SNP leadership faces grassroots rebellion at conference over watered down grouse shooting motion

The scandal that is driven grouse shooting continues to feature prominently in the Scottish media as pressure continues to mount on the Scottish Government to respond to the Werritty Review on grouse moor licensing, a report that was submitted to the Government almost a year to the day (18 November 2019).

Last week The National ran an article on the 25 regional SNP branches who had submitted a motion for debate at the national conference calling for an end to driven grouse shooting in Scotland (see here).

The motion was proposed by councillor Julie Bell of Kirriemuir and Dean (Angus) and seconded by Ruth Maguire MSP. The resulting personal abuse hurled at them on social media from those with a vested interest in maintaining grouse shooting won’t have gone unnoticed by Julie, Ruth or their party colleagues and probably beyond.

Meanwhile, the motion appears to have been watered down considerably, despite being ‘the most backed resolution this year’, and as a result, Ruth Maguire MSP has lodged an amendment. The National ran an article on this yesterday, as follows:

THE SNP leadership faces a grassroots rebellion at this year’s conference over plans to end grouse shooting in Scotland.

The prospect of a vote on the subject has upset the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association, who warn that the party risk alienating the countryside.

An initial motion to conference calling for an end to “unsustainable practices on grouse moors including the snaring, trapping and killing of hundreds of thousands of animals, muirburn and mass outdoor medication” was popular with members, being the most backed resolution put forward.

However, it was missing from the conference agenda. Instead there was another resolution which called for Scottish Government to continue its work “on regulating sporting estates in order to protect our biodiversity, native species and peatlands.”

MSP Ruth Maguire said this didn’t go far enough. Backed by her Holyrood colleague Christine Graham and a number of branches, she’s now submitted an amendment which urges the party to back the licensing of all shooting estates, and “move away from driven grouse shooting towards more sustainable and diverse land uses”.

Maguire said: “The original motion submitted to conference appears to be the most backed resolution this year showing the strength of support within the party for tackling Scotland’s grouse moors.

“For the huge swathes of Scotland they use up, driven grouse moors are one of the most destructive land uses in Scotland for our wildlife and environment, offering little economic benefit compared to other land uses.

“As recent polling shows almost three quarters of Scots are against grouse shooting and the SNP membership want the chance to put the party on the forefront of public opinion. This amendment, like the original motion, seeks to end the unsustainable practices of grouse shooting and in line with land reform, make our land work better for our people, our wildlife and the environment.”

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The SNP, down the years, has enjoyed strong levels of support within working gamekeepers, their families and extended groups in rural constituencies.

“These are ordinary, hard-working individuals and families who vote for people and parties they feel will represent the interests of their communities.

“Recent policy decisions have left them alienated. Land working people, just now, are angry.

“They feel the Scottish Government is no longer listening or supporting them, despite the many benefits their work brings to the Scottish countryside and economy.”


Funny, the so-called ‘strong levels of support’ for the SNP that I’ve seen from the SGA’s members and supporters over the last few years has consisted almost entirely of vile personal misogynistic abuse.

Here’s a short example targeting Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham in March 2018 after she spoke to campaigners outside Holyrood about the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors (thanks to the blog reader who’s been compiling this material):

Roseanna hasn’t been the only target – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has received ‘special attention’ as has Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon. And it’s not just female politicians in the SNP who have been at the receiving end of this disgraceful behaviour – politicians in the Scottish Greens and Labour have also been targeted, as have campaigners, bloggers, researchers, journalists, scientists, police officers, lawyers, raptor workers, tv presenters, bird ringers, satellite taggers, funders, charity workers, in fact anyone who dares even hint that driven grouse shooting is a Victorian throwback with huge environmental costs has been a victim of this abusive and targeted harassment.

There’ll be more on this subject shortly.

13 thoughts on “SNP leadership faces grassroots rebellion at conference over watered down grouse shooting motion”

  1. Good on Julie Bell , a well respected councillor , but a pity the resolution is watered down . It perhaps speaks volumes that the local MSPs Graeme Dey and Mairi Gougeon ( Hen Harrier species champion ) are tight lipped about this . Both of them are privy to the distasteful emails that Ms Bell is subjected to from Angus gamekeepers and landowners . Wouldn,t it be interesting if you could post some of the remarks send t to her by email .

  2. Why do people, MSP’s etc have to appease the country thugs? The mentality demonstrated in the troll messages demonstrates how worthless they are.

    Why should a small minority of gamekeepers, rule the roost, is it just that can shout loudest and the idiot estate owners encourage them?


  3. I doubt most gamekeepers have a political bone in their body, however nationalism is a different kettle of fish. It’s the one thing everyone can be in by dint of birth. As landowners believe they have enough influence in the higher echelons of the SNP and any advisery bodies such as Nature Scotland, GWCT then they allowed this group of erm, erm individuals their head for a while. It’s not their politics that gamekeepers have abandoned ; they simply threw their rattle out of the pram when faced with a sudden introduction to the truth.
    It has always been my opinion that any meaningful change in these areas will be fuelled, not by the powerful who adopt meaningful positions in public but abandon them during the “long grass” process, but by the grass roots. Well done Julie bell and i hope her example encourages others to force the Office Holders and Strategiists in her party to pass laws supported by a large portion of the population rather than caving in to threats or supposed rewards that might be on offer.
    The watering down of the propsal illuminated to us all that the wind was still coming from the same direction with non action dressed as meaninful interventions as theyhoped that we would buy similar promises made about the beavers and the mountain hares.
    These are no longer acceptable and the outlawing of driven grouse shooting, not licensing, should be the goal. Lets support the bedrock of the country ; those who were prepared to put their heads above the parapet while knowing fine well the abuse they would receive.

    1. Well said George. It seems incredible to me that some folk, rightly, describe in public all the terrible things about DGS and then they call for licencing something that is so terrible. Eh? This stance is so wrong-headed it staggers me. The ‘stepping stone’ argument that DGS licencing will somehow lead to a DGS ban is utter nonsense, as we all know that licencing enforcement will be woeful to non-existent. Just look at recent events at Leadhills and NS’s rubber-stamping of out-of-season muirburn for an example. We even have people who admit they do not want DGS licencing but call for it anyway due to their defeatist attitude that a DGS ban is somehow unobtainable. I say to them if you ask for licencing that is what you will get and nothing more, and you will gift to the bird killers exactly what they want: longevity and legitimacy.

      If the SNP does licence DGS it will be totally ‘legitimised’ and therefore with us for decades to come. The SNP and future Scottish Governments will see the issue as ‘sorted’ and any chance of a ban in this blog readers’ lifetimes will be over. The only happy people will be the bird killers who will continue to denude Scotland’s uplands protected by a licence.

  4. Well said , George . A total ban is the way forward . Anything else is a pointless compromise . Sadly those in power are spineless to the powerful shooting lobby . Which is a shame but you have to wonder about their motives . Perhaps they are too cosy to them financially or otherwise .

    1. Joined at the hip. Where one goes the other is sure to follow.
      Scotland has almost become a single party state which is a perilous position.

  5. Well said George. My guess the SNP Leadership are worried either about votes or finance. Mostly like is votes if they are going to have a stab at Indyref 2.

    1. Eric, the SNP are probably concerned about finance, having lost members. But they aren’t talking about member numbers.

  6. Andy Richardson is such a coward that he blocks anyone on twitter who pulls him up over his vile abuse and ignorance. He’s happy dishing it out, but cowers whenever he’s confronted with facts and scientific evidence. He’s exactly the ‘role model’ that industry deserves and anyone looking on from the outside will quickly realise that he’s in very good company,

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