In recent years barely a week has gone by without grouse shooting being in the news for one reason or another.
More often than not it’ll be negative press, usually associated with the illegal killing or suspicious disappearance of yet another bird of prey. But the unfavourable coverage this industry has attracted this last week has been phenomenal, ever since it was announced that the Westminster and Scottish Governments were providing a special exemption for grouse shooting from the new ‘rule of six’ Covid restrictions.
The bad press was included in the mainstream media as well as on social media, and as Mark Avery pointed out,
‘It has captured the public imagination and it really hasn’t done the shooting industry any favours. It’s seen as another example of the Conservative government being completely out of touch with normal people, or worse, in the pockets of a small number of landed gentry (and nouveau riche non-gentry)‘.
Here are some examples of that coverage, which has included elements of ridicule and anger:
Cartoon by Ralph Underhill (@CartoonRalph) in The Canary:
Cartoon by Peter Brookes in The Times:
This issue prompted parliamentary questions in both Westminster and Holyrood and the responses from the respective Government leaders was quite telling.
In Westminster, Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson whether grouse shooting was his ‘top priority’ (you can watch the video here). Boris Johnson avoided answering the question.
In Holyrood, Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon whether it was fair that ‘shooting parties are permitted to load up their shotguns and head to the hills’ when others are having to make personal sacrifices to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
The discussion went like this:
It’s interesting that Nicola Sturgeon focused more on semantics than anything else because in essence the exemption is still in place, whether it was considered ‘specific’ or not. But it’s also interesting that she didn’t offer any supportive comments about gamebird shooting either, but instead went on to talk about ongoing reviews about ‘which exemptions are or are not appropriate’.
Will there be a review of whether the grouse shooting exemption from Covid restrictions is appropriate? Don’t hold your breath….we’re still waiting, ten months on and counting, for the Scottish Government’s response to the Werritty Review, despite cross-party political pressure to get on with it (here) and the news that yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier has ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on yet another Scottish grouse moor (here) whilst the Scottish Government looks the other way.