Following on from yesterday’s blog, where we learned, according to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, that the raven cull licence “is not about grouse and it’s never been about grouse“, but that approx 75% of the cull area just happens to be managed for driven grouse shooting (see here), we said we had a bit more information about the mysterious raven cull licence applicants, the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW).
We know very little about the membership of the SCCW, other than what we’d gleaned from the licence application:
‘[The SCCW]….represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely. The application is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and technical advice and support, notably data gathering and interpretation, is being provided by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)’.
We do know that the GWCT is heavily involved. We also believe the involvement of the SGA is probably more extensive than suggested in the above paragraph. For example, we know that the SGA and GWCT propose to have meetings with SNH “to review the operation of the licence“, according to the information provided in the licence application. And if the SGA wasn’t heavily involved, why would they put up a representative (Kenneth Stephen, PR & Communications Officer) to be interviewed about the licence by the BBC’s Radio Scotland Out of Doors programme?
So who else is involved? Kenneth did his best to avoid giving a detailed answer when Euan McIlwraith asked him directly about the membership of the SCCW, and instead focused on sheep farmers rather than grouse moor owners and gamekeepers. However, shortly after he’d recorded his interview on Friday 27th April 2018, Kenneth wrote the following email, which reveals a bit more about who might be involved and how much trouble everyone is going to to not mention grouse:
The recipient of this email (Caitlin) is the coordinator of the Tayside & Central Scotland Moorland Group. This group is one of several regional moorland groups that appeared on the scene a couple of years ago, as part of the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign, supported (and potentially funded) by the Scottish Moorland Group, which is part of Scottish Land & Estates. These regional moorland groups were designed to use social media to counter the adverse news stories about illegal raptor persecution and other environmentally-damaging practices associated with intensive grouse moor management, and many of them are administered by the local gamekeepers’ wives.
So, are members of the Tayside & Central Moorland Group also members of the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders? Indeed, some of them are, according to this Facebook post:
What was particularly interesting about Kenneth’s email to Caitlin was who he had cc’d in to his correspondence: Tim (Kim) Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, and Gary McQueen, who we believe to be a senior consultant at Media House, a well-known public relations outfit whose clients include Scottish Land & Estates.
Does this indicate that the Scottish Moorland Group (and therefore Scottish Land & Estates & the Gift of Grouse) is also involved with this so-called ‘community collaboration’? It’d be interesting to find out.
Unfortunately, SNH is still not answering the very reasonable questions that have been asked about this raven cull licence, 11 days after the news first broke. And it’s not just us who have concerns about this lack of transparency – have a read of this excellent blog, written by independent PhD student Isla Hodgson, who specialises in conservation conflict. Her structured and thoughtful criticism of SNH’s approach to this raven cull licence is very powerful.
Maybe we’ll get some answers on the next episode of BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors. Presenter Euan McIlwraith told listeners last Saturday that he had an interview lined up with SNH to discuss the raven cull licence, to be broadcast this coming weekend. We suspect there’ll be a large audience.
UPDATE 7 May 2018: “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things” says SNH (here)