Scottish Government’s response to ongoing illegal raptor persecution

Thanks to everyone who emailed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon following the recent raptor persecution atrocities that have been reported from a number of Scottish grouse moors ( a dead spring-trapped hen harrier found on a grouse moor in Perthshire (here), the suspicious disappearance, within a few hours of each other, of two satellite tagged golden eagles on another grouse moor in Perthshire (here), and another spring-trapped hen harrier found critically injured and distressed on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)).

After weeks of complete silence from Scottish Ministers (here, here, here), which, to be frank, has been utterly staggering and certainly not indicative of a Government ready to act, an impersonal, automated response letter is now being sent out to those who appealed for the Government to finally do something meaningful.

Here it is:

It’s a pathetically tragic response. There’s nothing in here we haven’t heard before, and even though the letter emphasises the previous steps taken in tackling these crimes, presumably to demonstrate the Government’s ‘determination’ to act, what it actually does is just highlight the length of time the Government has been tip-toeing around (since 2007) without producing any significant results at all.

The letter also includes the tired old line that we have to wait for the Werritty Review. We’ve been waiting for over two years and for all that time the Government has used it as an excuse to do absolutely nothing in the face of ongoing criminal activity. The excuse is tired, we’re tired of hearing it, and we’re tired of the criminals being allowed to run amok and suffer zero consequences.

Interestingly, this most recent letter is very similar to another letter that was sent to one of our blog readers in early July in response to the news in May that satellite-tagged hen harrier Marci had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here) and that four geese had been found poisoned on another grouse-shooting estate in the Cairngorms National Park after someone had used the banned pesticide Carbofuan (here).

But there’s a significant difference between the two letters:

The evidence continues to point to the likelihood that these people are connected with grouse moor management“.

Gosh, who knew?

Both letters indicate that the Werritty Review is ‘due to report in the next few weeks’, even though both letters were written weeks apart.

According to Professor Werritty himself, the report will be submitted “during the summer“, which of course could mean anytime between now and when the clocks go back at the end of October.

How many more raptors do you think will have been illegally killed by the time the report is submitted? And how many more illegally killed even after the report has been submitted and the Government is ‘considering it carefully’?

Sorry if this blog sounds impatient. Actually, we’re not sorry at all. Our patience has been stretched to its limit and has now expired.

Why’s it so difficult to get the Government to act?

20 thoughts on “Scottish Government’s response to ongoing illegal raptor persecution”

  1. Holyrood Pantomime season is early this year. A Wishy Washy response from a Wishy Washy Parliament.
    No Deal Brexit and No Deal Raptor Protection.

  2. I’m pretty sure Werritty was quite ill so that is why it isn’t published. Hopefully he is in goo health now and catching up.

  3. Did you see this bit: “how we can make grouse moor management sustainable and compliant with the law”.

    What an astonishing statement. Essentially that reads that grouse moor management is currently incompatible with the law, illegal activity, and they are not prepared to do anything about until they have reviewed how they make it become legal.

    Could you imagine the outcry if it was any other criminal activity they were shrugging their shoulders at?

  4. There is a call for more trees to be planted. At a stroke we could solve the problem, plant millions of trees on these moors and its a win, win situation. Helping air quality etc. and helping to curb the killing of raptors. Red grouse are a sub-species of willow grouse found in Scandinavia and they would eventually adapt to open woodlands like in the Nordic countries.

    1. There’s more than one way to skin a cat as they say. There’s a very good reason for targeted tree planting on grouse moors which they would find it extremely difficult to say no to, that’s for helping to prevent millions of pounds worth of flood damage downstream to homes, businesses and better quality farmland. Trees can harbour predators which driven grouse shooters don’t like obviously, plus groups of trees block potential grouse drives – but if they mean somebody has less chance their house will be flooded well that would be hard cheese – or should be if society and government had their priorities right even if the sporting estates don’t. This is a massive stick to hit the grouse moors with, but it’s hardly been used.

      The Esk River’s Fisheries Trust is doing some very progressive work with contour tree planting on hills to reduce speed of water flow into the river, thereby reducing flood risk downstream, and the same with tree planting along the banks of the river and its tributaries plus woody material in the water is a great habitat for fish and it further slows progress of water. A wildlife corridor, boosts fish stocks, reduces flood risk to Brechin and elsewhere downstream – great stuff! The Esk river is in the Angus Glens. This makes me wonder what happens as the main river and tributaries cross over on to grouse moors. Is the tree planting abandoned because it now conflicts with driven grouse shooting – therefore chance to boost fish stocks AND keep people’s homes dry downstream rejected for bigger grouse bags?

      Very straight forward, hardly rocket science and questions needing to be answered, problem is as yet nobody is really asking them. A few years ago when the village of Fynchingfield in Essex had a flood it affected 37 properties, but the damage came to two million quid. That’s why it’s now one of four places in England trialling beavers as a way to reduce flood damage. Perth has had very bad floods in the past and I believe it’s still the Scottish city most at risk from flooding – much of the Tay’s headwaters must lie on grouse moors. What would the citizens of Perth think of the chance of flood damage there was increased even very slightly because some people are obsessed with shooting loads of grouse – and this on top of rampant persecution of wildlife and it being shit for rural economies? Time to find out.

    2. I’m not sure that hen harriers, curlew, or any other ground nesting bird would thank you for further afforestation of the uplands.

      1. I’m not sure the massive range of wildlife that was deposed from the uplands by them being turned into grouse farms were grateful for that, but the hen harrier, curlew and other ground nesting birds did manage for thousands of years without them didn’t they? However, you seem to be confused the ‘afforestation’ I discussed was targeted planting of native species to reduce flood risk and create wildlife corridors, not blanket conifer plantations. Now there’s an awful lot of wildlife that would be grateful for the former plus downstream home and business owners, and farmers of better quality land who would live under a lessened flood risk. I wonder how happy they would be with your ill informed remark?

        1. Nightjars and Woodcocks (both ground nesters) would appreciate a level of woodland edge habitat adjacent to tracts of open moor. Mainland UK Hen Harriers have become habituated to breeding on grouse moors where there is plenty of prey and all other competition for it has been supressed. Lose the intensive moorland management producing a heather monoculture and Hen Harriers will eventually adopt a less specialist lifestyle like their continental relatives. It’ll take time though.

          1. Thank you! With riparian woodland and blocks of contour planting you’d essentially be creating a habitat mosaic and a very significant edge effect. Add in the effects of beaver in some places – creating dead wood and an open canopy, coppice structure – and I think this in itself will go a very long way to raise biodiversity levels on our uplands just as a byproduct of low cost/highly effective natural flood alleviation strategies. There are an awful lot of species that profit from mixed areas of open and shrub/tree cover – the virtually tree/bush less grouse moor is a highly suppressed ‘habitat’ that you should only get in the high Arctic or maybe on top of our highest mountains and is just crap for wildlife – for a start when heather’s not in bloom not much or any pollinator to feed on. There were big flash floods in Yorkshire this week which caused a lot of damage, water just poured off the hills and moors. Very hard to believe that targeted tree planting wouldn’t have significantly reduced that. On the Hardcastle Crags NT property in Yorkshire they’ve installed 340 replica beaver dams to reduce flooding downstream. They seem to be working very well. Widescale tree planting and hopefully beaver translocations in areas where economic activity often has to be subsidised could eventually prevent tens of millions of pounds of flood damage – the cost of the 2005 Carlisle flood came to £400,000,000! One thing is for sure the idiocy of simplifying vast swathes of our uplands to produce masses of grouse to shoot for ‘fun’ is no longer acceptable we know too much now.

  5. Recently I have forwarded numerous raptor persecution blogs on to my local MSP Ken Gibson hoping for a comment. Yet absolutely nothing. Not a word not even an acknowledgement. If you live in his constituency please take the time to email him. He seems to care as little about raptor persecution as he does about polluting open cage salmon farming.

  6. Yep I got three identical letters (apart from the reference number) to the first shown here. The duplicator must be working overtime, unlike the Government.

  7. As I hinted at in my last contribution they are searching for a short term resolution that sounds icily serious but melts like butter when put to the test. This could well be the suggestion for harsher sentencing of those convicted … a rare offence given the number of birds killed or otherwise persecuted … the commitment of more police officers and the admissibility of camera’s trained on nests. .
    On the first point the imprisonment of Gamekeeper George Mutch, the first gaol sentence handed out in Scotland for raptor persecution has had no impact whatsoever. Why should it when the chances of getting caught remain infinitesimal?
    Why would more police officers make any difference given the nature of the crime and the locations where it is carried out? The priority placed on such crimes in today’s climate of austerity and competing demands will show this up to be simply window dressing. Dedicated officers could also be re-assigned should their investigations displease those further up the hierarchical ladder.
    Training camera’s on hen harrier nests would certainly help .. but unless raptor workers and raptor workers alone knew which nests had a camera trained on them it would be pointless.
    Look at how both the Shooting Lobby and The Police reacted when it was suggested that the SSPCA could help investigate crimes against birds of prey. It was fought tooth and nail with Holyrood agreeing not to bring forward legislation to implement such measures.
    One must suspect that the thought of another organisation not under Governmental control sent shivers through those involved in crimes against raptors at every level. For myself this simply illustrated the commitment of all involved on the shooting and enforcement side of the equation to keep things as they are .. and this latest hotch potch of proposed measures has done nothing to allay those fears.
    Simply put, it’s how hegemony functions when it seeks to thwart both the law and the wishes of the majority of people in Scotland.

  8. Why’s it so difficult to get the Government to act?
    Fergus Ewing is why. Or more specifically, for decades the self image of a lot of Scots outside of Glasgow and surrounding twons has been linked to the Walter Scott version of Scotland; the noble countryman etc, and that was co-opted by the Lairds and the rest of nobs. It is hard to overcome that, especially when so many “community leaders” owe their own careers to the right person at the right club putting in the right word, and that always involves the right person being partial to a bit of shooting and liking the Edwardian fantasy. It doesn’t help that alternative employments are perceived to be of less social status either, that is a hard one to change that is. Minds are changing, but the hardest mind to change has always been an establishment one. However, in short, Fergus Ewing and the Lairds’ friends who want to cling to that shortbread tin image, because they are scared the future will mean they are no longer top of the social pile, are why.

    Not that the other parties are any better, except the Greens, they all prefer no change to be the only option. Labour doesn’t care, the Tories hate that it isn’t 1910 any more, the Lib Dems just want a new LibLab coalition to give them their perks again… Fergus bloody Ewing though.

  9. I’m voting Greens

    SNP are clearly conflicted with landowners and some within the shooting industry.

    Economy at all cost and that includes at the expense of Scotlands wildlife……

    1. I’ll admit it isn’t an easy one. There is no point having a lot of wildlife if the economy is failing the people, and there is no point having a booming economy if it is destroying the countryside and wildlife to achieve it. There places in Scotland that would be subject to a new wave of clearances if some environmentally unfriendly jobs vanished, and that does nobody no favours. It is always a trade off. Shooting has to go, but I think I can live with fishfarms on the west coast though. They are bad for salmon, but climate change is pushing salmon further north anyway; getting rid of those will only save the salmon for the anglers for another couple of decades at most, and the cost in jobs would be too much for a lot of west coast towns if they went away. We might have to look at stocking our rivers with non-native species; large mouth bass from the Americas would be a good salmon replacement, as an example.

  10. Agree with Ben Graham except for one fact. We need the SNP to get Scotland independent. Once that happens I will gladly vote green. Sadly only the SNP can get Scotland independence. When that happens then the greens or Scottish Greens? will get my vote, to stop grouse shooting etc. and start to turn Scotland into a country where wildlife is respected, conserved and allowed to thrive in our wonderful countryside. I am disappointed in Fergus Ewing, it seems to me that he is now hand in glove with the shooting people, he is always at country events with game keepers and landowners. Obviously looking for their votes. Maybe he should think of the votes from people who are against Raptors being killed. Just in case folk think I am a Tory or Labour voter, I have voted SNP since I was 20 years old I am now 70 years old.

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