Werritty review – one year on & still waiting for Scottish Government response

Today marks one year since the Werritty Review on grouse moor management was submitted to the Scottish Government. And still no formal response.

The review itself took two and a half years to complete after Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced its commission in 2017, on the back of the publication of another Government-commissioned review which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution on many driven grouse moors. We’ve since seen more evidence pointing towards the inevitable fate of those birds.

And that 2017 review had been commissioned on the back of an RSPB report in 2016 that over a period of five years since 2011, eight satellite-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths in Highland Scotland.

The longer the Scottish Government delays taking evidence-based action against those criminals in the grouse shooting industry, the more eagles (and other raptors) are going to be illegally killed. There is absolutely no question that these crimes are continuing, despite enormous scrutiny and public condemnation, as demonstrated during lockdown when the poisoned corpse of a white-tailed sea eagle was found, face down, on a grouse moor in the middle of the Cairngorms National Park. Nobody has been charged for this horrendous crime. In fact there has never been a successful prosecution for killing an eagle in Scotland.

[A police officer examines the corpse of the poisoned white-tailed eagle, found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park]

For years the Scottish Government has promised further action if current measures proved to be ineffective. Time and time again, after each crime has been publicised, a succession of Environment Ministers has proclaimed, ‘We will not tolerate illegal raptor persecution’ and ‘We will not hesitate to act‘ (see here for a long list of examples).

And guess what? They’re still tolerating it and they’re still hesitating to act. Why is that?

23 thoughts on “Werritty review – one year on & still waiting for Scottish Government response”

  1. Yes, a very good question. In my mind the Scottish Government are in bed with the shooting fraternity at a high level, hence the indecision on making a positive statement for the protection of our raptor populations.

  2. It has always been my personal view that Werrity was compromised and should never have been given such a sensitive and important brief. He was, however, given a way out by how the Committee and the process was structured in as much as it was always predictable that the vote would be evenly split given the partisanship present. The knowledge that the current status would remain should any vote on recommendations be tied was known to any party who took an interest in these areas. The reason for this manner of voting by the Chairman was that this was “Traditional.” Thus those defending the Driven Grouse Lobby would have known that if Werrity stuck with that “Tradition” then the worst that could happen was a continuation of the Status Quo.
    If the above is taken as given then this was simply a fishing expedition for the Hunting Lobby with little really at stake for them in terms other than publicity. The outrage at the outcome seems to have resulted in the temporary application of the “kick it into the long grass” strategy, and this has duly been accomplished over the past 12 months. This was, I believe, in the hope that these issues would lose their momentum and, once they had lost the energy, Holyrood would then deliver some wishy washy compromise which would, once more, enter a form of stalemate. This is reminiscent of other wild life issues they have dealt with in our country in the recent past.
    It has not escaped my notice of the increased presence of individuals associated with African Big Game and Trophy Hunting in some influential environmental chats. They are heavily promoting the “shooting is good for the environment” approach guided by their experience in justifying their activities to African environmentalists. I beleive that they hope to swing both the numbers and the mood of the chats towards the Status Quo .i.e. put momentum into changing the baseline by falsely claiming that their operations in Africa are good for anyone but themselves.

    1. It would greatly help George if you noted in your articles the collapse of 30 billion of tourist funding to Africa. There is a serious challenge to stop the entire African Wildlife Resource from becoming “Bushmeat” right now I do not think I am exagerating at all ; to bring up the issue of Trophy Hunting without any context of the scale of the crisis in Africa is frankly utterly perverse. It is quite possible to envisage the loss of the Mara and Serengeti to ranches as the Mid West was lost………poaching is up, its very tense right now and people are struggling on a level that I suspect you have no comprehension or experience of…..there is a need for a Green New Deal for Africa; its urgent; relief centred on the communities that sustain and can be enlisted to protect the wildlife resource. Reign in your self righteousness occasionally and focus on the big picture.

      1. Peter,
        You make a valid point.
        For many families in Africa there is the daily issue of getting enough income to be able to buy food for that day.
        Thanks to Covid19 and travel restrictions, the revenue from tourism has virtually dried up pushing many into poverty, which has created a market for bushmeat.
        This bushmeat trade has led to an increase in poaching.
        This is now being reported by various international media organisations, and NGO’s.
        Whilst I do not agree with Trophy hunting ( and would like to see it come to an end) , for some African communities this was a source of income, and a source of food. At least there was some control on which animals were killed. Without this income and food source- how else do these communities feed themselves? THE GDP of those countries doesn’t sustain a welfare state, and the loss of tourism revenue will be felt for the poorest.
        The income from Trophy hunting is also used by some African nations to pay for the protection and conservation of critically endangered species like Rhino, Elephant and Cheetah.
        There is such a global imbalance in wealth, food and other necessities – something most people in the developed world do not see unless they visit those places.
        However, grouse shooting should not be likened to Trophy Hunting – and what takes place in Africa should be no justification as to what takes place on grouse moors – managing the environment and wildlife in Africa is a completely different ballgame to managing our moorlands and natural environment in the UK.
        The common factor does appear to be that some grouse shooters are also big game shooters- wealthy people who seem incapable of realising that conservation and hunting are complete opposites. They seem unable to realise that it is possible to finance conservation work without sourcing the revenue from killing wildlife.
        There is the need for a green new deal for Africa- but that will only happen when the developed countries stop exploiting Africa- something which has been going on since the time of empire, and something that is so entrenched in the way global capitalism works that it will probably never happen.

        But we seem to have strayed far from the topic of this blog which is all about the Scottish government failing to implement the findings of Werrity.
        But I suspect that this is about how those with vested interests (probably going back to the time of empire and beyond) are so entrenched within the workings of government, that just like global capitalism any change will only be for their benefit- and as George points out it will be some compromise that fundamentally changes nothing!!

    2. If wildlife does not sustain a revenue it will be eaten and people turn to farming; 50% of the population is under the age of 20; without a viable alternative I for one will understand. Tsavo has been on fire for that reason. I have had direct begging appeals and help where I can on my income; the tourism dependent communities are most affected ; get a grip.

      1. (Heroically in my View) is not well placed but a salute to Africa for how well it has managed its wildlife responsibilities this past 50 years with so few resources and so many pressures and to the many Rangers ie 100’s that have given their lives and communities that followed this promise are now being betrayed..

    3. And while you at it as you have been so utterly distracted by this Western moral emphasis in a culture that has no significant large mammals or predators to manage and has destroyed its own long ago and lectures Africa on the management of its wild inheritance (Heroically in my view) how much of the resource is managed by Trophy Hunting rangeland…..0.1% ?

      1. My comment re Africa was tagged on at the end Peter, and it was not an “article”, just an opinion. However, like in the UK, what is happening behind the scenes is not reported factually.. much like the Moorland Associations telling the world through PR management companies how many hen harriers and eagles are present on Driven Grouse Moor Estates.
        I sat in on a web conference last year between a lady making a documentary about Trophy and Big game Hunting and those running the industry. I was horrified by what I heard. It was, and still is, a western colony kept in place by financial mechanisms designed to leave it penniless, in debt and unable to develop as much of the revenue is transferred back to the West. The only finance that remains in the country is that required to sustain it.
        “Trade deals” are classic examples of threats and the resulting extortions as the children of the corrupt are sent to be educated in the public schools of England. This reminds me of howe the Highlands were tamed … one of the stipulations being that the sons of the old Highland Chiefs be educated in Prestbyterian England. Comparing grouse shooting to big game shooting was NOT justifying it, as was insinuated, but simply illustrating how unfair and bizarre it is to the natives of the country who are not a part of the small minority who gain and are dependant on it. Money from this vile industry is used to protect rhino, elephant and cheetah .. so that when the numbers increase they can begin the killing once more to increase their income. Botswana is an example of this in practise.
        Africa is in the state you describe because of Western Policies and nothing else. Like the Uplands in our own country they are in the state they are because of Modern Day Robber Barons. The vast majority of people in these particular nations are impoverished and those who are not are being used in a similar fashion to the gamekeepers in our country .. singing the praises of these exploiters for fear of losing their jobs and their ability to feed their families.
        Lack of food is a political problem as, at present, enough exists to feed everyone. However food is weaponised and shortages occur as they are often seen as vital in both encouraging and discouraging behaviours and exoduses/influxes of people. it has always been used in that fashion by the unscrupulous.
        Neo-liberal and colonial practises landed us in this mess and the same systems will not provide an answer to it. Like here, the change must begin now, or all is lost. Time is something that is in very short supply.
        i might add, to finish, thta only the relatively rich can visit these countries as a rule, and, that being so, it is only the views of the non-domiciled affluent that are being heard.

  3. I’m beginning to wonder if we are going about all this the wrong way; I personally am getting confused between the Scottish and the English sections. I’m OLD! Does Werrity cover both countries? How about Wales, is there grouse shooting there?
    If not and we manage to get it stopped either in England or Scotland, we need to ensure it doesn’t transfer and raise it’s ugly head in Wales, where there is a very healthy population of Red Kites. (Long may they fly!)
    Perhaps we should attempt to ‘Divide and Conquer’, Take one country at a time rather than try to cover the whole shebang with one overarching campaign.

    1. Hi Jill,

      It’s a devolved issue, so Werritty is only applicable in Scotland, although we can be sure attention will be being paid in the other countries, and vice versa. We’re already seeing this with the Wild Justice legal challenges to General Licences and gamebird releases.

      There is driven grouse shooting in Wales – use the search box and look for Ruabon Moor.

      1. Thank you for clarifying for me, and for saying there is DGS in Wales; I was recently in contact with Neil Hamilton, and he categorically denied there was any when I enquired.
        I know there is quite a lot of Black Grouse in Wales, and am (hopefully) thankful that they are not a targeted species.

    2. Hi Jill

      Werrity only applies in Scotland. Don’t worry – we’re all getting old waiting for Scot Gov to finally respond to the report!

    3. I am apt to misread things, but I think the Welsh Government provides some funding for the “moorland management” (i.e. gamekeeping) for grouse in north wales. At least thats the impression I get from looking at Powys Moorland Partnership website. Could be wrong, happy to be corrected.

  4. So completely scunnered also that the grouse moor reform resolution (which had the support of 25 branches including my own) has also been dropped from the SNP conference agenda coming up.

    1. Yes, and look what they’ve done now. Aligned with the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament to scupper a motion calling for the declaration of a Nature Emergency.

  5. Yes why? It leaves us wondering if there is a link between land owners and people in power….why else and what else are we supposed to think?
    I don’t want another raptor (or any other animal) to die under the driven grouse shooting practice but if governments don’t act it is inevitable that there will be more carnage.

  6. Don’t forget that elections are being held next May and it would be a good idea to start organising to put up candidates standing for environmental protection, plus animal welfare etc. That would at least expose the failures of the SNP.

  7. Inaction on the Werritty report is a recent example of the SG opting for a stance of wilful idleness. That appears to be the preferred policy to be used for wildlife crime and associated land abuse.

    Examples of the SG’s performance abound throughout this blog.

    I do not see how it is possible to suspect that the SG has blundered into a situation where blatant and repeated crime is not confronted at root cause. What has unfolded is the endless roll out of a wanton odious policy aimed at continuing the current situation.

    Have these people in Holyrood never heard of integrity.

  8. The SNP have never had any intentions of upsetting the status quo. Werritty was nothing more than a ploy to play tor time. Nothing meaningful will come of it. Just another waste of tax payers money.

  9. THATS NOT A REAL SKELLINGTON! Noboddee turned intoo won on the tephelone moor fake news from yuu aminal rites nuttars

  10. Its becoming abundantly clear that nature conservation is never discussed at a high level within the SNP..its so obviously just passed over to one of a long list of environment minister to deal with, on their own and with no backup.If that happens to be Fergus Ewing [now called rural economy and tourism] the gamekeeper’s pal, then you can forget any real action against the wildlife killers and their bosses. This subject is still “the joke at the end of the news” as far as government is concerned….and as a reminder and reinforcement of that..I can remember Labour environment ministers being just as bad, in Scotland. When the chips are down, they all kowtow to the landowning and shooting lobby. Ban Driven Grouse Shooting and give the SSPCA enforcement powers – anything else is just fiddling while the moors burn…

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