Actually, do laugh.
Alex Hogg, Chair of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, was interviewed last week and he said some pretty baffling things about gamekeeping and grouse moor management, including the fantastic statement, “This is a birdwatchers’ paradise“.
Yep, he really did.
Alex was talking to a presenter on ITV’s regional news programme Representing Border on 2nd December 2020. The programme featured a piece on the Scottish Government’s recent decision to introduce a licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting (here) and it’s well worth five minutes of your time.
The programme is available here (starts at 15.49 mins, ends 22.01).
There was more baffling commentary from Alex, including this unfathomable statement on the effect a licensing scheme would have on gamekeeping:
“We’ve done it for 200 years, we’ve kept a balance in the wildlife, and if we, it’s like a three-legged stool, if they take the leg away, we’re gone“.
Eh? I’ve no idea what ‘the leg’ is that he thinks is being ‘taken away’ and why he thinks a licensing scheme means gamekeepers will be ‘gone’. They’ll be gone if they breach the conditions of the licence (assuming it’s effectively enforced) but if they’re not doing anything illegal why would a licence cause them difficulties?
Unfortunately the presenter didn’t follow up on this, or if he did it was edited out. It’s also a shame he didn’t pick up on Alex’s statement about 200 years worth of ‘balancing the wildlife’ and ask him questions about why several species of raptors became extirpated from the UK about 100 years ago? And although some have made a brilliant comeback (with some help), why some populations are still struggling, notably in areas managed for driven grouse shooting? He could also have asked this question of Liz Smith MSP (Scottish Conservatives) who said she didn’t think that “fairly draconian” licensing was needed now!
Other interviewees were much more lucid, including Ian Thomson (RSPB Investigations, Scotland), Claudia Beamish MSP (Scottish Labour) and Mairi Gougeon (Environment Minister), who gave a robust argument for bringing in a licensing scheme now instead of sitting around for another five years doing nothing, including this statement:
“There are still persistent problems out there with the illegal persecution of our birds of prey“.
It’s good to see this statement from a Scottish Minister. Can you imagine a similar comment from a Minister at Westminster?