Scottish grouse shooting industry ‘has only itself to blame for the Government’s licensing decision’

Here’s some more positive media coverage of the Scottish Government’s announcement last week that it is to introduce a licensing regime for grouse shooting in the face of ongoing wildlife crime directly associated with the ‘sport’.

Have a look at this from renowned author and journalist Jim Crumley in yesterday’s Courier, reproduced below:

Well, that didn’t take long. Last Tuesday, I was explaining why politics and nature didn’t mix well, what with the Scottish Parliament’s failure to endorse a motion to declare a nature emergency, and side-stepping the implementation of mountain hare legislation.

But then two days later, the Scottish Government announced the introduction of a new licensing scheme for driven grouse moors – not five years hence, as suggested by the Werrity Report it had commissioned, but with work to begin now.

All this from Minister for the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon, Dundee-born and an MSP for the constituency of Angus and the Mearns, a landscape with something of an iffy record in these matters. It may have taken a year since the Werrity Report was published, but the Scottish Government came to the right conclusion. Suddenly, I have to admit, for once politics and nature mixed rather well.

Unless, of course, there is nothing you like better than killing wild creatures with guns. That cacophonous outburst you may have heard more or less immediately afterwards was the sound of the usual suspects – (deep breath) – the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Scottish Countryside Alliance, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the Scottish Association for Country Sports, and Scottish Land and Estates, all voicing their collective outrage in a joint statement. All guns blazing, you might say. They called the minister’s decision “a damaging blow to fragile rural communities” and that it “interferes with legitimate business activities and threatens to engulf the sector in a blizzard of red tape”.

Let’s take these one at a time. The idea that grouse shooting is a financial godsend for rural communities is both an urban and a rural myth. If the Scottish Government were to choose to be really radical in its reform of nature protection legislation and decided to ban all grouse shooting tomorrow and give the red grouse as a species Schedule 1 protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act; if it also insisted that all grouse moorland be re-designated as nature reserves that could revert and be encouraged to return to a mixed landscape of woodland, forest, moorland and wetland; if it also replaced thousands of miles of bulldozed roads with walking and cycling paths – the following would happen.

Benefits to rural communities

Firstly, there would be a huge expansion of biodiversity. That much is perfectly predictable. Secondly, nature would respond to the changes in unpredictable ways that would astound us. Thirdly, the landscapes that were the preserve of rich people with guns (and traps and poisons and medicated grit and widespread contempt for existing legislation), would transform in terms of the possibilities they would present to rural communities. These communities would cease to be fragile simply because they would no longer be beholden to the oppressive regime of the grouse shooting industry.

Instead of being constrained by a land-use system invented by the Victorians before the concept of nature conservation was invented, and which physically abuses the land as a result, the reborn land would be wide open to new employment opportunities in green tourism, nature conservation (a singularly labour-intensive phenomenon when it’s done well), forestry, outdoor education and rural arts and crafts.

But there is a further consideration here, and it is this. As a government and as a people, we cannot make every decision we are ever faced with about the future of our land on the basis of whether or not it is good for the economy. Sometimes the debt we owe to our land is too great for that, and we must do what it takes to heal wounds that have been inflicted by our own species over centuries, and which are still being inflicted. Sometimes the land itself comes first.

Illegitimate activities

The second complaint of those who like to kill things with guns is that the minister’s decision interferes with legitimate activities. No it doesn’t. It interferes with illegitimate activities, activities which are specifically a by-product of the shooting industry. The problem for that industry is that we have got a lot better at detecting the crimes against wildlife. Activities that the estates have got away with for far too long are now being identified. The industry has only itself to blame for the government’s licensing decision.

The process began when what was then Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot for reasons best known to itself) found that a third of all tagged golden eagles in Scotland had disappeared in suspicious circumstances on or near grouse moors. The estates were careless, even as the technology improved, and this is the result.

It is a short step from where we are now to ending the national embarrassment of grouse shooting once and for all. Enlightened nature conservation will surely seize on the momentum this moment has provided to push the case for the extinction of the grouse moor and the liberation of the grouse, the extinction of all thoughtless shooting in Scotland and legal protection for all birds, all mammals, all wildlife.

The widespread presumption of letting wildlife manage wildlife would usher in a new enlightenment of the landscape.

The Scottish Government just had a very good day indeed.


31 thoughts on “Scottish grouse shooting industry ‘has only itself to blame for the Government’s licensing decision’”

  1. Absolute rubbish!! It is the BLATANT lies and hysteria that is being spewed out by the likes of you that are bringing this travesty about!!

  2. Well written but it is all a long way off I am afraid but who knows one day we may see the back of these idiots with guns . They banned fox hunting in the UK in 2005 and only just seem to have caught on to the fact that these cruel buggers never stopped but with Bloodthirsty Boris being a supporter we are lucky a change seems to be coming.

  3. What a brilliant article. I particularly like the suggestion by Jim that even IF (although it wouldn’t) the absence of DGS were to affect the economy, that this is NOT a good enough reason to continue slaughtering wildlife, scattering lead and releasing carbon.
    Thank you Jim Crumley.

  4. Great comments,echoed by the honest and decent majority
    The bloated minority will be less encouraged to treat these precious landscapes as bloodletting playgrounds.
    Kicking and screaming the deviants are being brought to heel. Amen to that.

  5. Loving it. Once again it has to be said the managerial political positioning of RSPB was where in all this ; so safely behind the curve it beggars belief; oh look there is their runner coming in now? The question of large landowning societies responsible to charitable law claiming to defend the interests of wildlife is once again very much open to question?

    1. Grow up! The RSPB have been at the forefront of bringing this about: who do you think has provided the vast amount of evidence to inform the people agitating for this scheme? You are clearly a fifth columnist: infiltrate and blacken the efforts of the primary force for change, in the hope that you will weaken the campaign. Either that or you are xxxxx xxxxx

  6. Crumley’s article highlights exactly why DGS licensing is a disaster i.e. the perpetuation of all the horrific aspects/environmental degradation (maybe with a few tweaks) that underpin DGS will now be authorised and perpetuated by a license that will actually be written by the shooting organisations – in ‘consultation’ with the SG – that Crumley mentions. Where is the good news in that?

    I disagree entirely with Crumley’s conclusion: The Scottish Government just had a very bad day indeed.

  7. Jim retired from writing for the Courier a couple of years back . I am so glad that he is back on board . A well written response to the grousers hysterical bleatings . He debunks their spurious claims point by point .

  8. I will get excited about the demise of DGS when it actually happens.

    As yet all we have is politician’s talk (a group of people well known for being at the shoddiest end of the credibility scale).
    The SG did not so much have a good day (it was still only a day without tangible action) as The Courier reported.

    It is accurate to say that it has had tens of thousands of bad days because that is how long it has permitted the crime and cruelty fester.

    The prime reason that the SG have been making encouraging noises of late is simply because they are having their tail’s twisted. Twist politician’s tails hard enough and it eventually dawns on them that impaired popularity equates to lost votes at the ballot box.

    That the SG have been making welcome noises is entirely attributable to the plethora of people and groups who have made their views known loudly, consistently and publicly. They are the people who have earned credit and applause. Not the politicians.

    It is not a time to relax pressure against all the politicians and supporters of DGS (and the many other infamies and lawlessness).

    If the SG get a hint that the heat was diminishing they will revert to their back sliding mode.

    1. A very valid observation.
      The next Holyrood elections are in May 2021.
      By then Brexit will have happened, and there will be a clearer picture of where the UK is heading as it negotiates its way in the world outside Europe.
      Scotland voted to remain in the EU, so what the future looks like outside the EU will be important to many Scottish voters.
      The SNP have probably realised they have up until now been associated by many as a “one trick pony” – with independence as their primary focus. This call for independence was greatly boosted by the leave outcome.
      If Brexit isn’t the catastrophe that many predict, and there isn’t a major downturn in the economy with the population suffering the fallout. Then the SNP have probably concluded that if they wish to keep their popularity going, then they are going to have to convince the Scottish electorate that they have a wider vision than just independence; with policies capable of managing all aspects of governance. This will include the environment and wildlife.

      The SNP will be very aware of just how much support the vote to ban the culling of mountain hares resonated with so many people in Scotland. Yet it was the Scottish Greens who championed this cause.
      The continuous illegal killing of Golden Eagles is another public relations environmental disaster for the Scottish government.

      So it is not surprising that they have made this announcement to licence grouse shooting five months away from the elections. But as admitted – not giving themselves time to implement the legislation necessary prior to the elections. A neat tactic to try and convince environmentally minded voters that if licensing is to be introduced then the SNP needs to be returned to power to finish what they started.

      Whether licensing is effective in ending raptor persecution and ensuring the Scottish moors are properly managed for conservation is another matter entirely. A matter which will depend on how much the Scottish electorate pressurise the government into not capitulating to powerful vested interests as it sets out the terms for licensing.

      So as you correctly point out – now is not the time to relax the pressure- if anything pressure should be increased to drown out the noise coming from the DGS quarter!!!

      1. John L, do you live in Scotland?
        1. The SNP are miles ahead in all recent polls. They really could walk it .
        2. Their NEC elections 2 days ago have been dominated by the news that grassroots members have uprooted a NEC cabal which didn’t give a damn about Independence. One of their old members Dot Jessiman is on record as saying that independence has not once been discussed within the NEC in the last year. Joanna Cherry has been in the papers every day challenging the SNP leadership on why it is NOT a “one trick pony”. Independence is the raison d’être for the SNP and yet Nicola Sturgeon in her speech this week still insists we should keep asking Westminster for a referendum, which he has absolutely no reason to give. The whole of the grasrroots independence movement is upset that the SNP leadership has forgotten that it’s established purpose is to gain Independence. There is hope that the new NEC will get that pony back on track.
        I know this is nothing to do with raptors but i just get sick and tired reading comments stating that the SNP only cares about Independence because it just hasn’t been the case for several years. Hopefully soon it will change.

          1. Thank you. I have to concede my knowledge of the Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and Scottish politics is gained from what I read in the English media, which probably gives a slightly biased and distorted picture focussed on the Nicola Sturgeon and her demands for another independence referendum vote.

            I agree the polls indicate that the SNP will probably return a large majority in the May election, which according to the commentators, will give added political and democratic weight to NS’s demands for another independence referendum vote. Something, which I understand could be pursued through legal means if Westminster does not capitulate.

            Anyway we divert too far from the issue of raptor persecution, and the illegal killing of birds of prey – a matter I hope we are all agreed on?

  9. Recent events indicate a potential for changes of direction within the SNP. Let’s wait a week or so, and then comment.

  10. Great piece Jim! I particularly liked your “the land comes first” comment. Man has bullied and exploited the environment, its resources – and its opponents – for too long.

  11. Someone said yesterday that the licences should apply to the Land, not the shoot holders. This I heartily agree with, as it will make things easier to rap the Shoot’s knuckles hard, if they are being dishonest and criminal, and deprive it of revenue by not allowing shooting for a fixed term.
    If DGS can be policed this way, it will hopefully bring them to heel, if not make it unviable as a pastime.

  12. Excellent. The sooner this old fashioned and damaging cruelty is stopped the better. We could transform our uplands to benefit both nature and communities and release the land from the grips of a few draconian elite

  13. So usual left wing socialist political agenda to satisfy the lefties.

    [Ed: Mike, Trotting out the same phrase each time is beginning to look like you’re spamming/trolling this site. This is the last time. Either contribute constructively or you’ll be banned.]

  14. You should talk to Landowners, shooting organisations, Gamekeepers and the guns themselves to know how it all works. This is just an opinion from an ill informed so called” nature lover”. Education is everything and so is research in the right direction.

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