We need action, not trite sound bites on social media

Yesterday was the UK’s first Rural Crime Day – a national initiative organised by the National Police Chief’s Council with a series of police-led events throughout the country to help tackle rural crime, e.g. see here.

As part of this ‘day of action’, the following was posted on the official twitter account of the Scottish Government’s Environment and Rural Economy communications team (@GreenerScotland):

Initially, this looks great. A quote from the Environment Cabinet Secretary (or probably more accurately, from one of her aides) is an indication of the Scottish Government’s interest and acknowledgement of wildlife crime, and that image of the red kite puts the focus clearly on illegal raptor persecution, even though the quote is equally applicable to all six UK National Wildlife Crime Priorities.

If a similar statement from the Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove had appeared on DEFRA’s twitter feed we’d have fallen off our chairs, given the Westminster Government’s outright refusal to consider raptor persecution worthy of any political time or concern.

But just because the Westminster Government is so appallingly feeble on this issue, that doesn’t mean we should simply applaud the Scottish Government’s actions just because by comparison they look incredibly progressive.

To be clear, we’re not having a go at the Scottish Government for its efforts to raise awareness; highlighting all types of wildlife crime is always time well spent, but in the case of illegal raptor persecution, what we are criticising is the Government’s superficiality. A lack of awareness about raptor persecution is not the issue. It’s the lack of effective Government action to stamp it out. That’s the issue here.

The Scottish Government has known about illegal raptor persecution since devolution in 1999. It’s been twenty years (yes, twenty long years) since the then Secretary of State Donald Dewar described the situation as “a national disgrace” and went on to say, “The Government, and no doubt the Scottish Parliament will take all possible steps to eliminate persecution“.

Both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have indeed taken some steps, in fact many steps, including a long list of commissioned reviews, the enactment of new legislation, the provision of new civil sanctions, long-term attempts at partnership-working, and statements from a succession of Environment Ministers that illegal raptor persecution “won’t be tolerated”.

And yet, here we are, twenty years on and none of those steps have proven to be effective –  illegal raptor persecution continues relentlessly.

A trite sound bite on twitter might appease those new to this issue but it’s simply not good enough for those of us who know how deeply ineffective the Scottish Government has been at tackling these crimes.

Another even more ridiculous sound bite appeared on SNH’s official twitter feed a couple of days ago, in response to the news that another four satellite-tagged hen harriers had ‘disappeared’ (almost certainly illegally killed) in recent weeks on Scottish grouse moors. Here’s the tweet:

Seriously? Why is SNH still pretending not to know what’s happening to hen harriers on Scottish grouse moors? The weight of evidence is overwhelming – talk about wilful blindness!

And what does, “….we will help the police to help protect Scotland’s birds of prey” actually mean? How, exactly, will SNH ‘help the police’?

It’s utter drivel. A sound bite designed to promote the misleading impression that the cause of hen harrier disappearances on grouse moors is still an unsolved mystery but on the slim chance that criminality was involved then SNH has the competence to tackle it. What tosh.

Drop the sound bites, drop the pretence and do your job, SNH. That’s what we pay you for, not to facilitate a decades-long wildlife crime spree on Scottish grouse moors.

4 thoughts on “We need action, not trite sound bites on social media”

  1. Unfortunately, what you say is supported by the fact of the lack of action stated in the article. I do believe that some in the Scottish government would prefer that the public should not have had to wait for so long for effective action, and they should be supported. I also believe that many in the media, vested interests, senior people in SNH, the government and even the Crown Office are acting to prevent effective action from taking place, despite clear statements to the contrary. These delaying actions must stop.
    That is, however up to us as individuals and concerned MSPs to ensure that this happens. Charities and NGOs are not able to be effective individually in helping, other than by their government contacts, due to restricting enacted legislation.
    I would like some action to be taken even at this late stage in this legislative session, and will try my best to ensure that it is.

  2. Only a change in the political hue of UK Government will possibly produce results.
    It would be rather naive to expect those who represent the landowners and their slaves [ gamekeepers ] to fight for change.
    They never have done so before !
    Directly linking acts of persecution to specific individuals in the remote uplands and elsewhere is very difficult.
    They rely on this and will frustrate any attempt to make it easier.
    The pressure to introduce a trespass law is growing among the Tories and it will be used to make the situation worse for all of us who seek change in the countryside.

    Keep up the pressure !

  3. And what exactly are Police Scotland or NWCU doing to protect Scotland’s birds of prey other than misleading the public that they always “conduct a full investigation”
    Complete rubbish .

    When was the last time any of the well known estates that are openly known to be committing wildlife crimes were subject to a proper search let alone prosecuted.

    At present any enforcement is practically non exisitant in Scotland.

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