Alongside The National‘s exclusive a couple of days ago about how 25 SNP branches are putting forward a motion to conference calling for an end to driven grouse shooting (see here), the paper also published a comment piece from Max Wiszniewski, campaign manager at the Revive coalition for grouse moor reform.
It’s reproduced here:
IF grouse shooting had never existed, and the shooting industry wanted to start grouse moors in Scotland today, would the Government be in … or would it be out? Revive: the coalition for grouse moor reform has simulated this scenario in its new video Government’s Den in which two professional lobbyists ask Government ministers for 12-18% of Scotland’s land for the controversial bloodsport – Dragon’s Den style.
You can ask yourself the same question. If you were being asked to give over huge swathes of Scotland for grouse moor management, would you be in? Would you let hundreds of thousands of foxes, mountain hares, stoats, weasels, crows, and other animals be snared, trapped and killed every year so more grouse could be shot by a few people for sport? Would you let the land be scarred by unregulated bulldozed hill tracks to make life easier for shooters or burnt to make the environment more suitable for grouse – damaging our vital peatlands and biodiversity?
Would you say yes to mass outdoor medication of grouse so that their numbers become unnaturally high only to be shot by tons of poisonous lead ammunition which is spread across the countryside?
Twenty-five branches of the Scottish National Party and elected representatives have submitted a motion asking conference to say no to the circle of destruction that surrounds driven grouse moors and yes for a transition to better alternatives.
This motion shows the grassroots membership of the party leading the charge, to change the face of Scotland for the better. The enthusiasm for tackling Scotland’s grouse moors from within the party is immensely welcome but not such a huge surprise.
Revive meetings at previous conferences have been filled beyond capacity. Moreover, without the push by the SNP grassroots in 2015, working with the Our Land campaign, the 2016 Land Reform (Scotland) Act as it stands might never have happened.
The case for radically reforming grouse moors and land reform in Scotland is very interlinked. Grouse moors, it can be said, are a metaphor for land reform in Scotland – very few people using land very badly for very little benefit to society. In fact, for all the land grouse moors use up, they only contribute 0.02% to our overall economy.
To put this another way, if Scotland’s economy is the size of Ben Nevis, grouse shooting’s contribution would be the size of a bottle of Irn-Bru.
However, we also know that a few very powerful people with vested financial interests do not want things to change. These interests do not even think you should need a licence to manage a grouse moors, arguing against any kind of change or regulation that other industries would find reasonable.
Changes in the law may not alone be enough, however. Grouse moors are already commonly associated with the suspicious disappearances of countless birds of prey. These crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute, so many believe a total ban on driven grouse shooting, or at least a transition to better land uses is the only way forward.
Wildlife tourism alone, a burgeoning sector, is already worth around five times the value of grouse shooting to the economy and forestry is about 30 times the economic value.
In order for Scotland to become “Green New Deal” compliant, which is the Scottish Government’s ambition, then it’s very clear driven grouse shooting and the circle of destruction and environmental damage that surrounds it is not sustainable going forward. If the Government is serious about fighting the climate crisis, it will do all it can to transform our moors despite the protestations of large, landed interests.
Revive fully supports the efforts of these branches and elected representatives to update their party policy on grouse moors which, if passed by the party’s conference, would put the SNP in line with the opinion of most Scots.
New polling shows more than 70% of Scottish people, rural and urban alike, are against grouse shooting for sport compared to just 12% who support it, so the SNP should certainly not be afraid to tackle it.
Driven grouse moors do exist in Scotland and they are one of the most destructive, cruel and least productive uses of our land. A modern progressive Scotland should declare itself out as soon as possible and along with land reform, make way for better land uses that benefit our people, our wildlife and the environment.
Max Wiszniewski is campaign manager for Revive, a coalition of like-minded organisations working for grouse moor reform in Scotland, made up of Common Weal, Friends of the Earth Scotland, the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, OneKind and Raptor Persecution UK