The good news from Scotland

I’ve been in Scotland for a couple of days and the glens were ringing to the sound of rejoicing as the Holyrood Parliament’s Environment Committee decided to explore the option of licensing of driven grouse shooting (see detailed coverage by our friends at Raptor Persecution UK).

This is good news and all credit to the Scottish Raptor Study Groups and the RSPB for working together to get this result.

It’s not a done-deal that licensing will come in, and it’s not a done-deal that licensing will be effective, but this does show that there is, north of the border, political will to try to tackle wildlife crime. If only there were any such will a few hundred miles south in Westminster.

In Scotland, the Conservatives were against licensing and the Greens and Labour were in favour. Rather interestingly, a majority of SNP committee members were in favour of licensing with the exception of Richard Lyle MSP (Uddingston and Bellshill). For those readers unaware of the location of Uddingston or Bellshill they lie either side of the M74 near the point where you can glimpse Hamilton racecourse on the right as you head south.  The most interesting things about Mr Lyle that I can find on the internet are that he claimed for a bag of chips on expenses and that he supported the idea of teaching creationism in schools.  Mr Lyle doesn’t appear to be uniformly popular amongst his SNP fellow members.

Game-shooting interests issued a joint statement on the decision, also covered by Raptor Persecution Scotland, which is merely a litany of bleating. The GWCT in Scotland’s name is absent from the list of signatories – perhaps they were too embarrassed to put their name to it (though that seems unlikely).

There’s a long way to go but a think about licensing is definitely a small step in the right direction. as I wrote in British Birds this year, ‘Progress on the issue may be faster in Scotland than in England. A petition to license gamebird shooting, set up by the Scottish Raptor Study Groups (but with a lot of behind-the-scenes support from the RSPB), is progressing through the Scottish system and let us hope that it results in legislative change. If licensing proved to be effective, then it might open that door in England too; but if it proved ineffective, then it would leave an outright ban as the obvious route for legislators in England and Scotland alike. Either way, it would be a step forward.’.

Let’s raise a large glass to the progress being made in Scotland.  Slàinte!

Photo: Chris huh, via Wikimedia Commons







25 years is a long time in….


25 years is a long time in…well it’s a long time, full stop.

Birdwatch magazine is 25 years old and this is its 300th issue.  Happy Birthday!

In this issue there are articles on the development of optics technology and digital photography (by Mike Alibone and Steve Young) and a piece by me on the changing face of birds and nature conservation.  David Callahan looks at how avian taxonomy has changed -I found this very useful and interesting.

Did you see the Rupell’s warbler of 1992 – that was 25 years ago too.

And Mark Cocker takes a look at a long-dead ornithological fraudster.

Happy Birthday to Birdwatch and I’m already looking forward to the 301st issue.




If only it were that easy…

The RSPB video of a man collecting Hen Harrier feathers, some apparently still attached to the bird, has now been viewed more than 15,000 times.

If you get to it via the RSPB website and are all fired up about wildlife crime then the RSPB offers a suggestion for how you can help.




Election comment 6 – reports

There was a bit of a fuss last week when the government, it was revealed, stopped the publication of NHS budget data – expected to be shockingly bad news – because Whitehall is in ‘electoral purdah‘.

Now, as I recall, the purdah rules are really there to stop government putting out lots of good news during an election campaign and keeping the bad news until later – but it isn’t supposed to be a way of hiding the truth.

It’s up to individual government departments to interpret the rules, apparently, and so Defra released some poor news on farmland birds – maybe because they knew that no-one would care. Or maybe because they knew they could rely on the Daily Fail to find some pro-government news  anyway – but see the Independent. And maybe because the people who would care most, wildlife charities like RSPB and BTO have themselves to be even more careful about what they say in election campaigns  so as not to appear party political. So it would be difficult for the RSPB, for example, to say that the government wasn’t doing a very good job on nature conservation at this particular time (though the RSPB rarely says anything remotely so true and interesting about the government).



Heading to the Highlands for Hen Harrier Day 2017

I’m heading for the Highlands on 6 August this year for a Hen Harrier Day in Scotland.

1pm Boat of Garten Community Hall.

Will I see you there?