Raptor persecution, and particularly the illegal killing of hen harriers, has been identified as a National Wildlife Crime Priority.
Interesting then, that following last Friday’s news that Police Scotland is investigating the disappearance of another missing hen harrier (‘Calluna‘), who vanished in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in August, the political response has been total silence.
Roseanna Cunningham MSP, the Environment Cabinet Secretary, said nothing.
Mairi Gougeon MSP, the Hen Harrier Species Champion, said nothing.
Alexander Burnett MSP, in whose constituency Calluna ‘disappeared’, said nothing.
The PAW Scotland website, hosted by the Scottish Government, said nothing.
Alexander Burnett MSP (Conservative), presumably no relation to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, has spoken before on the subject of illegal raptor persecution, as well he might, given the high number of reported raptor persecution incidents in his Aberdeenshire West constituency, particularly those recorded on grouse moors areas either within or close to the Cairngorms National Park:
Unfortunately, Alexander doesn’t agree that a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting is required. During the recent deliberations of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee, he said the proposed licensing system was “inappropriate, disproportional and unworkable for the issue of wildlife crime that it seeks to address” and he voted for the licensing petition to be dropped in favour of keeping the status quo.
He also told one of his constituents earlier this summer, in response to a letter about the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors, that:
‘Game management on grouse moors can make an important contribution to biodiversity by providing cover for wildlife, and through the creation and care of habitats such as woodland, grouse moors, beetle banks and hedgerows‘.
Hmm, that statement sounds familiar. Where have we heard that before? Ah yes, it was part of a standard response trotted out to constituents by a succession of Westminster Conservative MPs last year in the run up to the Westminster ‘debate’ on driven grouse shooting. As pointed out by Mark Avery at the time:
‘Grouse shooting does not help create or protect woodland – in fact trees are not welcome on grouse moors. Grouse shooting does not create beetle banks – these are conservation measures in arable fields. Grouse shooting does not protect hedgerows – these are not a feature of grouse moors. Take out those errors and your letter says ‘grouse shooting provides grouse moors’.
Have another look at that raptor persecution map of the Aberdeenshire West constituency. If it is of concern to you, and you are one of Alexander Burnett’s constituents, please consider writing to him and ask him to explain the widespread criminality within his constituency, particularly in areas managed for grouse and pheasant shooting, and ask him how he intends to address your ongoing concerns.