New Environment Minister is Mairi McAllan

Following yesterday’s big news that Mairi Gougeon has been appointed the new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & Islands (here), to replace the Scottish Gamekeepers’ ‘friend in Government‘, Fergus Ewing, now there’s even more promising news.

Nicola Sturgeon has reshuffled her junior ministerial team as well and has appointed Mairi McAllan as the new Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform.

Ben Macpherson, who was the previous Environment Minister for just a few months has been moved across to social security and local government.

Mairi’s appointment came as some surprise but when you look a bit more closely it perhaps shouldn’t have been.

Mairi McAllan was a first-time SNP MSP candidate in Clydesdale before almost immediately landing the Ministerial role. The speed of that appointment makes more sense when you realise what Mairi did before she stood for election – she was a special advisor to Nicola Sturgeon on climate change, environment, land reform and renewable energy policy.

And she knows her stuff. Some of you might have heard her at Revive’s political hustings in April (see here – video still available to watch and I recommend you do). She’s another intelligent and articulate politician and she appears to be up to speed on raptor persecution – a quote from her opening speech at the Revive hustings on the Government’s response to the Werritty Review:

We will not wait five years to implement [Werritty’s recommendation to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse shooting] because quite frankly we can’t afford to wait five years, that could make it eight years and we think there is evidence now that self-regulation is not working“.

Mairi’s background as a solicitor will stand her in good stead for being a law-maker and her experience as a human rights activist with a legal organisation she co-founded, ‘aiming to use the law as a tool in the fight for social justice’ is a principle that will be recognised and supported by those who also support Wild Justice.

Dare I say it…there is an almost tangible sense of optimism in the air about this new Rural Affairs/Environment team, and, let’s be honest, although a lot of that is also about the unexpected but nevertheless very welcome departure from influence of Fergus Ewing, the calibre of the latest Cab Sec and Minister is pretty bloody encouraging.

I think this is only going in one direction now.

25 thoughts on “New Environment Minister is Mairi McAllan”

  1. doesn’t matter how many wildlife officers ther are ,you can send the culprits to court all day,they will walk away, take estate subsidies away,if an Eagle is found on an estate ,fine that estate,but they will still walk,that sport is victoriana ban it,subsidise the estates to change over to wildlife,country walks,mountain biking routes,clay shooting area around the said estate office’s, they all said in video clip,we need funding for more wildlife officers, that to me just says 5,10 year down the road,no change,makes my blood boil,

    1. You are right about removing the subsidies. Although it is all up in the air a bit after Brexit , and still open to abuse, the subsidies have moved from production based (how many sheep on the moor) to environmental based.
      Initially the estates were better at screwing the system but hopefully the regulations are getting tighter with cross compliance and greening. This when combined with public awareness of the problems of muirburn and basically the ridiculousness of grown men (and women) blasting away at a wee bird whose only defence is flight surely has to lead to change.
      There is a department inspector for crofts and farms up the west coast whose nickname is “the terminator” because he is such a stickler for the rules. Move a few like him to DGS areas and we will see a few changes.
      As an eternal optimist I can see changes coming

  2. This is very encouraging. It’s well past time our SNP government got to grips with these areas and makes some progress on serious reform of land ownership and use.

  3. The other side of the coin;

    – 28 years old
    – no experience in the subjects of her brief
    – hardly a heavyweight or fountain of knowledge

    When you appoint somebody with such little experience to the brief she’ll run, couple with youth, it could be argued that this brief has little relevance to those higher up who appointed her, allowing her to cut her teeth on an lessor subject.

    It may also show that those figure heads at the top of a department, are irrelevant as it’s really the civil service running the show.

    1. There is now an opportunity for the SNP to show global leadership on the climate, initiate the Precautionary Principle and lay out the position beyond Zero Carbon; the moral case that the Arctic is summer ice free in 2040 and that we have to have C02 falling back towards 350ppm before 2050; stake out it out at Glasgow and lay their claim for independence with global leadership ; the Pacific Islands and indigenous peoples will stand with them.

    2. Hi Ghlaney, she is the polar opposite to your “heavyweights” brand such as the Rifkinds & Soames of the world. So that to me is the ideal starting point.

      1. Is she perhaps too close to the queen to be her own woman, or is she capable of resorting to a real sair- head rammy type . who could stand against the worst Buccleuch and his ilk would throw at her ,without fail.

      2. Quite.
        Reminiscent of a statement before the election…
        “Two political heavyweights going head to head”
        Alex Salmond taken on by George Galloway as described by Galloway. I couldn’t decide my reaction, hilarity or nausea.
        Young people with passion and commitment are just what is needed say I a 60+ man.

        1. She’s a politician, not an activist!! Do you think she aspired to achieve that position? Maybe a place on the cabinet, yes, but I bet she wasn’t at all bothered what brief she was given.
          She goes to a hustings, researches what the hosts agenda are/is, says the things her target audience at the time wants to hear and all of a sudden, she’s the perfect fit for the position.
          Wouldn’t it be great to have politicians overseeing briefs they have experience in.
          Sadly that is a pipe dream as it’s all about career politicians now like the person who is the topic of this thread.

    3. Good to see ageism and sexism is alive and well! Heaven forfend that someone should be judged by their actions rather than the prejudices of a few old gits. Clearly the old farts who have been in charge to date have been less than effective, so why do you want more of the same?

      1. Well said. I’m an old fart and think it’s great to see someone put in charge who isn’t jaded and believes they know more than someone else just because they’ve been drawing breath for a bit longer. Fresh perspectives are vital. In fact some of the new generation of conservationists/naturalists coming along are pretty incredible and it can’t be too soon that they take over the reins. If anyone wants proof of this listen to the podcast featuring Harvey Tweats, co-founder of Celtic Reptiles and Amphibians. At seventeen he makes Mairi McAllan look like an oldster.

  4. “There is now an opportunity for the SNP to show global leadership on the climate”

    SNP – global leadership ? The world’s nations will fall down on their knees at such a thought. 😄

    The SNP’s leadership in dealing with the wildlife criminals is an example of their limitations.

  5. The wildlife criminality on the shooting estates is encouraged – implicitly at least – by the owners through their feudal social ways and enacted by their agents who can act with impunity in this social and isolated environment. This will not change until those owners and their agents – especially the Gamekeepers – have been tackled head-on and their bullying ways challenged. This will take courage, forcefulness and intelligence and will start with the DGS licensing agreement where Mairi will be tested in all these qualities.

    I really hope it is – as it looks – a new departure for the SNP in terms of wildlife and environmental protection and I wish Mairi well in playing her part in changing things for the better.

  6. As much as I hope these new appointments to SNP cabinet will result in meaningful progress to end raptor persecution in Scotland, my head tells me otherwise.
    Ministers are reliant on the information they are presented with by their civil service and government advisors.
    Whilst a minister may have political aspirations to pursue a certain direction in their policies, this can be thwarted by the advice they receive, or the information which is withheld.
    The wealthy elite who own the land are not simply going to roll over and let new political appointments make radical changes which would be detrimental to their interests.
    I really hope I am wrong, but I suspect whilst these new appointments to the SNP cabinet may have the desire to bring about changes to better protect Scottish wildlife and in particular raptors, the system of government may prevent this from actually happening.
    My belief is that the raptor persecution associated with grouse moors will only really end when those who own the moors decide to use their moors for something other than shooting, and conservation is carried out for the benefit of all species and not just game birds.
    This is very unlikely to happen, as each new generation of landowner will have been brought up in the ways of their forefathers, with a belief that shooting and hunting is their god given right, and is the only way to manage the land they own. There is much in the expression – “like father- like son”!!!
    The evidence to support this comes from the fact that it is often only when a foreign investor, without that tradition of shooting, buys an estate do we actually see real conservation take place.
    Whilst I wish these new appointments well, I remain unconvinced that they will make any real difference to the endless list of raptor persecution crimes which are being committed.

    1. I’d like to see the RSPB, SNT, Trees for Life and the Woodland Trust and any other interested parties combine to buy and turn around a small shooting estate, mobilising their membership in support and maximising publicity.

  7. Appointing a 28 year old aspiring professional politician with no hinterland and no known previous interest in environmental issues suggests either the pool of talent to chose from was fairly shallow or the post is not regarded as being of much importance.

    1. Pretty sure the article mentions her being an advisor on climate change, environment, land reform and renewable energy, as well as having a significant understanding of raptor persecution?

      1. She was an aspiring politician who started on the greasy pole as a SPAD. The issues she was to advise on would have been decided by her boss and would not be an indication of any pre existing interest in or knowledge of the subject. Maybe it’s just me but have no faith in any politician whose life’s ambition has been to be a politician.

  8. John L wrote:-
    “The wealthy elite who own the land are not simply going to roll over and let new political appointments make radical changes which would be detrimental to their interests.”

    That is an accurate expectation that soundly reflects what has been happening for a long time. Governments have failed to change that, and the party currently entombed in Holyrood have underperformed. Given that Holyrood has fed the country reasons to believe that there would be changes which would address the endless deplorable record on wildlife crime and land abuse it is especially enfuriating that the situation has not improved. What Holyrood has fed us is a diet of all talk and no action.

    Unless Holyrood acquires some moral fibre, ditches it’s yellowback and creates powers to force the landowners to change (or replace them with landowners who are suitable) then nothing will improve. In fact, the situation will deteriorate as the criminals capitalise on the opportunities that will result from more weak government.
    I suspect that there is a group of landowners who have the whip hand and Holyrood does as it is told. Either that or they are simply like peas in a pod.

    It will be interesting to see what is contained within the next raft of promises from Holyrood.

    (John L finished with:-
    “Whilst I wish these new appointments well, I remain unconvinced that they will make any real difference to the endless list of raptor persecution crimes which are being committed.”
    I concur.)

  9. I remember that it was always easier to take a straight forward principled approach when i was younger. thats what we need so I welcome the appointment.

    Meanwhile the SGA are strangely silent……probably trying to work out how they are going back track on their pre election vitriol and at the same time go on a charm offensive. Sorry boys…you burned you boats and your life raft has a large hole……..

  10. Having seen failed attempts by all parties in government, both UK and devolved, to deal with raptor persecution I think it unfair to home in on SNPs record at the moment. Its better than most..Im not damning with faint praise here, I definitely see these two appointments as very hopeful. Getting rid of Ewing is the clearest sign yet that SNP leadership is listening to the growing voices of Ban DGS and this blog and its supporters. This is not the time to moan about the past, politicians also respond to lets praise Nicola and her team for making these choices.

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