we’re hardly likely to support them.
    Don’t (pardon the phrase) set hares running, when you have no idea which direction they will run. Have you considered that the opinions you have heard and are close to quoting, are also put out by people with an anti SNP agenda, in the sense they see the SNP as political opponents?
    That should not be the issue here. The issue is putting maximum effort into ensuring our wildlife (aye stoats and weasels too) are protected from wanton destruction on the notion they might damage the prey species of the Countryside Alliance and Songbird Alliance – aye and The Scottish Gamekeepers Association aren’t without sin either.
    Those people are the enemy. Don’t make the mistake of playing political games against potential very, very good friends.
    There’s a consultation process in Holyrood. Keep using it. Apply to give evidence to it. Don’t lose friends by scoreng someone else’s political points for them.

  7. Get used to it……Our politicians will soon have no European environmental brake on their policies, so…… little recent political progress on the issues that are key to us will be followed by ……little political progress.
    Increases by the grouse moor lobby’s friends will do raptors no favours.

    This is a very long war but I remain optimistic that we will win eventually, if we harness the interests of the wider public which requires media exposure.

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. The SNP seem to be in some disarray at the moment. A lot of their long standing vote has returned to the Tories, whence it came, just as Labour has made itself attractive again to the Scottish electorate. I read somewhere that, depending on how it moved, a further shift of about 3% away from the SNP could see them going from almost total hegemony to third place.

    It was only a matter of time really, you can’t be all things to all men indefinitely.

    It’s also apparent that their iron clad party discipline has collapsed with internal divisions now being played out in public.

    How all this will impact on their approach to wildlife policy is hard to say, but I fear that they’ll opt to do as little as possible, on the basis that there are fewer possible votes to be lost that way. And those that are lost will be lost to the Greens, who are now little more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the SNP anyway, so aren’t really a loss at all.

  9. While wildlife crime has such a low priority in the minds of many politicians [still obviously the case despite the strong words of a few] at Holyrood, then the governing party can get away with diammetrically opposed views on the issue across its MSPs…and probably, advisors. They need a single party line on this – when we see that, we will know that things are really changing..and then there’s the civil servants, who have huge influence on law making – which masters are they serving?..

    ……As regards some comments above about not splitting support for SNP over wildlife crime or we wont get continued EU protections – that threat is exactly whats needed to get real action from SNP. Keep up the pressure, nothing else works…what do you think the raptor killers reps have been doing up till now?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s