Grouse shooting in the shared policy programme for the Scottish government

The draft shared policy document that forms the basis for a political alliance between the SNP and Scottish Green Party runs to a concise 51 pages.

The document has six sections , two of which relate to the climate emergency and Scotland’s natural environment. It is good to see these alongside consideration of Scotland’s place in the world, economic recovery and reform of public services, and it is difficult to imagine that a Conservative administration in England would ever give these issues such serious and prominent attention even in an alliance with Caroline Lucas(!!).

The whole document is worth reading, and if you live in Scotland you certainly should read it, to see how things may be done in Scotland in future.

After some interesting passages on land reform, forestry, aquaculture, National Parks and more, you will find yourself on the penultimate page of this pithy document and a heading of ‘species protection’.

This section starts with these words;

We will review the wider species licensing system with a view to ensuring that the law is being applied correctly and that lethal control is only licensed where the conditions required for such a licence are demonstrably being met.

I take this as being a response to Wild Justice’s legal challenges in England, Wales, and that on the cards for Northern Ireland, over these matters. It is good that the coming administration in Scotland intends to move on this, perhaps before they are forced to do so by legal action.

Further, on the same page, we read:

We agree that urgent action is needed to tackle wildlife crime and to address the environmental impacts of intensive grouse moor management.

We will support the transition to more economically and environmentally productive uses of land where appropriate and deliver the recommendations of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group as a matter of urgency, including the licensing of grouse moors.

Licensing or further regulation will cover the key areas identified in the review, including muirburn, wildlife control, the use of medicated grit and wildlife crime.

Licensing will be supported by clear penalties to encourage compliance, as well as additional effort to detect wildlife crime.

The independent taskforce to consider whether the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) should be given extra powers to investigate wildlife crime will be asked to report back by in a timeframe that will allow any changes to the Scottish SPCA powers to be delivered by legislation implementing changes to grouse and other wildlife management in the course of this parliamentary session.

There is no sign of back-sliding there and we must look forward to real progress being made on regulation of grouse shooting north of the border in complete contrast to the dead hand of DEFRA in England. Who says that politics are irrelevant in nature conservation? Nobody with their head screwed on properly!

For balance, the passage on National Parks is pretty weak and I simply don’t agree with the statement that ‘We believe that National Parks should be designated only in response to local community demand‘ as that is, to my mind, simply silly because they should be designated in response to national demand, national need and for the national benefit. The words here indicate that a new National Park will be designated by the end of this session of Parliament but also concedes that it and future National Parks may be smaller than existing ones (there are only two in the whole of Scotland) because of the artificial requirement for community support. Presumably new roads and airports and windfarms and everything else will only be built with local community support in future? I think not, and I hope not, as the essence of a national community is that you benefit overall from policies not locally. The Scottish government’s proposal’s for independence, which begin this document, won’t I assume, only be introduced if they get local support from every part of Scotland, and rightly so, because it would be silly if that were the case.


7 Replies to “Grouse shooting in the shared policy programme for the Scottish government”

  1. Whichever way one looks at this alliance, while not perfect, I think it can only be good and a significant step, for nature and wildlife overall.. It must also be a major blow to the rouges of driven grouse shooting.
    It is good to see the issues of driven grouse shooting and some other aspects actually addressed in the joint policy document. I think too as the alliance unfolds lobbying for wildlife by say the RSPB, Wild Justice and the Scottish wild life Trust and others, will receive a much more welcoming and sympathetic response than it ever would from say the “stonewall” Tories .
    Overall a very good step in the right direction.
    On the issue of independence being part Scottish I only wish them the very best of luck.,Scotland would do so much better, including rejoining the EU, without being tied to this dreadful Tory Government in Westminster.

  2. Cup half full or half empty: the Scottish Government where actions should speak louder than words but very often don’t.

    It is to be hoped that that the Scottish Government Draft programme on a greener , fairer , independent Scotland will be carried through. Without a programme, action won’t happen of course so that’s step one. Simply because the Scottish Government says something, however, doesn’t mean it will happen. Unfortunately there’s a lot of evidence to indicate fine words aren’t matched by strong or rapid or any actions here.

    Many of us living in Scotland are now very jaundiced about the lack of action on numerous fronts. Whether you agree or disagree with Scottish independence, since 2014 this Scottish Government has not progressed the principal purpose of its existence one jot. That tells us a great deal. We talk about just transition, even have a Commission on it and a Fair Work Convention but there’s nothing of substance happening on sunsetting dangerous industries. And our First Minister asks Boris Johnson to reconsider the Cambo oil field development but has nowhere spoken out calling for the development to be stopped. These issues are of huge importance for the climate, biodiversity, and habitat loss.

    Anyone who trusts Boris Johnson to do the right thing is either incredibly naïve or is being disingenuous and simply churning out sound bites knowing things won’t change. There is no compromise position on climate change but the First Minister is still swithering. Look at the Scottish Government economic advisors and the lobbyists swirling around and it will not give you confidence in a greener , fairer future and within the SNP we daily see there is little sign of ‘working together’ as large numbers of members leave.

    The words in the draft document you cite Mark indicate the opportunity for more dither and delay and are all too familiar .
    “We will review” licensing – feeble after years of abuse
    “We agree urgent action” – meaningless unless action follows.
    “ We will support” – rhetoric when what is needed is the Scottish Government taking things forward
    “ Encourage compliance” – naïve or what!

    We live in hope but on so many issues now with the Scottish Government we are increasingly despairing of seeing anything of substance being taken forward on any issue other than perhaps the misogynistic policies of both the SNP and Greens.

    1. Nice transphobic dog whistle there at the end. You don’t give a damn about Scotland, or the environment, do you?

      1. Having concerns about how someone’s agenda may negatively affect other people is not being any kind of phobic, it’s called being a genuine liberal. Neither is it jumping on a bandwagon and playing Top Trumps re minorities/disadvantaged groups – Transgenderism Trumps (boring old!!) Women’s Rights. What about ACTUAL transgender people who have the same criticisms of some of ‘their’ movements demands/requests as feminists do, are they transphobic? I happen to know there are very serious issues re transgenderism and the Scottish Greens that need open, honest and urgent attention/discussion. I believe the exact same situation is happening with the Green Party south of the border.

  3. Given the mollusc like speed with which the SNP do anything not independence or covid related I’ll not be holding my breath.

  4. Mark I’m totally with you re the ‘local demand’ aspect of having National Parks – alarm bells ringing! Just look at what happened (or rather didn’t) with the Welsh flagship Summit to Sea rewilding project. Rewilding Britain and others absolutely bent over backwards to listen to and accommodate the local mutton mafia and the thanks they got for it was that StoS was absolutely gutted (not one inch of farmland to be lost to nature!) and Rewilding Britain had to actually walk away from what little remained of the original plans because the word/concept of rewilding is effectively taboo – and it’s in their name, their raison d’etre. So the people of Wales and further afield who actually subsidise those ‘poor’ farmers will not have any more wildlife to look forward to seeing, just the same bare hills. Of course the people whose homes, businesses and farms which are under heightened flood risk due to the current condition of those hills will just have to put up with it without the proposed ecological restoration – were they informed/consulted about that? Definitely not the best for wildlife or most of us, and I’m not sure it’s that democratic either.

  5. Mark, I’m sure you’re right about the first quoted statement (on species licensing) being targeted at General Licences (and in the light of what WJ has achieved with England and Wales challenges). But it’s also potentially quite exciting for beavers. This is exactly what many of us have been campaigning for (and the TfL Judicial Review) to get licences for killing properly assessed and issued only as a real last resort where other mitigation shown not to work : “……with a view to ensuring that the law is being applied correctly and that lethal control is only licensed where the conditions required for such a licence are demonstrably being met.” (Fingers crossed – also ‘interesting’ positive statements about wider translocation and funding to support it!! Thanks Mark Ruskell and others)

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