In a bit of a surprise move, the Scottish Government intends to issue a long-awaited formal statement on the Werritty Review of grouse moor management this Thursday (26 November 2020).
It will come in the form of a Ministerial statement during Portfolio Questions, probably around 3pm.
The timing of this is really very interesting. Could it be an indication of ‘good news’? The “decisive action” promised by Environment Cab Sec Roseanna Cunningham back in August (here) in response to the volume of letters she received from the public following the appalling news that an iconic white-tailed eagle had been found illegally poisoned with a banned toxin on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park?
If it was going to be ‘bad news’ (e.g. the Government has decided to do absolutely nothing of any significance in response to the Werritty Review except kick the can a bit further down an already very long road), I’d have expected them to put something out with little fanfare at 5pm on 23rd December when everyone’s focus will be elsewhere.
Or could this impending statement be timed to offset a potential rebellion from grassroots members at the SNP’s annual conference at the end of this month? There has been a lot of upset after a motion to ban driven grouse shooting, endorsed by 25 regional groups, was ‘watered down’ by the Government earlier this month (see here). A statement of strong intent to actually do something, now, would probably soothe some rising voices.
It’s also quite telling that a senior civil servant has been making direct contact with some of us, quite openly, to give us the heads up that this announcement will be made on Thursday. In the ten years I’ve been writing this blog I’ve never once been given ‘official’ notice of an impending Ministerial statement. It’s clear the Scottish Government wants us to be watching and I see that as a good indication of what might be coming. Otherwise, why bother telling us in advance?
To be clear, I don’t know what the Minister will say and nor does anybody else I’ve spoken to in recent days, or if they do, they’re not saying. Whichever way this goes, it’s going to be massive.
All eyes on the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. You can watch it live from the Chamber here and I’d guess that there’s a good chance an accompanying written statement will be posted on the Scottish Government website around 3pm.