2019 will be another bad year for driven grouse shooting. Here are some of the reasons:
- the long, long, long-awaited analysis of the NE Hen Harrier tagging data should be published soon. Getting these data published clearly hasn’t been as straightforward as the authors had hoped as back in mid-August they were hoping that the paper would be published in ‘a couple of months’ and now we are nearly a further 3 months on from those two months. It’s all a bit embarrassing for NE. But rumour has it that the paper shows what everyone expects it to show – the importance of illegal persecution on grouse moors in the population dynamics of Hen Harriers. Whenever the analysis is finally published it should silence the flannel from grouse shooting interests over the scale of wildlife crime on UK grouse moors. How will politicians react to what has been obvious for years once it is written large in the scientific literature? There is only so long that one can maintain a position of wilful ignorance. We’ll see.
- The Werritty Review; this is due in spring – maybe only three months away. There are plenty of rumours about what will come out of it – and they range from ‘nothing’ to ‘everything’ so we’ll have to wait and see. Can Roseanna Cunningham get something meaningful through the Scottish Government or will Fergus Ewing win the battle of wills? It would be both shocking and remarkable if nothing at all happens, given the massive evidence of widespread wildlife crime in Scotland and the strong statements on this subject from Roseanna Cunningham. What will Werritty say, and what will the Scottish government do?
- The RSPB in Scotland is showing some signs of determination to get the message across to the Scottish government on wildlife crime. Let’s hope that the excellent report of last month wasn’t just a flash in the pan. I suspect that RSPB advocacy staff in Scotland realise that they have a fight on their hands, that this is the best opportunity for change that they will see for quite a while and also that their constituency expect them to raise their game. It seems unlikely that the flaccid RSPB position south of the border will change very quickly – but you never know!
- the new Chair of the currently utterly irrelevant National Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, Superintendent Nick Lyall, is showing some signs of being a new broom, but the Augean stables of raptor pesecution need one hell of a lot of cleaning. We wish Superintendent Lyall well.
- there might be a general election this year – but there might not be! The Betfair odds make a general election in 2019 a greater chance than that in any other year between here and 2022 but we’ll see. A Labour government would not be good news for driven grouse shooting and I think we could well get an other 100,000+ signature petition for a ban of driven grouse shooting under those conditions.
- a no-deal Brexit would be great news for the grouse-shooting industry – because environmental protection would immediately start to be chipped away. A no-deal Brexit is a distinct possibility ( although the odds with Ladbrokes are 3/1) but I would bet against it at the moment (although not much of my own money!). The longer we stay in the EU the more the mess of the uplands will remain a political embarrassment for the Westminster government.
Since the criminals in the grouse shooting industry aren’t going to mend their ways on their own (Why would they? They never have and they never will) then the only routes for progress are that politicians force change through stronger enforcement of current laws and stronger laws. For that to happen we need the right politicians in place and the right pressure on them to act. The pressure comes from the public (that’s you!) and civil society (eg wildlife conservation organisations).
The factors listed above can be thought of as windows on a one-armed bandit. They’ll all be spinning this year. It would be surprising if they all came up in the way we would wish – but some surely will and that will help shorten the existence of the pointless and damaging sport of shooting Red Grouse for fun. And we get to spin the wheels each year. I think it is certain that we will hit the jackpot soon.