MSPs asking questions re: Police Scotland silence on masked gunman in public forest

A couple of weeks ago we blogged about how a masked gunman and his masked accomplice had been captured on camera close to a protected raptor nest in a public (Forestry Commission Scotland) forest (here). The incident was recorded in spring 2017 and was reported to Police Scotland.

There have been no public appeals for information from Police Scotland and no warnings to forest users (such as birdwatchers, cyclists, walkers, visiting families) about this serious threat to public safety.

We asked Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and the Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing, about this issue but neither bothered to respond.

A week later we blogged about how Police Scotland’s reluctance to publicise suspected raptor persecution crimes, such as this one, and others including the use of highly dangerous poisonous baits, was threatening public safety and we urged blog readers to contact their local MSPs and ask them to start asking questions.

We know that some of you have done this (well done and thank you) and we wanted to share some correspondence that one particular couple has received, if only to demonstrate how effective this approach can be.

Let’s call this couple Mr & Mrs Bloggs.

On 16 November 2017, Mr & Mrs Bloggs emailed Police Scotland’s General Enquiries Centre:

Police Scotland responded on the same day with this:

Not to be deterred, Mr & Mrs Bloggs wrote back to Police Scotland:

On the same day, Police Scotland responded with this:

The next day, local Police Wildlife Crime Officer Daniel Sutherland wrote to Mr & Mrs Bloggs:

Although Police Scotland should be commended for speedy responses, Mr & Mrs Bloggs were unimpressed with Police Scotland’s refusal to discuss this case so they wrote to their local MSPs to see if they could get anywhere with them.

It turns out to have been an inspired move. Three MSPs have responded, as follows:

This from David Stewart MSP (Labour, Highlands & Islands, & Shadow Minister for Environment):

This from John Finnie MSP (Scottish Greens, Highlands & Islands):

And this from Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP (Scottish Conservatives, Highlands & Islands):

Well done Mr & Mrs Bloggs! Cross-party political interest in under a week.

Let’s see where this goes.

UPDATE 30 December 2017: Masked gunmen at goshawk nest in Moy Forest (here)

26 thoughts on “MSPs asking questions re: Police Scotland silence on masked gunman in public forest”

  1. Great stuff, well done Mr &Mrs Bloggs. Just a thought regarding Wildlife Crime Officer Daniel Sutherland’s repsonse: would it be worth asking what ‘the appropriate channels’ is supposed to mean? And then pursue them too.

  2. Thank you for your work, and well done to Mr and Mrs Bloggs for their perseverance.
    2 masked men with guns in a wood in the Highlands near a bird of prey nest, and I witnessed 2 masked men
    with guns, 1 on edge of a copse, one going around the copse , in June/July. I took action on seeing an owl flying very low away from the copse over a field around 1 pm. I was later told there was an owl nest in that area. This however was the Green Belt of Edinburgh, hardly 1/4 mile from suburbia, on a Saturday afternoon. I had come across the men a number of times before, but this time had a phone with a camera which they couldn’t grab off me due to a stream being between us, so I have a couple of clear photos of one of the men with his mask lifted.
    Others in the area alerted the police to the matter on hearing of the owl – I hadn’t as on the occasion I had to struggle with an armed man to get my stolen phone back, ( snatched from me as I took a photo of suspicious activity elsewhere on the Green Belt)my report to the police on the matter was apparently not even logged- no incident number. so much happens even here.For a while masked men with guns were not an infrequent sight even here on the edge of our capital city – and I am not referring to the army.Thanks for the motivation to take more action on this and to pass on the photos

  3. I don’t wish to poop in the nest but I think Mr and Mrs Bloggs’s e-mail to the police is a wee bit too antagonistic and accusing. No wonder they didn’t get a detailed reply. Surely a more subtle line of enquiry might have worked better? And I doubt if the police could give any details out anyway — they don’t know who Mr and Mrs Bloggs are. For all the police know, Mr Bloggs could be one of the masked killers trying to find out if they’re getting anywhere with an investigation. Having said that, I’m surprised that no warnings to the public or appeals for information have been issued in the general locality.

  4. Well done, Mr & Mrs Bloggs! Sadly I have found it to be a waste of time contacting my MP as he always toes the party line and even thinks fox hunting is a noble pass time.

  5. Wow – good work, Mr & Mrs Bloggs! Well done! Disappointing Police Scotland response – a real sense that they expected to fob off the Bloggses! This should be interesting!

    1. Yes well done, Police Scotland are a total disgrace, I used to watch “Scot Squad” as a comedy show , now it looks like a documentary.

    1. No, not really plausible, Richard. I would expect the Forestry Commission to know who was stalking or killing other wildlfe (there’s no such thing as vermin) on their land. Also, why would they be masked? In case a deer recognised them?

      1. Just to be clear, this masked gunman and his accomplice did NOT have permission to be in this forest (hence FCS reporting the incident to the police).

        We also know that there is a history of suspected raptor persecution within this forest and the surrounding grouse moor area.

  6. Thank you the Bloggs of this world; the ones who have to eventually go out and clear the world every so often of the scum who threaten the peace of the Earth. They are the Unknown Soldiers of our history who make the world a more decent place in which to live, and whose sacrifice is insulted by those in authority, who seem to slide into positions, that enable the same types to infest the edifices of power, which should be home to compassionate and ethical people. At present, our media is full of contempt and despair by victims of poor sentencing, of those who commit crimes that sicken the public with their leniency. A constant and debilitating battle is being fought by those who are courageous and decent in our public services, who witness unfairness, lack of resources, lack of concern and lack of direction from policy enforcers, who have been supposedly chosen for their abilities to lessen harm and pain to the defenceless. Animals should be part of that agenda, but can get marginalised or just plain ignored, with the thought that the public do not give much importance to them. The public does have a deep and compassionate concern for all living things, and are very much informed about such matters as the threat to our Birds of Prey and areas of special scientific interest.

    At present, we have Donald Trump and another similar geezer, Mark Keiser, wanting to blooter another two sand dune sites of special interest, by making them competitive golf courses. The insects, birds, plants and mammals of rarity and non-rarity do matter, and many of us do not want local councillors, MSPs and MPs to allow their destruction, as we have become aware of the great destruction of the Scottish environment over the centuries, and the dictatorship of those landowners who think they should be able to do as the please with the landscape. Many of us ramble responsibly and want to see Eagles and Red Kites, along with butterflies and wild mammals. Wild flowers attract a growing public interest, and visits raised bogs to study the flora there, have become popular. How can we be expected to believe that a man such as Trump, who is dismantling all the environmental legislation in the USA that protects national parks and endangered species, can have any good intent for our environment here? The two masked men here in a Scottish woodland, are to be found in their thousands in the USA who hunt with impunity and without masks, or they go to corrupt Zimbabwe type governments, and buy licences to trophy shoot Elephants and other wildlife. Have we not the right to nip in the bud, the outrageous willy nilly ability of masked persons to scout about, and act as a threat to our nesting Birds of Prey? The Forestry Commission is now being touted for change to its present emphasis on cooperation with conservation groups to maintain habitats for wildlife and rare plants. Are we going to go back to the times of serried ranks of Sitka Spruces in the Flow Country, and conifer planting under the Oaks on Loch Lomondside, along with celebrities investing in blanket plantings on hillsides? Who is behind these changes, and who has the right to defy public concern for our mixdd woodlands as recreation areas and harbouring refuges for wildlife? Will we witness more persons with guns and balaclavas, like something out of a Michael Palin comedy? Rangers and scientists will be reduced in the service of the Forestry Commission, and is that an indication that they are too effective in making public woodlands protective policy too successful, and Trump-like, be diminished, just as the USA Environment Protection Agency is about to experience. Does not the restoration of the once glorious natural forests and wildlife of Scotland, merit politicians’ concern pari passu, with all the other concerns of the advancement of our country towards being a humane modern state. That means that no longer can the protection of our wildlife and environment be treated as the poor orphan, and left as no priority at all. The big sardonic laugh is that those public services such as the Police, Judiciary and Crown Prosecution, have not excelled themselves in enforcing wildlife laws, and have been facing ridicule and criticism, with suspensions at the top in the Police regarding other matters, and with the diligence of the head of the Procurator Fiscal Service being questioned in the Press. Have we to pawn our precious wildlife and natural countryside for any rough wooer who vainly promises jobs and infrastructure, only to find later that it has all been an illusion, and the old anachronistic rural ways continue, and windmills turn in every glen and hilltop, with monocultures of conifers filling in the blank spaces. Silly me, there is always a visit to the seaside to gawp at the plastic waste covering the oceans, and dead birds among the litter on the beaches.

  7. I also emailed Michael Matheson and have received a reply stating that my query has been passed to the relevant department. I have been promised an update in due course.

    It will take time but hopefully if we keep raising these queries in response to incidents, slowly but surely awareness amongst those in positions of influence and change will increase. The onus is on us all to take action and not just leave it to others.

  8. Sadly, in the course of their daily work, gamekeepers sometimes encounter armed and masked poachers, who are sometimes threatening or violent. These may be the type of people you are also encountering. Be careful how you deal with them!

    1. Christ ,that’s a good one ,Yes of course Toby that’s what it was, those dastardly poachers , who had borrowed the stalwart gamekeepers mask to go poaching a few hundred yards from a known raptor site. Why on earth did we not think of that . We will be careful, but thank goodness we have the gamekeepers there to protect us.

  9. It’s possible the FC and the police know exactly who the individuals are and what they were up to, but have no proof.

    If you approach the incident with that in mind it might help to explain the apparent lack of activity by the police.

  10. Well done to Mr and Mrs Bloggs, it just shows what a little bit of work can do and it is a pity that more people do not write to thier MSP’s.

    1. I have – nothing to report except that he says he will ” pick this up with the Minister and Iain Livingstone, PS’ designated chief constable and share with you the responses I get back” Which I will share with you all, of course.

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