Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: Supt Nick Lyall, Chair RPPDG

The publication of the hen harrier satellite tag paper yesterday (here) that provided compelling evidence to highlight, yet again, the link between grouse moors and the illegal killing of hen harriers, has resulted in a flurry of responses from various individuals and organisations.

We’ll be looking at these responses in turn.

To begin with, Police Supt Nick Lyall, the Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), a so-called ‘partnership’ tasked with raising awareness of illegal raptor persecution and finding ways to eradicate it.

[Nick Lyall and his infamous rapper coat attending the Scottish Raptor Study Group annual conference in Perthshire in February, photo by Ruth Tingay]

Within hours of the hen harrier sat tag paper being published, Nick posted a statement on his blog last night with the heading ‘Time for change‘….. (see here).

He made four key points.

First, an acknowledgement of the high quality of the research and the journal in which it had been published.

Second, an acknowledgement that the research provided evidence of the extent of the raptor persecution issue, which is a significant change from a comment he made five months ago in his first blog about “rogue gamekeepers” (unsurprisingly, written shortly after spending time with the Moorland Association).

Third, and perhaps of greatest importance, that he intended to act upon the research findings via his newly forming RPPDG Enforcement Group, instead of simply discussing the findings and saying ‘Oh, isn’t it all terrible’. Most encouragingly, he also wrote, “I already have a couple of offenders in my sights….”.

Fourth, and the least convincing (to us), was his statement about continuing to work with ‘partners’: “I still firmly believe that an effective partnership response to this issue is the most sustainable way forward“.

We fundamentally disagree with this statement. These are crimes that are being committed – and in our view, serious organised crimes – the people involved should be treated as criminals, not partners.

Nick thinks an effective partnership would be the most sustainable way forward. But in any partnership, no matter what the topic, it will only work if all the partners share the same objectives. The simple fact of the matter is that in the RPPDG, they don’t, and this particular partnership charade has been allowed to continue for ten years without achieving anything of any significance in the world of raptor conservation. Not one thing. Other ‘partnership’ initiatives to tackle illegal raptor persecution go back much further than ten years and they’ve all failed too.

Nick got a taste of the ‘partnership’ at his first RPPDG meeting in January (see here), which was boycotted by several of the so-called ‘partners’ in an attempt to disrupt proceedings simply because they weren’t getting their own way, as they had for the previous ten years. It remains to be seen what will happen at the next ‘partnership’ meeting in April. Our hope is that they’ll get booted out so that the genuine partners, all working towards the same goal, can get on with it without further disruptions. We’ll see.

Regular blog readers will know that we have a huge amount of time for Nick Lyall and for what he’s trying to achieve. There’s no question that he ‘gets it’ and that he understands the challenges ahead, and that he’s working his socks off to start implementing change, most of which (or all of which?) is done in his own time.

Right now, in just six short months, he’s single-handedly putting to shame many of the others in positions of authority who have had, and still do have, the opportunity to bring about change but who have failed, and continue to fail, to even start trying.

11 thoughts on “Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: Supt Nick Lyall, Chair RPPDG”

  1. Call me over optimistic but, possibly, taking points 3 & 4 together, Nick intends to make the partnership work by action against the people in his sights – ie some of the currently uncooperative ‘partners’.

  2. The contribution I’m sure readers here expect he will make in future could be very important. The well thought out paper should settle once and for all any waverers who were not certain of extent of persecution. I look forward to hearing your views on other persons of groups who have responded.

  3. according to one of his previous blog entries it is clear he has spent more time talking to gamekeepers and their employers more than people from the birding/conservation side of things. I find it hard to believe that in any other area of policing the police would spend so much time talking to the criminals. if there is a spate of shoplifting in a town do the police form partnerships and working groups to talk with the people they are sure are committing the crimes? no, they enforce the law as these people are criminals, nothing else. until they are treated like that and they face some serious consequences, subsidy removal and removal of general licences and firearms licences nothing will change. the likes of the moorland association are nothing more than extreme lobbyists and spin merchants. anyone with any credibility should ignore everything they say as they are clearly not interested in any solution or compromise – how can they claim to be concerned about hen harriers when asking for licences to shoot marsh harriers which to a gamekeeper are pretty much the same thing.

    as for having a couple of folk in his sights – great, but crack on. I know of several criminals in the grouse shooting industry which others know all about but knowing who is up to no good and getting anything changed are two separate things. anyone can have a couple of people in their sights but we need to have a couple of people in court or better still jail.

    1. I would give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
      Seems like he has taken over the role with the handover from the previous boss with the emphasis on the working with the grouse moor owners/PR teams and so started off with that approach but actually wanting to do the job properly is rapidly running into problems with it.
      Its early days and the proof will be in the pudding but I think seeing how it goes is the best approach especially since the grouse, I was going to say lovers but considering they only want a decent bunch to shoot that isnt correct, shooters are already treating him as a mortal enemy.

  4. Give the man a chance! He’s inherited a partnership based set-up and has made his views clear. Some of the ‘partners’ have already thrown their toys out of the pram – maybe more hastily that they might have wished, with hindsight. Those actions spoke louder than words. Given time, I’m sure that he’ll have it all weighed up as to what areas need tackling first – indeed it sounds as though he’s well on the way. Wonder who he’s got his eye on?

  5. If he doesn’t work with them then he simply gives them justification to complain that they are being unfairly treated. The more lies and protestations of innocence that they spout to him, the more they dig a big hole in the face of overwhelming scientific proof. Give them a JCB not a shovel and give him a chance.

  6. The most important part of effective problem solving is being brutally honest about acknowledging what the problem is, and fully understanding it. This may seem like stating the obvious, but especially with raptor persecution, especially of Hen Harriers on grouse moors, this is where it’s all gone wrong. The representatives of the grouse shooting industries have been bizarrely allowed to write the narrative, and their narrative has been that it’s only been the odd rogue gamekeeper and on the whole the grouse shooting industry opposed the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and other raptors, and were committed to eliminating this supposed “few bad apples”.

    The biggest obstacle to progress over solving this problem has been the unfortunate acceptance of the few bad apples narrative by the authorities i.e. from the police, right up to the most senior environment ministers. This must now change after the publication of this paper. All these people must now accept that the deliberate and knowing persecution of raptors is widespread across virtually all grouse moors. The real damning circumstantial evidence is that there is virtually no managed grouse moor which appear to be the exception to the rule, and has a healthy breeding population of raptors in general, let alone Hen Harriers. As long as the representatives of the grouse shooting industry peddle this few bad apples narrative, or pretend that there is some other cause for the Hen Harrier decline, then they must be seen as having no credibility whatsoever, and must be seen as engaging in a deliberate cover-up of wide scale wildlife crime.

    Likewise, the politicians in charge of the department for the environment must now overtly acknowledge the problem and the sheer scale of it, or be left with no credibility at all. If they carry on accepting the shooting industry narrative, they should be seen at the very least as being in denial and turning a deliberate blind eye, because the perpetrators of this widespread wildlife crime are political allies.

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