BBC interviews Professor Alan Werritty

Further to Thursday’s long-awaited publication of the Werritty Review on grouse moor management (here), the BBC has recorded an interview with Professor Alan Werritty.

The interview was conducted by the BBC’s Environment Correspondent Kevin Keane and was broadcast on the Out of Doors programme this morning (21 Dec 2019).  You can listen to it here (from 00.42 to 10.03) but it’s only available for 29 days. For this reason, we’ve produced a transcript (see below).

Kevin Keane also interviewed Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB Scotland) and Sarah-Jane Laing (Scottish Land & Estates) but we haven’t bothered to transcribe those interviews because they’re largely a repeat of the two organisations’ recent press statements (here and here). Their interviews follow on immediately after the one with Professor Werritty.

TRANSCRIPT

Presenter – This week saw the long-awaited publication of the Grouse Management Group review. It was set up two years ago with the remit of making recommendations to reduce the illegal killing of raptors, but at the same time to give due regard to the socio-economic contribution that grouse shooting makes to the Scottish rural economy.

The man in charge was Professor Alan Werritty.

Professor Werritty – It is a huge canvas and we have been, I think, exhaustive in the way in which we’ve tried to interrogate the evidence. The remit which we were given was very specific. It was to examine the environmental impact of grouse moor management, two particular aspects to that. One, recommendations on reducing the illegal killing of raptors and secondly recommendations to promote a more sustainable style of managing the grouse moors, particularly in terms of muirburn, culling mountain hares and using medicated grit.

That was quite a big canvas but we hope that we have done justice to that task. In attempting those two tasks we’ve had to also give due regard to the impact our recommendations will make on the Scottish rural economy and that, of course, means a very delicate balancing act.

Kevin Keane – Of course a lot of that is a political balance as well, isn’t it, and already some of these countryside organisations are saying that it will result in job losses. Do you accept, do you think that will be the case or do you think your recommendations, if they’re adopted, will be able to be carried out without there being that impact on the sector?

Professor Werritty – If licensing is introduced in the way that we envisage, in my view I don’t think there should be undue disturbance to the current style of management and the viability of grouse enterprises. The style of regulation which we’re proposing to introduce is relatively light touch. The licensing we’re proposing follows the General Licence which is operated by Scottish Natural Heritage. Many of our other recommendations are not unduly onerous, they are merely inviting grouse moor managers to adopt this practice and to follow some of the existing codes of practice.

Kevin Keane – Do you think this is a sector that perhaps has had relatively little regulation to date, compared to other industries?

Professor Werritty – Yes, that’s undoubtedly the case compared to agriculture and forestry and particularly the level of regulation here has been quite light. It has been mainly focused on muirburn where there are prohibitions of burning outside the closed season and prohibitions on burning without giving notice to your neighbour.

But apart from that there is very little other formal regulation which is governed by statute relating to grouse moors.

[Extensive and intensive muirburn in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Kevin Keane – There has been a code of conduct, a code of practice, has that not been sufficient? Presumably not if you’re thinking that should be turned in to regulation?

Professor Werritty – The most obvious code of practice is the one relating to muirburn which was revised in 2017. This however is a voluntary code and there is not a great deal of monitoring of compliance with the code and this is one of our concerns, that where there are codes of practice of this kind they’re currently lacking teeth.

Kevin Keane – Clearly, there are lots of different areas such as that, mountain hares and medicated grit but there’s an over-arching issue of whether or not there should be a licence for shooting estates but you’ve decided to give essentially a five-year grace period before Government decides on that. Why that? Why five years?

Professor Werritty – The reason for that I think goes back to the composition of my committee, of my review group. When the review group was set up I was determined that it would represent both ends of the arguments, so I have two conservation scientists on the group and I have two practitioners well-versed in grouse moor practice and management. I should stress that all the members of the group were invited to join it as independent experts and it’s on the basis of their expertise and their knowledge that they were appointed. They have not been beholden to any external interests.

When we came to consider whether and when to introduce licensing of grouse shooting, the review group was divided 3 : 3. We had quite a robust debate over this and we concluded that in order to get a unanimous recommendation we would opt for a probationary period of five years before licensing might be introduced. During that probationary period we are proposing that there be a monitoring of the population status of raptors on and near grouse moors. Should the raptors show signs of recovery then the need for licensing disappears. Should that recovery not take place, then in our view licensing should be introduced.

Kevin Keane – So effectively it’s a carrot and a stick isn’t it, it’s saying if you, if this situation doesn’t improve in the next five years then we’re going to have to do something about it, so how hopeful are you that will change this situation, the landscape?

Professor Werritty – That’s precisely what we’re saying and my advice to those estates which continue to indulge in persecuting raptors is, ‘Clean up your act, stop killing the birds illegally, then licensing will not be needed. If you fail to do that then licensing is almost inevitably going to come’.

Because licensing, we have now discovered, is the only way forward of dealing with this issue. One of the most striking features of this recommendation which, I would like to remind you was a unanimous one, is that it has great authority. We have represented on the group people who represent the interests of the shooting community and they have now come round to the view that in the situation of no recovery then licensing is the only way forward.

ENDS

Just to clarify, licensing is NOT the only way forward of dealing with the environmental devastation wrought by driven grouse shooting – banning it is another option, although this option was not presented in the review group’s remit as prescribed by the Scottish Government.

44 thoughts on “BBC interviews Professor Alan Werritty”

  1. Tell me why the Grouse Moors will be giving five years to improve, and yet you say, Because licensing,we have discovered, is the only way forward of dealing with this issue.

    1. “Professor Werritty – my advice to those estates which continue to indulge in persecuting raptors is, ‘Clean up your act, stop killing the birds illegally, then licensing will not be needed. If you fail to do that then licensing is almost inevitably going to come’.”

      To which the estates will reply that they deny doing anything illegal and do not, therefore have an act to clean up. Is that not what they always claim. If they admit to having been persecuting raptors then they are effectively sanctioning being immediately closed down. They will not admit to criminality.
      On the exceedingly rare occasions that someone gets caught the cry of “bad apple” goes up.

      1. Yes there is that contradiction in the report which shows that it isn’t a report, it is a compilation of contradictory opinions and the conclusions reflect that. Compromising with those that defend criminal activity and its support organisation has led to the obvious chaos.

        [Ed: Hi Prasad, the rest of your comment has been deleted as its defamatory. You do have a good point to make but you need to make it without accusing identifiable individuals of being dishonest]

        1. Does that mean we can no longer accuse game-shooting representatives of lying any more? Or have we to say “an un-named employee at an un-named grouse moor is alleged to have shot a possible hen harrier yesterday.”

  2. “Grouse enterprises”? I nearly stopped reading after this point, but might as well given the mealy mouthed, meaningless tosh that followed.

    Licensing was the option I always favoured for many years, simply on the likelihood of it getting implemented. But I gave up support of that idea quite some time back, because it is crystal clear that the arrogant driven shooting industry has zero respect for the law and regulations, and would just carry on flouting the law. Even I have been shocked by the evidence in recent years as to the sheer scale of raptor persecution. I am now pretty convinced that raptor persecution is virtually universal on managed grouse moors, and probably very widespread on other types of managed shoots. I notice around non-managed grouse moors, how Common Buzzard numbers rise, and then suddenly they disappear, despite them being very common and widespread in the surrounding countryside. It’s impossible to prove on private land, but I believe the illegal killing of raptors is far more widespread than generally acknowledged.

    The time for licensing has long past. I might have been credible 10-20 years or more ago, but not now. No one with their eyes open can believe a word the driven shooting industry says.

  3. I was hoping to read of the benefits of driven grouse shooting to the local economy. Are proponents keeping quiet on this?

  4. Licensing seems to be the only way forward because the owners/managers/employees of grouse moors have had since the 1954 Protection of Birds Act to comply with the law and have signally failed so to do. That’s 65 years of criminal activity from the “few bad apples”

  5. Sorry Professor Werritty I am totally unimpressed and I feel sure that I speak for many. This review was flawed from the outset. That it has taken years, delayed publication and then proposes a further five year period before a very obvious outcome only adds insult to injury and ecological damage on all fronts which cannot be sustained. It follows the DGS preferred mode of working – of kicking the can down the road, and completely fails to take on board the dire reality and history. Rather than rigorously examining the reality this review has simply been superficial and been taken in by the spin and deceit.

    This week has also seen discussion of offering a further amnesty for illegal poisons which follows the same can kicking approach. If the Scottish Government now offers further delay, platitudes and inaction of sufficient gravity then we will have reached the end of the road. This review, hanging in the air, has effectively held back the flood waters. Prepare for the flood!

    1. I expect the Holyrood fudge and dodge crew to commence manoeuvres soon.
      Does anyone know the cost of Professor Werritty’s review ?

        1. Yes, and that cost was always going to arise because the Sc. Gov. do not have the spine to tackle the crime.
          I was interested to know what cash the taxpayers have paid for Werritty’s review.

    2. I do wonder if Prof Werritty consults the RPUK blog at all. It seems not, judging by his conclusions for which ‘askew’ is not the word. If he does read this blog and its comments, there is something very worrying, or is he just bound by Scottish Government’s biased conditions, as in “be neutral and satisfy both parties, and don’t forget the contribution grouse shooting makes to our economy,” which I think is best described as “sheer balderdash!” Happy New Year to all at RPUK, and all who support them. Hopefully the new decade will see a new dawn for hen harriers and all the other other creatures that are needlessly killed by the shooting fanatics (including red grouse).

  6. ‘When the review group was set up I was determined that it would represent both ends of the arguments.’
    The other end of the argument is crime!!
    A compromise with those he assure us us have no external interests. Pull the other one. XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXX XXXXX

    [Ed: Last sentence deleted as potentially defamatory]

    1. Moderator..Why deletion! Individuals NEED to be exposed time & time again for what they are so we can share THE TRUTH!

  7. I don’t know who was worse in this interview, the BBC’s Environment Correspondent or Professor Werritty. Both touched very lightly on the serious ecological damage caused by grouse moor management, and skipped lightly over the problem of ‘vermin’ control including native wild animals which are simply predators which may have a limited effect on grouse populations, and protected raptors, especially Hen Harriers, Peregrines and Buzzards. They seemed more influenced by the alleged sociopath-economic Ada vantages by grouse shooting. (Who are they kidding?) In my extensive experience, Hen Harriers feed mostly on Field Voles and Meadow Pipits. During my studies (annual reports held by SNH) of monitoring several harrier nests containing broods using CCTV over four years recorded very few prey items which weren’t either pipits or voles. Even in good grouse years, not a single Red Grouse chick was recorded as a prey item. I don’t claim that harriers never take grouse chicks, and an adult female harrier will sometimes take a full-grown grouse, but both of these were very rare occasions during my ten years of intensive studies of a population of up to 14 breeding pairs of harriers. I’d be interested to hear from any harrier workers whose experience differs from my own. Also, did the conservation bodies and individuals challenge the grouse shooters and their ‘keepers over their claims that harriers are ruthless killers of Red Grouse? I can’t believe my study area (three grouse moors) was atypical.

  8. This is simplistic effort to run any regulation proposals into the long grass as the combination of Hoylrood and SNH are wont to do if uncomfortable facts relating to the systemic breaking of rules become a focus of public opinion. No matter how you dress this up Mr Werrity has justified the continuation of the Status Quo for another five years .. and given the make-up of the those involved it wouldn’t take an expert to figure out how the voting would go. Add to that the traditional or customary response of a hung vote means that the Chair plumps for the Status Quo.
    This was premised prior to the beginning of all the fluff in my opinion. It’s not even well done, as no doubt Dominic Cummings would testify too.
    Aye guys, we’ve been had … again .. by methods at least as old as the formation of SNH in 1992.
    Crank up the protests with Extinction Rebellion as the template .. then watch what develops. Beard them in their den, wherever it might be located.

    1. Well done for saying it straight, George M. Several SNH Officers have confided to me that things are not well, and that they are being told by managers to compromise as much as possible to maintain the confidence of their political masters. Some staff are worried that if they don’t follow policy instructions, they might be prone to disciplanary action, which was virtually unknown in the good old (but seriously under-funded) NCCS kand early days of SNH. This particular compromising result clearly confirms my concerns.

      Another example of a silly decision by SNH is their response, to what I suspect was founded on a complaint from one individual, to eliminate the colony of Ring-necked Parakeets (circa 20 birds) in one of Glasgow’s parks. The reason? The birds were making too much noise – in one of the busiest parts.of the City ! Meanwhile, heavy traffic surrounds the park. I can’t wait to hear the public outcry when gunmen take over their park to slaughter these beautiful birds which have made their home there, and are popular with a majority of park users. The last I heard was that the Council’s conservation team had received no recent complaints from the park users about the birds. To the contrary, they received numerous inquiries as to what were these impressive birds which had colonised their park! In my opinion SNH spends too much time dealing with so-called invasive species, when there far more issues requiring their attention. Fortunately Glasgow City Council has a progressive policy regarding nature conservation, with a significant area of Local Nature Reserves and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservations (SINCs).

      So now we have at least five years of continuing, possibly more serious, persecution of Hen Harriers and other protected ‘predators,’ by the noble defenders of nature conservation of our grouse moors. Otherwise known as those bloody (literally) gamekeepers. They’ll find a way !

    1. I have that fear too.
      I could see a scenario where there was a slight improvement in raptors and then shooting of raptors and brood management are allowed.
      That is all in the fine print. I am not sure it says that brood management and the killing of raptors are part of licensing.

      It is up to our politicians to refuse that.

      The not so fine print is that the report starts off with many false premises and each one leads to the situation above. Most of which the politicians swallow greedily. First is that grouse moors are of economic importance to rural communities. Second is that grouse moor owners/managers are to be respected and therefore must be listened to and have an equal say to scientists. There is a strange assumption that criminals have to be compromised with and not only that given an amnesty for 55 years of criminal activity.

      What gives these people the automatic cloak of respectability and with that, power?
      We still live in feudal mindset.

    2. I still can’t fathom how a (distinguished ?) Professor of Science can produce such an inept (and in my opinion, oddly biased) report. Who is he trying to appease? Again in my personal opinion, he seems to have fallen for every lie coming from the grouse-killing fraternity, which causes a considerable balance between grouse shooters and both the popular and scientific evidence. Was it not within his remit to judge the viability for each side’s evidence objectively? It’s all very weird.

  9. He didn’t even come up with a draft licence proposal.

    If he has his apologists way…. in five years time, we will have to wait another five years while they design, consult and amend a licence scheme…….and no doubt its appeals system. (I am appealing so I can just carry on…..). Long grass on fertiliser!

    The basic premise is that an honest estate has nothing to fear from a licence system. With the best will in the world it will take a year or so to get a licence system up and running. Get on with it.

  10. Yorkshire Water uses this method to assess licensing: ““When an existing shooting lease comes up for renewal, we will undertake a thorough review to assess the best option to deliver the required land management for the future,” Yorkshire Water confirmed in a statement. “This will be done using our innovative six capitals approach, which assesses the benefits to natural, social, human, manufactured, intellectual and financial capital. This approach ensures all potential benefits of an option are quantified and assessed.” The league said it did not believe driven grouse shooting matched any of Yorkshire Water’s six capitals and it would pursue alternative land management options.”

    1. Wonder if all the leases were recently renewed before this decision? Also, how long do these leases last anyway? One year, two, five, ten, twenty-five? Could be a meaningless statement to get the pressure off YW from their customers. Does anyone know the details? Let’s not forget this used to be publicly owned land anyway before de-nationalisation.

  11. I look forward to Prof. Werrity’s name appearing in the next “honours list” for services to ( fill in your own category). Mine would be “for services to the status quo”.

  12. The report is based on fundamental disingenuity.
    In the report it says that some group members would not accept that grouse moor management adversely affects raptor populations (quote below). If those members really believed that, then how could they ever sign up to the report recommendation that raptor numbers must increase to stop licensing happening. How could raptor numbers increase by any other way than by stopping the killing? If they sincerely believed that other factors were responsible they would never sign up to the 5 year suspension.
    But no one questions this because we take this dubious position of the grouse lobby for granted. It is this acceptance of criminality which i find the most shocking aspect possibly even worse than the killing itself. Killing raptors has been normalised. We are left in a position to defend our opposition to it ion economic grounds!
    I feel that we are the only ones who see that the Emperor has no clothes. Weritty seems to be dazzled by all kinds of imaginary jewels. This isn’t an emperor i see but organised criminals dressed in tweed. I think i must have Aspergers.

    ‘For some Group members the association between some areas of grouse moor management and the evidence for activities adversely affecting raptor populations provides grounds for the licensing of grouse shooting. But for other Group members this evidence is strongly contested and the case for licensing on these grounds is deemed to be flawed.’

  13. Well I finally managed to read through the whole damned thing and it was truly woeful – I am not an academic, certainly no professor, and I would be bloody embarrassed to have my name attached to this reheated plate of leftovers. To paraphrase the professor the remit of the review was to find ways to resolve conflicts and contentious issues so that GROUSE SHOOTING COULD CONTINUE TO MAKE A VALUABLE ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION TO REMOTE COMMUNITIES. What valuable economic contribution exactly? All through the review Werrity remarks that a proper economic analysis of grouse moors is lacking so they don’t actually know what its contribution is!!! The conflicts would be very easily solved if it was shown DGS actually destroys rather than creates jobs, you could just dump DGS. Unless they wanted to commit career suicide no politician would stick up for grouse shooting when it’s been shown to be as bad for jobs as for wildlife. So of course that was never going to happen. I don’t recall any serious reference being made to externalities, how grouse moors exacerbate flooding when they could change to reduce it instead, bad floods run into millions of pounds worth of damage. There was no in depth analysis of alternative ecotourism, how much money sea eagles, red kites and ospreys have brought into local economies, no mention of economic diversification as at Glen Tanar. It was claimed that grouse moors receive little public money, but was that because ‘agricultural’ subsidies might not have been taken into consideration? The economic argument is THE Achilles heel for the grouse moors because there is no economic argument for them. There are people who detest grouse moors and what goes along with them, but still find the idea of young families losing their homes harder to deal with than poisoned eagles. If they lose their reticence when the facts become apparent, and the general public becomes appraised of them too, then the estates will be in for an absolute shit storm.

    As for the rest it was no better. The ‘review’ only really consisted of stating comments we’ve all heard before with little or no objective assessment of their validity. How many species really benefit from grouse moors and how extensively against how many are suppressed? There was the predictable comment that ground nesting birds can benefit from grouse moors, but no mention that far more wildlife doesn’t – juniper, bats and capercaillie hardly do well on them, but they never get a mention. And of course the reference to conflict between scientific experts and those in the field got regurgitated. Shouldn’t Werrity of all people have finally put this one to bed!?! No one is more ‘in the field’ than the researchers out in them specifically observing and quantifying interactions between species and their environments. However, it seems it’s OK to let field research be decried by effectively denying its existence, but gamekeepers whose competence (they weren’t very good when involved in a BTO study) and basic honesty are highly questionable must be given at least equal standing with science! Across the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere there are potentially lots of places where you could shoot willow grouse on grouse moors, but it only happens in the UK. What else happens abroad, how do remote communities in Norway and Finland manage without DGS? This issue was conspicuous by its absence too as was how did wildlife manage for millennia without grouse moors. Will the professor be doing a Q & A session about this ‘review’? If so he’s a brave man if nothing else.

  14. I wonder who the third group member was. It obviously wasn’t Prof Werritty.
    The Ferrett seems to have insider information on two of them.
    https://theferret.scot/werritty-landowning-lobby-blocks-licensing-grouse-shooting/
    It may seem like hair splitting but i find it astonishing that one more of this group opposed, apparently strongly, the recommendation of immediate licensing.

    Here is the official government profiles
    https://www.gov.scot/publications/grouse-moor-management-group-member-profiles/

    From elsewhere:
    Prof Alan Werrity: previously chaired a Scottish Natural Heritage review into sustainable moorland management
    Alex Jameson: a chartered surveyor with 30 years experience of upland estate management
    Mark Oddy: the Duke of Buccleuch’s consultant and former estate manager
    Prof Colin Reid: an environmental law specialist at the University of Dundee. in 2017 ‘currently serves as Chair of the PAW Scotland Legislation, Regulation and Guidance Group’
    Prof Alison Hester: a natural resource management scientist from the James Hutton Institute. Co-author of Socio-economic and biodiversity impacts of driven grouse moors in Scotland
    https://sefari.scot/research/socioeconomic-and-biodiversity-impacts-of-driven-grouse-moors-in-scotland
    Prof Ian Newton: ‘a leading bird expert and emeritus fellow of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’ author of The Sparrowhawk etc.

  15. It seems that this report has been undertaken by a propaganda machine for the landed gentry. I wonder of Professor Werrity is a Freemason?

    1. If you look at the Meeting Reports on the gov.scot website there are some pretty strong words from Werritty.
      2nd meeting: ‘We are very concerned about this sustained level of raptor crime’
      3rd meeting: ‘the evidence linking raptor persecution to some areas managed as grouse moors appears both compelling and shocking’
      https://www.gov.scot/groups/grouse-moor-management-group/
      There is no doubt where he stands on raptor killing. Unfortunately as Dougie says below he treats this as a Conflict Resolution issue. I see that as naive and i think most of us BTL see it simply as a criminal issue.
      To me a Conflict Issue is when people’s lives and/or livelihood’s are at stake. Here it is a rich man’s pursuit.

  16. The Sc. Gov. set the review remit with the aim of resolving conflicts and contentious issues so that grouse shooting could continue to make a valuable economic contribution to remote communities. Clearly the remit is loaded on the side retaining grouse shooting one way or another.

    What is this valuable economic contribution obtained from grouse shooting. Where is the auditable cost benefit analysis to support such a claim or is it just weasel words.

    The bottom line is plain and simple. Either grouse shooting operates entirely within the law or it does not operate at all.

    1. Spot on Dougie – common sense tells us a minority activity that seriously compromised virtually every other activity over vast tracts of land is not good for local economies. A proper economic study would underline that which is why we are still waiting for one. This guest blog from Ben MacDonald really slays grouse moors as job creators. https://markavery.info/2019/04/19/guest-blog-rebirding-and-grouse-moor-economics-by-ben-macdonald/#comments

        1. It is! Ben also tore the argument for open hill deer stalking apart in his book ‘Rebirding’ which I would heartily recommend. Between it and DGS it’s highly likely that no other country on the planet is as adversely affected by recreational shooting as Scotland is yet the Revive Coalition is only just over a year old and there is still nothing comparable fighting the equivalent insanity of a fiercely maintained bloated red deer population which as well as impacting upon conservation, farming and forestry also means more people seriously injured and killed in road collisions with it!! One day they’ll look back and be aghast that we didn’t have a specific organisation fighting ‘sporting’ estates decades ago. This blog also makes some general points that perhaps compliment Ben’s ones https://markavery.info/2018/09/27/guest-blog-driven-grouse-shooting-your-bluffs-been-called-by-les-wallace/#comments

  17. “Should the raptors show signs of recovery then the need for licensing disappears…”

    I can’t even begin to describe the naivety present in this statement, assuming prof werrity is actually acting in good faith to begin with. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, during this five year period, there is a good chance that there will be miraculous ceasefire for certain raptors, which will result in this issue being deemed as resolved. After this period, the cycle of persecution will be picked up again, knowing full well that the spotlight will be off them and that it will take an inordinate amount of time to gather enough substantive evidence to force another toothless review. It’s telling how completely opposed the industry is to any regulation, which is practically an admission of guilt.

  18. If those members of the group in favour of immediate licensing had any integrity they would have resigned rather than agree to Werritty’s ‘compromise’. It says a lot that those opposed to immediate licensing threatened to resign, and xxxxxxxxxxxxx et al caved in.

    Weak.

  19. Has the shooting industry side ever provided a single shred of evidence that harriers significantly reduce grouse numbers? Reducing them even more than squadrons of those who shoot them? I’ve yet to find any such paper, except subjective ‘evidence’ in their magazines and blogs directed at their own easy believers. It’s somewhat akin to a weird religious cult who praise god for inventing weapons (albeit indirectly) and providing grouse (and harriers, etc.!) for them to exercise their blood lust and killing instinct.

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