Embittered speech by Alex Hogg, Chair of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) held its AGM online last Friday (4th March 2021).

The majority of the two and a half hours was taken up with a political hustings – more on that event later.

To kick off proceedings, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg delivered an opening speech, read deadpan from his laptop. It’s an interesting insight in to what, exactly, it is that the SGA is intending to protest about later this month, as so far it hasn’t been clear to many of us, including the Scottish Government (see here).

It turns out, judging from Alex’s embittered speech, that it’ll be a protest against progress and modernisation. From the restrictions imposed by drink driving limits, to no longer being allowed to slaughter mountain hares in their thousands with zero accountability, the resentment about being dragged in to the 21st century is clear. Personally I don’t think the SGA can legitimately argue that it doesn’t get a fair hearing – it gets just as much opportunity to be heard as everyone else and some of its members and supporters are anything but the so-called ‘quiet people’ described in the speech (e.g. see here and here). Sorry, Alex, it ‘ain’t the 1950s anymore, the world’s moved on massively and so must the SGA if it’s to survive.

Here is the transcript:

“Welcome everybody to our 2021 SGA AGM in our bothy. It’s fantastic to see everyone, albeit through the lens of a video camera.

Can I take a moment to thank the girls in the office, Carol and Sue, and the Committee for all the hard work and diligence which has gone on in this difficult Covid year.

On behalf of our protected wildlife, can I say a huge thanks to our keepers who carried on working throughout Covid saving countless numbers of endangered waders and other keystone species. As well as trying to make the most of an interrupted and difficult season. Even as we speak low ground keepers are still feeding out game and all the other declining wee birds. Whether they manage to get any shooting or not.

Members are also helping to control foxes and crows during the lambing time. This is a huge benefit for the farmers and crofters as well as ground-nesting birds. Many crops would never have gotten away if they’d not gained the protection by the keepers and shooters, keeping crows and pigeons at bay. Public land managers and RSPB on other hand were largely on furlough. Orkney being a case in point with stoat traps lying unattended for months. What an embarrassment given the millions of public cash doled out. Our work during lockdown was carried out with no public money. People were out, seven days a week, getting their hands dirty for Scotland.

The keepers’ skills when it comes to fire fighting are recognised as being up there with the best. The fire service has recognised these important facts and we hope to work with them on things like training days in the future. Again, all of this will be offered at no cost to the public purse.

We have managed more than a million deer in the last decade with reference to best practice and almost all going back in to the food chain. Again, at no cost to the public purse. Sustainable natural protein, low food miles, respect for management. Do we have to down tools and stop providing these services for free before people actually sit up and actually realise what they are getting and acknowledge the great work you, our members, do.

How many ghillies will run mink traps and keep the river banks free of invasive species? Or plant trees just for beavers just to chew them down. It shouldn’t have to be the case that you have to take something away before people realise why they get from gamekeepers, ghillies and deer managers but sadly decision makers in Edinburgh would rather listen to campaigners and then get out in the countryside and see the work first hand.

When the SGA invited MSPs out to see a local foot pack in operation to control foxes, only one MSP turned up willing to see how things actually work. Then a foxhunting bill was rushed through by Scottish Government. No wonder people want to take action. I will come on to how you can do that later.

Where is the old fashioned idea that you make a decision after seeing the situation for yourself, first hand? What about mountain hares? There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that mountain hares will be extinct in the not-too-distant future. Protectionism will actually kill them. Their habitat will get wiped out for the ever-increasing tree planting targets, they will die of disease on our moors cos their numbers can’t be thinned out to preserve a healthy population.

The new law is a disaster and translocations from grouse moors, SGA’s idea, is probably the only chance for them now. The politicians who made the decision are about to find out the bitter and inconvenient truth about how few there actually are away from grouse moors. They didn’t listen but their decision will come back to haunt them.

Government interference generally in rural life has not helped sustain community. The drink driving limits. It’s great in the city, trains, buses and taxis everywhere. Try finding a bus or taxi in the rural areas where most of us live and work. This policy has seriously affected social cohesion in the countryside, along with rural pubs having to close.

Access without responsibility. How the hell were we ever actually going to work in the countryside. People and dogs popping up all over the place. I’m very sure that the police in this day and age wouldn’t allow this to happen near their firing range yet we’re expected to carry out our work with high velocity rifles, it is an accident waiting to happen.

When Holyrood first opened, I was a great supporter. This was a chance to influence decisions at a local level. It was a fantastic voice for the people in rural Scotland, but as has happened with the police force, everything, all the power has become centralised. Remember getting your firearms certificates from the police locally? The Scottish Government has removed power from the local rural communities faster than snow melting from a dyke. Holyrood is not too different from Westminster now in that it operates from the centre in Edinburgh.

We must continue to do what we do for the countryside. To manage best practice and to deliver economic and biodiversity benefits. Even if we have to do it despite the capital law makers putting barriers in the way. Perhaps with the economy shaken people may begin to wake up and realise which people are getting their hands dirty for Scotland and those who will barely get out of bed without a tick on a public grant application form.

I was reminded recently that there are some out there in the world who do appreciate our work and it was heart-warming to hear”.

[Ed: Alex spent the next 7 minutes slowly reading out a letter from a health professional called Ewan (or Euan) with links to an estate in Angus, who was basically blowing smoke up the SGA’s arse, questioning what governance is in place to ensure the RSPB meets its stated objectives, and asking why so much parliamentary time was given to the issue of grouse moor licensing. It’s someone else’s opinion so it’s excluded here to save time].

Back to Alex:

“Ewan’s words and his questions are relevant and they’re similar to what I hear amongst the members and others who work in traditional rural industries today. Our quiet people are finding their voice, we must speak often and clearer than ever.

On the subject of questions for MSPs we asked members to send us some questions that we could ask election candidates in our political hustings which we recorded last week. You can now watch the event here and I hope you enjoy it.

Following that we will move on to our annual accounts so members please stick around for the next part of the 2021 AGM and thanks very much everybody for your time today”.


UPDATE 12th March 2021: Political hustings: who’s promising what to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (here)

41 thoughts on “Embittered speech by Alex Hogg, Chair of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association”

  1. When he states that shooting estates dont take public money is he forgetting the vast sums of tax payer funded subsidies these estates get propped up with?

  2. I like the bit where he says “People and dogs popping up all over the place. … we’re expected to carry out our work with high velocity rifles, it is an accident waiting to happen.” Yes, he may well be right. With the SCottish countryside being open to all, the solution is clear – put away the rifles (and traps and poisons) and stop killing or native wildlfe!

  3. So tired, so predictable, so rolling out the old XXXXXXX and distortions to justify their slaughter. Crows and foxes killing lambs: how much longer are we going to have to put up with this rubbish? Gamekeepers (and farmers / shepherds) choose not to tell the difference between the scavenging of dead and dying animals, food for foxes and crows, and healthy lambs and ewes that are not. If you don’t like having scavenged lambs start looking after your livestock properly, and stop blaming wildlife for your failings.

  4. There is a lot wrong with this commentary.

    Getting pissed and driving in the town or countryside is no different. How do you identify people who live in countryside and can have a few pints and a couple of drams before driving home – the angle of their tweed caps?

    It is so inconsiderate the population should turn up on the hills, moors and glens, rather than leaving their enjoyment to a privileged few?

    Mountain hares have been around long before gamekeepers need to managed them, and did pretty well. I guess they will do so again without their help.

    Certainly the idea that gamekeepers enhance biodiversity in relation to grouse moors and salmon rivers is the biggest load of tosh. Gamekeepers in grouse moors and salmon river environments attempt to create a monoculture maximising one species. In the case of grouse; it is breed as many grouse as possible by cultivating a large crop of heather. Removing by trapping, shooting, muirburn and in some cases less legal means; all predators and parasites plus a variety of other flora and fauna to deliver unnaturally high numbers of grouse per acre (hectares would be too modern). Other upland species like Curlew, Scottish Wild Cats, Lynx were doing pretty well before gamekeepers turned up to help.

    We are just so dammed inconsiderate that we won’t let them get on with their lives in the old way, exterminating everything that didn’t fit their masters’ desires.

    1. The comment about taking alcoholic drink is very significant. Gamekeepers have their worries the same as the rest of us. Perhaps more so given the nature of their work. They are however unable to seek psychiatric help because doing so would mean a report from their GP to firearms licensing and the removal of their guns. This would render them unemployed, unemployable and probably homeless. Under the circumstances many keepers drink more than might be considered good for them. This form of self medication is certainly not desirable but it does enable the individual to keep his firearms UNLESS of course he gets caught for driving with excess alcohol in his breath. A quick glance at some of the late night posts on social media from gamekeepers and shooters tends to bear out what those of us who deal with them regularly have found.

  5. “The drink driving limits. Try finding a bus where most of us live and work … yet we’re expected to carry out our work with high velocity rifles, it is an accident waiting to happen.”
    (tee he)

  6. Is he really indirectly arguing the case to allow country people to drink more prior to driving? That’s how it sounds. It seems that rural exceptionalism in regards to crime is central to a lot of his views.

    1. Come on George.. you must know by now that these people consider the law should not apply to themselves! Quite an interesting and, perhaps, enlightening remark to make though. If I was a police officer in Grampian, Highland or Angus I would be taking more than a passing interest at that!

    2. The drink driving comment refers to the limit in Scotland having been reduced from 80 to 50mg, or, in real terms, just under a pint. It is an issue in more rural parts, particularly for elderly and isolated people who might formerly have driven to the pub and nursed a pint for a couple of hours, just to get out and have some company. They don’t have access to public transport or taxis so if they can’t or won’t drive, for fear of losing their licence, they’ll just stay at home.

  7. Is Alex Hogg related to Donald Trump? Trump’s mammy was from Lewis so there could be a genetic connection. If his rambling, disconnected, misinforming, uninformed, pity us, nobody listens to us, nobody appreciates us although we’re the greatest ‘speech’ is anything to go by then they must be very close kin. There really needed to be a fact checker there so that when Alex did his spiel subtitles ran along the bottom pointing out beavers coppice rather than kill trees and create habitat for a vast range of species of conservation concern, gamekeepers through their efforts actually massively suppress tree growth, that the estates do in fact get public money etc, etc. Does the public spiritedness of Alex and his buddies extend to aiding and reimbursing all those people who’ve had a collision on the road with a red deer because his beloved stalking estates insist on grotesquely bloated populations of the same? Do they get the vehicle repaired for free, do they cover the funeral expenses of those that got killed as opposed to ‘only’ seriously injured? Are the people whose homes, businesses and farms that got flooded because water raced off treeless ‘sporting’ estates far faster than it should have similarly helped by SGA members? Playing the victim might not be the best strategy when the real ones cotton on.

  8. Alex Hogg? Yawn!

    Why is everyone so beastly to us? Because you are the purposeful managers of landscapes for killing! Anything beneficial is a fortuitous accident.

  9. ‘Do we have to down tools and stop providing these services….’ actually yeah, that’s a great idea. Do that.

  10. A useful thing he could have said was

    “there seems to be a fair number of “heid the baw” SGA members out there who are hell bent on raising the finger to lawmakers, the public and their fellow SGA members by continuing the trapping, poisoning, shooting, stamping and bludgeoning to death anything that gets in the way of maximising their game bird kill and they are going to do for us all, in the end!

  11. This is brilliant stuff!

    Let’s hope the ‘Hogg-roaster’ remains SGA Chairman for a very, very long time. I would go so far as saying that it’s hardly worth campaigning anymore with this bloke about. Yes, fellow mountain hare-huggers: we’ve definitely won! So let’s all go down the pub, get pissed and drive home and anyone who gets pulled over could just tell the arresting officer that the’re just misunderstood, put-upon, rural conservation types out on a jolly, so where’s the harm?

  12. “The keepers’ skills when it comes to firefighting are recognised as being up there with the best”.
    The keepers’ skills when it comes to fireLighting are recognised as being up there with the best.

    “When the SGA invited MSP’s out to see a local foot pack in operation to control foxes, only one MSP turned up …..”
    Perhaps the MSP’s feared having their image tarnished by being seen in such company.

    “Government interference generally in rural life has not helped sustain community. The drink drive limits …….”
    Oh dear, if ever there was a roaring example of shoot footing that is it. What a howler !

    “Remember getting your firearms certificates from the police locally”
    Does anyone really think that not having rigid, thorough centralised controls on firearms can possibly be an option in this day and age.

  13. “…translocations from grouse moors, SGA’s idea, is probably the only chance for them [mountain hares] now.”

    If I recall correctly, the SGA method of translocating mountain hares, involves piling up large numbers of freshly killed ones in the back of a pick up and then carting them off to dump them somewhere else. Some chance you’re offering them there Alex!

  14. What a load of bumbling nonsense ! Drink driving ? seriously, if the rest of the country has to follow those laws then damned right those in rural locations can,oops, sorry, forgot, these folks deserve special treatment huh ! Dog walkers out and about and high velocity rifles,yip,definitely an accident waiting to happen, so,stop shooting wildlife for fun and let folk walk around in safety,but,that of course means they also need to stop using traps and poisons,none of which in their minds will have harmed any animal they didn’t intend ! They may wish to remain in the Victorian era,the rest of us,we realise that our wildlife is precious and needs protection,protection from the idiots who THINK they are doing what they do for the better of wildlife and for free ! Nature took care of itself LONG before this lot jumped in and claimed to know it all ,pretty sure Nature knows best, as for free,they are GREATLY subsidised ! and at the cost of the tax payer,plus,their gun licences, do they forget it’s tax payers cash which pays the police to do the checks for them to have their licences ? I do not nor do I want to own a gun, but I and millions of us pay towards these fools owning them ? utter fools the lot of them ! Has anyone asked the fire services if they really have said what this oaf claims ? I just hope that the new protection for mountain hares and new lciensing laws are enough to make them want to pack up and go,or,will their egos prevent that ,let’s hope not !!

  15. Hogg mentions “Keystone species” – I seriously doubt that clown understands the concept at all!!

  16. I wish he had given us an update on when Qannon will be coming to his aid.
    I loved the bit when “only one MSP turned up”. This Victorian hangover is now so toxic that they are finding themselves at the wet end of the barge pole all the time. Time to join Fergus in the Dunratin Bideawy Home for the misdirected hasbeen.

  17. Many keepers know that the shooting industry is all a load bullshit. They want to carry it on because it is a good lifestyle for them and hopefully their sons. They have a healthy, simple, selfish approach to life.
    On the other hand, those keepers who in their hearts actually share Alex Hogg’s brand of self-righteous, self-pitying indignation cannot be in a healthy place at all…and they all have a cabinet or two stocked with guns! Sounds far-fetched I know, but it would not suprise me greatly if the next maniac spree-killer (think Derrick Bird) was an embittered soul from among those ranks, perhaps already struggling within ‘the perfect storm’ of wider personal troubles that we all have to deal with.

  18. I rather agree with him on the impact on rural pubs and drink driving in remote areas…..its been a blight but there are back roads normally……….Its a great shame that he can not see that many in the upland bird community recognise the need for “keepering”; vis the practice on many a reserve; if he was not quite so 18th C there are allies to be had if practice were not so blatantly 19th C ?

  19. I think the headline from this speach should be

    Head of Scottish Gamekeepers Association challenges the tightening of drink drive limits, says they interfere with the sustainability of rural life.

    This conveys the SGA’s message and attitude quite eloquently.

  20. Additionally to the drink-driving comments, can anyone explain – as I have never and will never attend a ‘shoot”- why shooting parties seem to have alcoholic beverages before, during and after a day’s shooting when they have access to shotguns?
    I have personal experience of an acquaintance being shot in the face and losing the sight of one eye when attending a pheasant shoot. Is there no law against consuming alcohol when in possession of and using a shotgun? I don’t think it’s orange juice they are drinking at shoot lunches,

  21. So – ‘they will die of disease on our moors cos their numbers can’t be thinned out to preserve a healthy population.’ applies to hares, but not to the excessive number of grouse?

  22. “all the other declining wee birds” – declining due to the farming practices of the landowners who employ you.

  23. Welcome to the 21st century George . How the times they are a changing ! You and your tribe have been living in a comfy little time capsule for too long. Propped up by taxes, and protected by MPs, the Royals, and the Police. Because of [Ed: some of] your [Ed: members’] blatant law breaking in the countryside, you now have only yourselves to blame for the current reforms.

  24. Not to mention that the pubs aren’t even open at the moment, Or are rural pubs doing so on the sly? I brew my own, wine, cider, proper beer. I have 3 very different beers to choose from at the moment, bottled and draught.

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