Golden eagle Fred makes it to First Minister’s Questions in Scottish Parliament

Many thanks to Alison Johnstone MSP for raising the issue of Golden eagle Fred’s highly suspicious disappearance, at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliamentary chamber this lunchtime.

Here’s what Alison said, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s response:

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): In 2017, a rare and beautiful young golden eagle was raised in the Scottish borders by the only pair of breeding adults there. He was satellite tagged, and last month he left home for the first time. Less than a week later, he disappeared in the Pentland hills near Currie. His tag stopped sending data for three days, then started again, this time in the North Sea off St Andrews. RSPB Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK regard the disappearance as highly suspicious, and I believe it is likely that the young eagle has been illegally killed.

Donald Dewar described the persecution of birds of prey as “a national disgrace”, but it is still going on. What is the Scottish Government doing in response to the reports? Will the First Minister finally commit to a licensing regime for game bird shooting?

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): First, I agree that the persecution of birds of prey is unacceptable, and I absolutely associate myself with the comments that Alison Johnstone has made in that regard. The Government treats this and sees it as an extremely serious issue.

As Alison Johnstone will be aware, a group was set up following a report on the issue that was commissioned and published last year, and it is looking at various aspects such as licensing and the impact of grouse shooting. I—and, I am sure, Roseanna Cunningham as the responsible minister—will be happy to meet Alison Johnstone to discuss that work in more detail. I am sure that all of us across the chamber are united in agreeing that this is unacceptable and requires to be tackled robustly.


The video of this exchange may be viewed on Scottish Parliament TV here (starts at 12.33.20).

It’s not the first time in recent months that illegal raptor persecution has been discussed at such a high level Parliamentary session. Last May, Richard Lochhead MSP raised the issue of video inadmissibility in the case of the shot hen harrier on Cabrach Estate and the Crown’s decision to drop criminal proceedings.

10 thoughts on “Golden eagle Fred makes it to First Minister’s Questions in Scottish Parliament”

    1. Chris Dobson, the only platitude here is the lazy knee jerk cynicism of your own comment.
      The biggest obstacle to progress over decades was the simple lack of acknowledgement that there was a problem at all with raptor persecution. Scottish Government statements are now consistently unequivocal that it is now very much a problem and these words matter in changing opinion and in progressing the difficult political, legal and practical measures to deal with it. If these measures are not progressing fast enough for you, you might want to offer the government some advice – or you could speak to your MP and see if you can get any change out of Westminster.

      1. Got to agree BSA, I am not an SNP member (yet) and disagree with many SNP MSP’s . But I am becoming increasingly angry re. the anti SNP bias in the media in particular Reporting Scotland which is a disgrace. They (SNP government ) are head and shoulders above the mob in Wastemonster re. Raptor persecution and I would suggest that Miss Sturgeon would like to be much more forthright .Unfortunately they have to watch every word and every move as it will inevitably be manipulated .
        Someone pointed this bias out to me years ago and I dismissed the whole idea as I had total faith in the impartiality of the BBC , but no it is very real.

    2. So Chris, what did you want her to say? If you can’t give us a reasoned response then some of us might be forgiven for wondering whose mouths the platitudes are emanating from.

    3. Platitudes do indeed sum up the response – and these would come from ANY political party. Soft words butter no parsnips. Stop makings half arsed political point scoring comments – we want some action here from our political masters and actions would speak louder than words.

  1. Sturgeon needs to pull her finger out and do something – platitudes are no comfort to anyone but the criminals.

    1. I don’t buy this ‘platitudes’ line at all. J Coogan has made a realistic assessment of the situation which NS finds herself in. She has condemned raptor persecution and has made reference to the ongoing enquiry into these matters. What more could have been expected of her at this juncture? Get real – as they say!

  2. SNP do not protect Scotlands wildlife because they are afraid to stand up to landowners. Talk is cheap, working groups are a cop out. Not enough action. Fergus Ewing …….say no more!

    Vote Green

    1. well said Dillon.
      A very long way to go for a ‘progressive’ political party that voted against a ban on snares, against a ban on the abhorrent stink pits , and voted to allow docking of puppydog tails- could almost think they were acting for the shooting lobby on these issues! It would be good indeed to see a party that stood strongly against those vested interests that profit so much from the Clearances of old, and appear to be carrying out their own versions today- to the cost of the vast numbers who would get immense pleasure and benefit to physical and mental health from seeing these beautiful and spectacular birds.
      Why does there seem to be no mention of the detriment to health of the population in general of these grouse moors, and can we be assured by Roseanna Cunningham that this will be addressed in her ongoing review of the issue? memories do not fade of the young veteran of the Iraq War with severe PTSD who curled up in a corner when forced to hear sounds that reminded him of gunfire, and cut his throat. Only a quick acting neighbour saved his life, enabling me to later hear the tale first hand. The negative health effects associated with grouse moors are multiple and a party seriously intent on achieving health for its country and its people must start to seriously address them in far stronger terms than seen at present

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