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Scot Govt proposed licensing scheme simply creates more red tape for rural communities

This afternoon, the Scottish Government released their response to the Werrity Review into Grouse Moor Management in Scotland.

As many people anticipated, the Scottish Government is intending to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse moors. As Mairi Gougeon was at pains to reinforce, the proposed licensing will make no difference to the many well run grouse moors across Scotland. This sounds simple. But of course it won’t be.

The problem with licensing grouse moors is that it simply creates more and more red tape, problems and expense for estate workers – who are already stretched trying to do their jobs while having to deal with abuse – as well as for the government departments who will have to issue the licences and deal with the accompanying paperwork. As we have seen in England, many of these departments are already overworked and underfunded.

The governments – both the UK government in London and the devolved ones elsewhere – are particularly keen on both licensing and the so-called ‘green recovery’. But the increase in the number of licences that exist requires a bigger workforce. Will this be provided? If not, it could be a disaster, as has been demonstrated in the uplands this spring.

With few estates having been issued with licences to cull corvids or gulls – and those that did receive them being issued with them very late in the year – many keepers had to stand by and watch nests of young ground-nesting birds be decimated by hungry predators.

[Curlew eggs at risk of predation]

The second question revolves around what the criteria for licensing will be, how the government plan to implement that – and how they plan to involve the communities involved in the creation of these criteria.

The people who live and work in the moorlands are, of course, best placed to determine these criteria – and if it goes wrong and it becomes impossible for estates to jump through the government’s hoops, the Scottish rural economy could be devastated. Don’t forget that the majority of the places and businesses that benefit from the economic boost that shooting brings are extremely remote, and have few other forms of income. The concept that Alison Johnstone SNP advocates of eco-tourism generating at least as much revenue for these rural communities is frankly laughable, as we saw this summer in the Peak District with the arrival of the bearded vulture.

As Alex Hogg, Chairman of the SGA said, “I am angry beyond expression at the way a community of working people is being treated today in this country and the strain they and their families are constantly having to face as they cope with never-ending scrutiny and inquiry driven by elite charities with big influence over politicians and axes to grind against a people who produce so much for Scotland yet ask little back.

If we are not to lose an important element of Scottish rural life, gamekeepers require some substantive recognition from Parliament for the many benefits they deliver and not the endless battering they perpetually experience.”


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