Scottish Parliament votes to protect mountain hares

HUGE congratulations to Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone this evening after her amendment calling for protected status to be given to mountain hares (and thus effectively ending the slaughter of 26,000 on grouse moors every year) was passed, 60 votes for, 19 against.

[Photo by Steve Gardner]

Full credit to Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon for supporting the amendment.

More on this when the official report is published, and more on the finer details of the Animals & Wildlife Bill.

A lot of people have put in a massive effort on this issue over the years. For now, though, lets raise a glass to the late Professor Adam Watson whose meticulous five-decade research on the mountain hare has provided the evidence which finally led to this tangible and hard-fought-for conservation win.


Report of the meeting of Parliament, 17 June 2020 here: Report of meeting of Parliament 17June2020

99 thoughts on “Scottish Parliament votes to protect mountain hares”

  1. Wow ,what Fantastic News this is,A Massive Thank You,to The Scottish Greens and Everyone involved ,This is Mega,Regards Brian Leecy

    1. Absolutely Fabulous !
      Is it allowable to print the names of the 19 who wanted the slaughter to continue ?

      [Ed: Yes, the voting record will be included in the official report]

      1. 19 were 18 Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat. HAve tweeted voting result @andywightman and emailed to RPS

        1. Shocking, really, isn’t it. I thought you backed the government into a corner with great skill and, by giving them no option but to defend the utterly indefensible in the face of raised public awareness, made a highly unlikely victory inevitable – in retrospect of course!. So those 19…well search me, but they probably don’t feel this evening that they have been ever so clever.

  2. I’m still in shock! Such fantastic news. It feels important too. The culling of mountain hares has always been barbarous nonsense and, if it is finally stopped, that doesn’t change much directly: unless you’re a mountain hare, a gamekeeper deprived of a sadistiic winter pastime or a Visit Scotland official wringing your hands at our capacity for self-harm. But it still feels like a crucial win: those who have felt above the law have ben shown, at least in principle, to be subject to it. Which is not a bad place from which to be moving forward.

  3. I’m sure that the reaction of most of the driven grouse shooting fraternity will be overwhelmingly hostile as well it might since this is clearly the first nail in their rotten coffin. If they had any sense they’d start to pay heed to more temperate voices like Patrick Galbraith’s but such is their hubristic sense of entitlement that they will continue to dig themselves a deeper into a hole of their own making. What they have previously evidently regarded as a strength, their obdurate and tenacious belief in making no concessions to reality, may ultimately turn out to be their greatest weakness.

    1. ‘ What they have previously evidently regarded as a strength, their obdurate and tenacious belief in making no concessions to reality, may ultimately turn out to be their greatest weakness.’
      Absolutely spot on.

  4. This is great news. However, it really does raise serious questions about the moral compass of the driven grouse shooting industry, that they were unable to self-regulate and understand that they were doing something causing massive outrage amongst both conservationists and the public, and doing massive damage to a species in decline. Essentially, it demonstrates that despite their claims to the contrary, that they are incapable of self-regulation, and they will arrogantly carry on with very damaging practises unless central government firmly regulates them. Their activities need far more monitoring, regulation and general oversight.

  5. Great news! And what a landslide too! Just wonder where these morons will direct there bloodlust now though.

  6. So very pleased. About time. Thank you to all who signed. Really good for Mountain Hares, in Scotland.

  7. Great news. Next step is to get SSPCA increased powers to help enforce the new legislation.

    Laws mean nothing if they are not enforced.

  8. Top class. Can I ask who is going to police the grouse moors and their employees? It hasn’t stopped them from killing raptors. Will it stop them killing hares?

  9. Excellent news.Big thank you to Alison Johnstone and to all concerned in voting/ assisting in getting this amendment. Shame on those who voted against . Now for a wee dram, slainte.

  10. A note of caution on what is otherwise great news. Last year our beavers became a “protected” species. In the year since that historic day a quarter of the known population has been legally culled under license (and no doubt some additional ones illegally too).

    1. Good point.
      I wasn’t really in favour of Chris Packham calling them ‘bunnies’ but it might be more difficult to give licences to the killing of a creature which the public ‘love’. Public opinion may be a factor.
      I didn’t follow the debate but from what i gather and from other cases where the SNP have failed to back sensible Green motions, amendments and bills, it bothers me that the SNP can play party politics with such clear cut issues. The argument they seem to use often is that the motion wasn’t something-or-other enough when to me it just looks like they are opposing just because it is the Greens.
      At the next election there will be the new Independence for Scotland Party running in the regional vote. A second vote for the SNP is waisted and the more first votes they get, which is increasingly likely, the less seats they get from the regional vote. I have never had a Green candidate to vote for which i have never understood. Last time i was forced to vote for the worst Environmental Minister we have ever had which was a grating experience! The new list party solves both those problems. I look forward to the day when we have real Scottish parties not just anti-SNP platforms (in and Independent Scotland). When we can have real debate and discussion about problems and solutions.

  11. Absolutely brilliant but this needs backed up by the courts who have a habit of ignoring the killing of other protected species.

  12. massive congratulations and thanks to all involved, cheers, celebrate the moment but be wary, the so far untouchable organised criminals will be looking for ways to get around this by hook or crook

  13. Brilliant news, ye again the Scottish Greens lead where others fear to! Other politicians take heed.

  14. Great result! One more broken link in the chain of recreational wildlife slaughter. Excellent.

    1. Dreadful, lazy reporting from the BBC. No better example of failure to ‘go outside and check if it’s raining’. Deplorable, they still use ‘balance’ to excuse incompetence.

      1. Indeed, Alan. I’ve not watched BBC news, or visited the website since last year. This appalling shite, posing as journalism, reminded me why.

        1. I stopped after on the first day of the Iraq war. It would probably have been sooner if i had lived in the UK.
          I can’t understand why anyone watches the brain-washing but then i realised many people sit willingly through adverts when they have a mute button and a fast forward option and even hum or quote the ditties and are surprised when you don’t know what they are referring to.
          It is also much harder to get news from other sources because you have to go to multiple sites. It is usually the same news but through different filters. If the BBC declared their bias it would be OK but any pretence of neutrality is a at the kindest, lacking any self awareness in the Chomsky sense.

    2. Blimey the very first sentence under the sub-heading.
      ‘Concerns had been growing about the practice but gamekeepers insist Holyrood has made a “grave mistake” and the move is bad for land management.
      Usually statements like that are at the bottom.

      Oh hang on this is Scotland, for a second i forgot.

  15. Very good news. The extent to which it is enforced and any challenges and loopholes are dealt with will be a useful measure as to where Scotland is going regards conservation and deep Establishment influence. Although miles ahead of England, the overall state of all things wildlife in Scotland isn’t great. Still, a big well done to all concerned.

  16. Excuse me for being a bit of a killjoy, but I appear to have been under the impression that the Mountain Hares were to be given FULL protection under the proposal. In fact Mark Avery’s blog explains that simple licensing will be applied, which my cynical self interprets to mean that gamekeepers on grouse moors will just have to continue exaggerating numbers of hares so that they can continue to kill 90% of them. It’s important to remember that the so-called harm inflicted by the hares is virtually non-existent. It’s the grouse shooting industry which inflicts real harm to that ecosystem.

    1. Dear RPUK, I’m currently having problems submitting comments to your site. I’ve only managed this one by following a tortuous route which I must admit I forget after a day or two! Can you advise me of what I’m doing wrong? For years it’s simply been a case of opening the email and proceeding, but not now. I’ve checked subscription details, but it merely says something like “Your subscription has been renewed.” Who has been renewing it? I wasn’t even aware we had to subscribe to the site! This I find very frustrating, because I feel I have something to say, about Hen Harriers and gamekeepers!

      [Ed: Hi Iain, sorry, no clue what’s happened. No changes have been made that I’m aware of. Have you tried commenting by simply coming to the blog site and clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’?]

  17. Common sense prevails.
    Imagine lining up the cross hairs from your high powered rifle, pulling the trigger, and watching this injured creature wriggling about in pain. Then a voice behind you says “What did you do that for?” you reply “we must protect red grouse” !

  18. This from the BBC website (

    Alex Hogg, chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said the Holyrood vote was a “grave mistake”.

    He added: “This is a bad law, made by people it will not impact upon.

    “The views of the rural working people of the land have been ignored, here. The system has failed them.”

    [Ed: Rest of this comment deleted as libellous]

    1. Surpises me that the rest was deleted as libellous. Please ellaborate (by private e-mail if need be, that way I can see what might be libellous). I thought I made a very good point and that the whole text should stand. I didn’t reveal the identity of anyone, I didn’t write anything offensive directed towards anyone that could be libellous).

      [Ed: Hi Paul, I’m afraid you’re going to have to trust me – I don’t have the time to explain in detail, but in general terms it’s best not to accuse anyone, even an organisation, of directly being involved in unlawful activity. Unless you’re commenting on a court conviction. Thanks for your email btw – sorry, in haste]

  19. A massive thanks to all concerned. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of the end for those criminal morons.

  20. Hats of Alison J.

    For all she was accused of springing this at the last minute she actually put together a very well researched and consulted case. The logic, the links to Werrity, backed up by the monumental public support was ultimately too hard to resist.
    Exemplary campaigning that we meed to learn from.
    I have always argued that we need to pick apart the grouse moor management bit by bit. A simple target is easier to hit.

    Licensing, muirburn, medicated grit or lead ammunition next?

  21. Great news!

    And that shit for brains that targeted Ruth is seething at the result!

    A win at last for wildlife and good people!

  22. When I was thanking Alison, I forgot to point out the vital role that gamekeepers had played in securing the ban. If it hadnt been for their arrogance and inability to follow good practice, ie it was business as usual regardless of the warnings… then the hare would still be in the long grass.

    So warm thanks to the Scottish Game Keepers Association for helping to secure the ban!

  23. Great news, but I suppose it will inevitably mean there will be more wildlife crimes to report in the future if the killing continues…… which I fear it might.

  24. Brilliant! Just brilliant! (Though the fact that we are all so ecstatic is, itself, rather a sad indictment of how much more there is still yet to achieve)

  25. Wonderful result. I will watch with interest the actual words from Mairi Gougeon. How a government with SUCH a tardy record of bringing forward wildlife legislation can criticise the lateness of the amendment I don’t know. Such irony! We all need to stay CLOSE to this in the implementation phase, after seeing the beaver licensed slaughter of 2019.

  26. Yes it’s a great moment to celebrate. Thank you Alison, this a victory for Adam, for ecology and for morality.
    However the killers need only to apply for a licences for the slaughter to continue. We know how easy SNH grant licences to cull ravens and beavers for the most spurious reasons. Maybe the SG have already reassured the killers that an application will just be a formality.

    1. This lot (19) voted against Amendment 30


      Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
      Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
      Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
      Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
      Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
      Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
      Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
      Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
      Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
      Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
      Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
      Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
      Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
      Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
      Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
      Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
      Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
      Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
      Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)

        1. Davie, I asked my MSP why he wasn’t on the list. Apparently, there is an unwirtten agreement that MSPs do not all go to the chamber, so that covid distancing can be properly observed. So each party sends in proportion, relative to their total MSPs. So those not on the voting list didn’t (necessarily) abstain. The Green Party upset a few in the chamber by not observing this “agreement”, saying they didn’t sign anything. Not too clever in my opinion.

      1. Excuse my politics (if you want), but it appears clear that not only do Tories have a despicable attitude to the working classes, they seem to believe that wee furry animals are also a threat to the right-wing state of Great Britain. Indeed they must be stupid if they vote against protection of a superb animal which causes no harm to anyone or anything. Perhaps the scientific evidence was too difficult for them to digest. In this vote we have SNP and the Labour Party to thank, although personally I don’t understand why licences will be issued to slaughter Mountain Hares on an estate by estate rota. As heather moorland is an important ecosystem for the hares, it appears that the majority of Mountain Hares will still be killed in future “to conserve heather habitats”, a lie every time it is uttered.

  27. Well done to all those involved. An important step forward and hopefully a sign of things to come. Onwards and upwards.

  28. Just love that quote from S J Laing; ‘”These changes will not help Scotland’s wildlife, which is the prime concern of gamekeepers and land managers.’
    Who knew!

  29. A most welcome message and doubly so as my MSP Kate Forbes SNP emailed to say she had given Alison Johnsone’s amendment her support and it passed!

  30. Such good news…here’s hoping the savages who have enjoyed this horrible practice wont find ways around this protection..well done to all involved.

  31. I signed the on line petition and this is really great news however, how will it be monitored. I suspect the land owners will consider the result as just another piece of legislation that they can ignore, as per the ban on Fox hunting. I really hope I’m wrong and the new law will be adhered to and enforced. Well done Scotland.
    In addition I’m assuming that the 19 who voted against are land owners or have a financial interest in the shooting industry, shame on them.

  32. Good news, but as the beaver slaughter on Tayside shows, SNH are happy to grant cull licences even when a species has protected status for sometimes quite flimsy reasons.

  33. Alison Johnstone has sent out a letter of thanks to those who supported her.

    2nd paragraph:-

    “The only reason we got this over the line is because of you. You and 22,500 others who supported my amendment over the past couple of days. This created such a huge pressure on parliamentarians to do the right thing that even the SNP, who have resisted action to protect hares for many years, voted for protection.”

    NOTE in the last sentence ………. SNP, who have resisted action to protect hares for many years ………. therein lies the main obstruction to wildlife protection.

    However, clearly there is strength in marshalling all opposition to wildlife killing in a way that puts much pressure on the elected representatives.

  34. My heartfelt thanks to the Scottish Greens for this step forward in protecting our environment from a violent minority. Note to English Greens: please revert from your doomed policy of seeking endless economic and population growth and start searching, instead, for policies which will allow a human race to sustainably survive alongside our wildlife on this planet.

  35. What odds the 19 who voted against have potential conflicts of interest? Or are they those with objective scientifically based integrity who deliver conservation alongside the ‘few’ bad apples who commit wildlife crime?

    Well done to all concerned, carry on campaigning …. first they ignored us, then they laughed at us, then they fought us, then we will win (as oppossed to intermittent (delightful) skirmishes) the war waged on our wildlife :)

  36. It’s certainly a welcome result and sends a strong message to those managing our uplands, that the public expect proper conservation to be at the heart of land management, and not practices simply to benefit the land owners desire to use the land, for at times very unethical shooting practices.
    However, the “devil will be in the detail”, and just how enforceable the legislation is?
    Whilst the new legislation affords protection under the wildlife and countryside Act, I understand land owners will still be able to apply for a licence under the general licence provisions to cull and kill hares?
    The question then arises, as to how the number of mountain hares will be assessed before a licence is granted?
    Will this assessment be totally independent, or will it rely on the landowner and his game keepers assessment?
    The issue is that the licencing scheme, will require very careful monitoring by conservation groups to ensure it is not being abused, and we don’t end up in the position that we have done with the GL in its position to certain wild bird species, -simply being used to kill thousands of birds each year which are deemed a “pest” by the shooting and agricultural industries.
    We should perhaps also remind ourselves that the “vested interests” are very good at exploiting weaknesses and loop holes in legislation to continue the practices that the legislation was hopefully going to ban- fox hunting comes immediately to mind!!
    A thorough examination of the legislation, and how it will be implemented, is perhaps now needed?
    We must never forget that raptors are protected by legislation, but in the dark recesses, away from the public eye, raptors are still persecuted by the criminal fraternity. The criminal fraternity are still there, and will no doubt continue their activities despite this change in legislation? – who will know what has taken place on a dark night, on remote moorland, with a rifle fitted with a night scope??
    The hope is that the ban will result in some successful prosecutions of these wildlife criminals, and hopefully those prosecutions will expose even further, the criminal activity which takes place with such a regular occurrence on the grouse moors?
    Only when the criminals are gone- will our wildlife be safe!!
    Sorry, to sound such a kill joy- but my experience is that legislation is usually required to try and stop the hideous side of human nature- but legislation rarely eradicates that hideousness which sadly lurks within the human psyche of some individuals???

  37. Great news and well done to Alison Johnstone but sadly Scottish Parliament failed to pass a resolution banning tail docking and failed to give badgers protection so every silver lining has a cloud.

  38. Will SNH support the will of Parliament or the will of the shooting / farming lobby? e.g. their continuing licensed assault on beavers

  39. According to The Ferret there will not be quick action – . Gougeon who appears to be miffed at being backed into a corner has said there will be a consultation with stakeholders before licensing is introduced so beware a fudge. The interesting reaction here – is laughable. To claim that keepering keeps numbers so high they have to be killed while no keepering has seen a population decline must be in the running for stupid comment of the year. Too many hares on your moor, then stop keepering or better yet stop removing the natural predators of the hare. and they won’t need to be controlled.

  40. Just beware the SNP balancing this decision by stalling or sabotaging the introduction of an effective licensing system for shooting estates.

  41. People who don’t understand that these people that work on these estates have more knowledge and understanding of the land we have managed it for hundreds of years the best thing you can do to help nature is to piss off and leave the management of the land to the people that no best fake news about the amount of hares killed

    1. ..and there you have it, the voice of the shooting lobby – we know best and you are all a lot of deluded townies. Take a look at the degraded, eroded, failing landscape that the shooting estates have helped create over the last 200 years…and then look at rewilding projects and nature reserves. Which would you rather have? ..stopping mass killing of mountain hares alone wont get us a healthy stable natural environment but its a start. Now lets get on with banning driven grouse shooting and the obscenity of mass pheasant and partridge releases – and get our country into good heart. Native woodlands and marshes, flood plains and meadows – that can sustain prey and predators and get rid of the put and take culture that “those who work and manage these estates” have used to wreck our natural heritage. Enough.

    2. Yeah, yeah yeah. Heard it all before. “Best thing you can do to help nature” is get a proper job, and get the f**k off our countryside; taking your poisons, traps and guns with you.

    3. ‘ we have managed it for hundreds of years’

      And how many raptor species did you drive to local extinction over those hundreds of years?

    4. “the best thing you can do to help nature is to piss off and leave the management of the land to the people that no best”

      We haven’t finished dealing with the industry and the people who kill animals for the hell of it. It is hardly surprising that they cannot spell, either.

      1. Sorry Keith, I didn’t read your second paragraph. Would have deleted my comment had I done so.

  42. Need to get the legislation through before 1st August otherwise there will be a bloodbath ! I am sure Holyrood appreciates the need for speed on this one, if not keep the pressure on to get it done asap !!

  43. Brilliant comment from Matt (now very) Cross on the Countryfile magazine website; “There is an often quoted saying in wildlife management that ‘if it pays it stays’ . Now that they are no longer able to sell days of hare shooting, there is little financial incentive for estates to manage land in a way which works for hares. A ban on shooting hares effectively shifts them from being a valuable quarry to being a pest.” I don’t remember RSPB using that saying! There you have it in a nutshell – if it doesn’t bring in money, it’s vermin and must be got rid of. And they say that they should be left to manage the countryside because they know best.

    1. Who says that Mountain Hares cannot be killed for sport? The new legislation still proposes allowance for licensed shooting of them for the preservation of grouse habitats. This is bound to be thoroughly abused.

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