Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year from all at the SGA.


The SGA would like to wish all members and supporters a very happy 2015. We look forward to another busy year, with your support and backing, of representing your interests- wherever this is required- and driving forward many of the key initiatives inaugurated in 2014 such as the new SGA Fishing Group and the Lea MacNally Deer Fund.

Following the success of the 2014 SGA Year of the Wader, we will shortly be announcing the second of our dedicated 'years' where we focus on vitally important issues affecting us all.
We will, however, be asking members once again to count their wading birds, as they did in 2014, so we can continue to build on the knowledge gleaned.

Have a great 2015, from all at the SGA.

Friday, 19 December 2014

SGA MEMBERS, COUNCILLORS AND ESTATES HELP VULNERABLE IN COMMUNITIES THIS CHRISTMAS

Pheasants and other game make delicious, lean and nutritious festive dishes.

Gamekeepers, estates, local councillors, charities and volunteers in Aberdeenshire are gearing up to supply fresh game to vulnerable people in their local community this Christmas.
Rural poverty is often poorly understood and its affects can hit hardest during the long winter months when weather may also serve to isolate people from their neighbours.
Now, thanks to groundwork from Councillor Geva Blackett of Braemar, a community team will work with the Home-Start families charity and social services to supply fresh game and fuel to those who may benefit from support over the festive season.
The idea crystallised from social media conversations between members of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association who recognised the role gameestates could potentially play in making the festive season easier.
Councillor Linda Clark of Banchory has also used her personal networks to ensure the provisions can be supplied and used most effectively. 
One estate, Tillypronie, is to supply pheasants, with Balmoral donating logs and vegetables. Scottish Gamekeepers Association member Audrey Dykes has also arranged for her shooting syndicate to offer venison.
The game will be freshly laddered and delivered to meet food safety standards.
Game recipes, with clear cooking instructions, will also be handed out, in case recipients are unaccustomed to working with game in the kitchen.
Councillor Blackett said: “It may not always be so high profile but rural poverty is an issue of concern. People may be sitting at the top of remote glens, for example, and folk may be unaware about their concerns or what is going on with them.
“Some may be finding it hard to heat their houses in winter, let alone have the means to cook and eat good quality fresh food.
“It has been great working with people in the local area to see what can be done to help, and bringing it all together.
“It would be nice to think it could maybe make a small difference to an individual or a family in the festive season.”
Councillor Linda Clark praised the community-mindedness of all who have come together to help out, from the idea to the conception stage.
“Having worked myself in the voluntary services, I know there are financially vulnerable people who will find things tougher in winter. I commend everyone involved because this is practicality in action at community level.
“We have also had people volunteering to assist with the deliveries. Whether recipients take up the offer is, of course, up to them. Hopefully though, if they do, it might mean they can spend the money they have on something else. As we know, Christmas can be an expensive time for all of us.”

Councillor Geva Blackett visiting a local Foodbank. Geva pulled the scheme together after listening to SGA members' conversations on social media.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ronald Rose Senior

All members of the SGA family are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ronald Rose, senior, of Eskdalemuir.
A hugely respected stalker, wildlife manager and author, Ronald was an SGA man to the core and was a central figure in the organisation; being handed a lifetime membership in honour of his contribution.
Ronnie passed away at home, with his family, and his funeral will take place this Thursday (18th December) at Eskdalemuir Church at 11am.
Everyone at the SGA sends thoughts, regards and strength to Ronnie's family at this time, while recalling the many memorable times spent in his company.
"Ronnie senior was a big part of the SGA, a wonderful man and an inspiration to many. He was a great help to me in my career, personally, and what he did for the SGA will always be remembered," said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

SGA REACTION TO GEORGE MUTCH CASE

Speaking following the trial and conviction of gamekeeper George Mutch, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said:
“Mr Mutch’s membership of the SGA has been in suspension for some time, until the outcome of the case was known. Now that it is, he will no longer be a member of the SGA.
This is the 5th time in 3 years the SGA has suspended memberships after individuals were proven in court to have committed a wildlife crime.
This is consistent with the SGA’s clear stance that we will not condone anyone taking the law into their own hands.”


“On the separate, theoretical, issue of the use of covert video evidence, it is clear to us that it should not be acceptable for individuals from one particular profession to be under surveillance in their place of work, without their knowledge, and to have their right to liberty and privacy from such encroachment, removed. 
If this is to be the direction of travel, it is not right for Scottish Government to deny people whose livelihoods come under pressure due to the activity of certain species or animals, recourse to a legal solution to solve that conflict. 
Currently, there are no legal or scientific means by which people can protect their investments or jobs in situations exacerbated by conflicts with species. Scottish Government has never granted anyone from the game industry a licence to protect investments, which they have the power to do, although it does grant licences routinely to other industries. This, in our view, is a 
barrier to justice and does nothing to prevent wildlife crime.
In a society supposedly enlightened when it comes to tackling this issue, we believe this is untenable and we will be seeking talks with Scottish Government so that this anomaly is finally closed, removing once and for all the rationale for people to commit wildlife crime.”




Wednesday, 10 December 2014

SGA RESPONDS TO CAIRNGORMS CAPERCAILLIE ACTION PLAN

Responding to Cairngorms Nature Project: Capercaillie in the frame for conservation.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “It must be questioned how much of a priority Capercaillie survival is, beyond sound-bites, if plans to conserve it make no mention of predator impact.
“The inability of conservationists to grasp the nettle on this is like a group of people trying to rescue their dinner while the house is on fire.
“Millions have been spent in removing deer fences and improving forest habitat, yet the decline of Capercaillie continues.
“Our understanding, from speaking to workers on the ground is that the numbers may be as low as 400.
“On 20 video monitored nests in Abernethy Forest, 65 per cent of nests were found to be predated, 57 per cent of those by pine marten.
“Given this science within the core area, and the rise in number of pine marten, it is surely common sense to proceed with a trial to translocate pine marten from a small core area to monitor the affects of, and better understand, such predation.
“If it is found pine marten have no affect on Capercaillie, then efforts can be targeted elsewhere or in tandem with what is going on, anyway.
“Recent poorly informed press reports inaccurately interpreted such a conservation approach as ‘grouse moors wanting to wipe out Pine Marten’. 
“What the report seemed ignorant of is that grouse reside in large moorland areas of the uplands while pine marten roam over large woodland areas. Similarly, this is a small, targeted scientific trial in a key Capercaillie stronghold.
“Attempts by groups opposing such a trial to blacken a legitimate conservation attempt should not be allowed to detract from the fact that avoiding a second extinction requires more than is presently being done.”

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

CAPERCAILLIE AUCTION CLOSES THIS FRIDAY

Our one-off online Auction of a rare Capercaillie by award-winning Colin Scott of Border Taxidermy Studios will close on Friday (12th December).
The auction for a Black Cock and Red Grouse, also by Colin Scott, will also close on the same day.
Late bids will be considered right up to the deadline but, if interested, you will have to be (very) quick.

All proceeds go towards SGA funds. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

NEW CHILDREN'S BOOK LAUNCHED TODAY: MEET GAMEKEEPER STAG MUNRO


SGA Chairman Alex Hogg (posing as Stag Munro) looks on as author Katrina Candy reads the new book to an interested fox, surrounded by stalker Sandy Lean and 'Biscuits' the Spaniel plus the book's illustrator, Val Barr.

A NEW childrens book was launched this morning at House of Bruar by two leading wildlife organisations which aim to educate children about the countryside and the wildlife which inhabits it.

Stag Munros Golden Encounter is written by Perthshire author Katrina Candy and is a stirring tale of wildlife survival in the Scottish Highlands.

The book has been published to celebrate the culmination of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association Year of the Wader 2014 and cleverly weaves conservation messages through an exciting tale which follows the adventures of head keeper Stag Munro and his loveable spaniel, Biscuits. The SGA Charitable Trust and charity the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust will both benefit from sales of the book which has been beautifully illustrated by artist Val Barr.

Pupils from Blair Atholl Primary School enjoyed the first reading of the book and asked SGA Chairman Alex Hogg (posing as Stag Munro) a number of questions about wildlife and countryside management.

The SGA Chairman was delighted that the story had been so well received:“Katrina and Val have done a great job. The conservation benefits of game management are often poorly understood so this is a fun and accessible way for children to learn more. The book is also a nice way for us to end the Year of the Wader 2014, our biggest ever conservation project. If there is to be a legacy from that, then what better one than for future generations to understand a little more about how responsible management by gamekeepers like Stag Munro helps declining Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover.”

GWCT Director Scotland, Adam Smith said:“Stag Munro is a fantastic character created by Katrina and is an excellent vehicle to gently explain aspects of wildlife conservation to the younger reader. As the GWCTs head of PR and education, Katrina is very dedicated to educating our future countryside stewards and we hope that many people, old and young, will love the book.”

Stag Munros Golden Encounter follows on from Katrinas first book, Captain Partridge and the Fire People. Both titles are now on sale at House of Bruar, from Amazon and also from the SGA website and office. To order a copy,  priced £6.99 (plus postage and packaging), call 01738 587 515 *Also an ideal Xmas present or stocking filler.

END.



Friday, 5 December 2014

WINNER OF 2014 SGA HONDA ATV ANNOUNCED






Following a draw in the SGA office this morning (Friday 5th December), we are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2014 SGA Honda ATV is...(cue very long and highly irritating pause normally associated with high ratings tv talent shows)... Mr James Taylor of Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.
The draw was made by staff member, Gordon Kippen, and a delighted Mr Taylor was informed of his win by telephone shortly afterwards.
The SGA would like to thank everyone who purchased a ticket for this year's ATV raffle. Without such support, the organisation could not do all it does to represent its members. We appreciate the generosity, support and continued commitment.
We would also like to pass on our very best wishes to Mr Taylor and his family and congratulate him on his win.
We trust that the ATV, kindly supplied by Honda UK and long-standing supporter, JMT Manufacturing Ltd in Forth, Lanark, will be used well over the coming months.


SGA FISHING GROUP RESPONDS TO SALMON: LICENCE TO KILL CONSULTATION

Responding to the Scottish Government’s announcement of a consultation on a kill licence and tagging system for wild salmon:

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association Fishing Group will be taking an active part in the forthcoming consultation and any subsequent national conversation on the subject.
The detail of how the scheme will operate and be policed, and the use of the best science available to decide the number of fish which can be caught, will be crucial to successful application.
However, the SGA Fishing Group, which numbers ghillies, boatmen, river workers and anglers, agrees with the principle being put forward in the consultation.

A Spokesman for the SGA Fishing Group said: “The SGA Fishing Group urged Scottish Government to introduce a tagging scheme to balance conservation with the need to maintain a viable sporting product and the jobs, economic and tourism benefits derived from that.
“When salmon stocks are low in rivers, you cannot have a situation where anglers are voluntarily practicing responsible conservation through catch- and-release while netting operations are not bound by any similar conservation restriction.
“Not only does that have a negative affect on salmon conservation when there are so many threats already facing wild fish, it also has an effect on anglers who are doing the right thing but are left with little fish to catch and all the knock-on detrimental impacts of that.
“This consultation is an opportunity to create a better balance between the various fishing interests and the need to conserve low stocks of a fish already protected under the habitats directive.
“By binding rod anglers and netsmen to the same restrictions, it could restore some badly needed equity and may provide a platform to move forward and address the many issues facing our rivers and wild fish.”

For link to Scottish Government announcement, see: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Stronger-control-on-killing-wild-salmon-12fb.aspx

Thursday, 4 December 2014

MEMBERS PLEASE RESPOND: LAND REFORM AND GUN LICENCE FEES

The SGA is urging all members, supporters and those with views on both land reform proposals and gun licence fee increases to answer two vital consultations, as individuals.
Land reform proposals contain within them, we feel, certain moves which will seriously undermine community fabric in remote areas, will lead to unemployment of the rural working and will see further control, which should remain in the hands of local people, taken into central control.
As an organisation, we do not disagree with reform per se and believe land, both urban and rural, should be managed properly as this provides a multitude of benefits for people, community and wildlife.
However, we do not believe in working folk being sacrificed as a result of an aspiration which could discourage investment and place a heavy burden on public finance.
We strongly advise that, if you have any views on this, you should make them clear to Scottish Government by answering the official consultation:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/12/9659

The SGA will be making a group presentation but the will of the 'majority' will play a significant part in deciding future direction. You may be small in number but your experience and knowledge is vital. The time to speak up is now. We all have a part to play if we value rural employment for hard working people and their families.

The UK Government is also consulting on proposed increases in gun licence fees. Again, we strongly urge you to respond. The SGA believes a rise in line with inflation, which is being proposed, is sensible and will be recommending this course of action be adopted. If it is, it will be the first rise in 13 years. Encouragingly, the shooting community played a central role in the consultation process. See the consultation here. Please note, this closes at the end of the present month (December):





Wednesday, 3 December 2014

SGA RESPONSE TO LAND REFORM CONSULTATION ANNOUNCEMENT

Responding to the announcement that the Scottish Government is to consult on land reform, 

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The Scottish Gamekeepers Association will be making a detailed submission to the consultation and will also be seeking a meeting with the First Minister due to our concerns for rural employment for working people and their families.
We feel very strongly that creating a fairer or more socially just country does not mean taking away lifeline rural employment which is a very real danger if the drive to change ownership patterns turns into discouragement of inward investment.
If present owners decide conditions in Scotland are no longer favourable, and take their investments elsewhere, the gamekeepers’ jobs go, the ghillie, the boatman, the tractor man, the forester, the various contractors, the estate staff and so on, not to mention the affect on businesses and the fabric of the community. That is not easy employment to replace in a small rural area which may not have the advantage of scale.
Of course, we believe those who manage land should do so in the public interest and we believe the well managed estates in Scotland will be able to quantify this very well.
However, greater transparency has to work both ways and we hope public bodies and large land owning charities tasked with similar public interest responsibilities are placed under the same scrutiny as private owners.”

Thursday, 27 November 2014

GAMEKEEPERS URGE GOVT: DON'T SACRIFICE RURAL WORKERS

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has given the following response to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's proposals for 'radical' land reform, warning that jobs of rural workers and their families will go if owners become 'targets'.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “It is highly important, when considering land reform that Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Government should see it as a duty to protect jobs of rural workers in fragile areas. Should it make land reform an ideological vehicle to punish landowners on sporting estates, the real affect will be to sacrifice the jobs of working people such as gamekeepers, stalkers and land and river ghillies, and their families, who will be the first people to suffer if investments are withdrawn and taken elsewhere.
“As has been shown recently with the Isle of Gigha, public money doesn’t always mean things are easy or futures necessarily sustainable. There has to be an acknowledgement that some rural business models already deliver successfully in the public interest.
“We welcome greater accountability of land ownership and trust this will also extend to charities and government agencies, who are sizeable landowners in Scotland.”

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

GAMEKEEPER GIVEN HIGH COURT APPROVAL FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW CASE

In response to a decision today by the High Court to allow a gamekeeper to challenge Natural England over a licence refusal, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, takes the following view:

“For us, this Review is important from the perspective of people having equal access to justice.
“The SGA has long stated that, in order to protect wildlife and businesses and, importantly, to reduce wildlife crime, there has to be a fully functioning licensing system whereby people know they have recourse to a legal solution if their livelihoods are being demonstrably threatened.
“As well as proportionate penalties for wildlife crime, there has to be legal tools available to resolve conflicts in the countryside, so there is no need for anyone to take the law into their own hands. This is wholly sensible and, if this was in place and working, it would help tackle the cause of wildlife crime at its root.
“The Wildlife and Countryside Act allows for such tools to be available so, if impediments are being placed in the way of people accessing legal solutions, of course the SGA would back any challenge to that.

“In a modern, enlightened society we cannot have a situation where certain people are being debarred from the legal tools that have been put in place to help, whilst others are afforded that right.”

Friday, 7 November 2014

TAIL DOCKING: FIGHTING FOR WELFARE AND COMMON SENSE


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has been at the forefront of moves in 2014 to ensure Scottish Government keeps faith with its promise to review the legislation on tail docking in respect of working dogs, should there be evidence to do so.
Government-commissioned research from Glasgow University vets, published this year, provided the most conclusive evidence available of the serious welfare implications of continuing with the current legal arrangements, with over 1 in 2 Spaniels suffering one or more tail injury in the single studied season alone.
Since then, the SGA has responded in full to the official consultation, plus a further call for views on how any potential legislative change might be made to work in Scotland.
With the shooting season now upon us, and, while we wait for the next steps, the SGA would like members, supporters or anyone who works dogs to inform Richard Lochhead MSP's office if their dogs suffer a tail injury. The purpose is to inform and to ensure policy-makers are aware that this is not a problem that will go away but deserves appropriate, common sense action.

Please email Richard Lochhead MSP with your name, address and the nature/circumstances of the injury suffered by your working dog. Date the incident and give a location and any other information you deem necessary. Photographs are also a good record, if possible.

Email address: Cabinetsecretaryforruralaffairsandtheenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Friday, 31 October 2014

NEW FUND TACKLES WORSENING TREATMENT OF SCOTLAND'S RED DEER

fund in memory of an acclaimed stalker, naturalist, photographer and author has been established to challenge worsening treatment of one of Scotland’s most iconic animals.
The family of late highlander Lea MacNally, for whom Prince Charles once stalked as mark of respect, has inaugurated a fighting fund to highlight and tackle serious problems facing native red deer.
Lea MacNally, who died in 1993 age 66, spent his life championing deer welfare as a stalker, the National Trust for Scotland’s first ranger/ecologist and as an author of 6 renowned books on highland wildlife.
He studied winter deer mortality, helped establish the first deer management group, in Wester Ross, and was a Fellow of the Edinburgh Zoological Society.
Now his family say they can no longer sit idle, as some of the threats now facing Scotland’s red deer go against everything he worked for in his lifetime.
Lea’s youngest son, Michael MacNally, 60, said: “Deer was not just an interest for my father, it was his passion. Deer welfare was his principal concern. He would be horrified at what is going on just now, particularly with out-of-season shooting. Conservation groups are battening on deer as a whole and treating them as vermin. Anything that can be done to fight this must be worthwhile.”
The family’s opening donation to the fund, run through The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, has financed a response to the Scottish Government’s deer management vision, Wild Deer: A National Approach.
The work, commissioned to renowned ecologist Dr James Fenton, challenges some major aspects of current central thinking on deermanagement, principally in relation to deer and tree regeneration.
In recent years, SNH has approved a growing number of licences to enable deer, including hinds in calf, to be culled outwith the legal seasons.
The majority of these applications are for forestry and conservation groups’ pine regeneration schemes, with red deer in some areas being heavily reduced.
Deer wandering into regeneration areas, where no fences have been erected to prevent their passage, can be culled for major parts of the year if licences are granted out of season.
This has significant implications for neighbouring jobs supported by sport stalking, but also for animal welfare. 
Lea MacNally junior, 63, said: “These out-of-season licences are being rubber-stamped far too easily without proper assessments and it is this type of thing my father would have found utterly abhorrent. Where we are, jobs are at risk, too. Estates can’t continue to employ stalkers if their traditional cull is quartered or halved in some areas because many deer are being shot out of season.”
Lea senior’s widow, Margaret, 85, is pleased the fund has been set up and hopes the powers-that-be listen to people on the ground.
“I think if something is going to be done to help deer, it will have to come from the working people. My husband had a great respect for deerand welfare in particular. He knew deer had to be culled, too, but they were careful what they took and what they left. They didn’t need to shoot deer out of season. It’s not something he would have approved of at all.”

About the late Lea MacNally:  

An avid observer of nature, photographer and letter writer, Lea was persuaded to write books by a Belgian tenant at Culachy in Fort Augustus where Lea was a full-time stalker.
His book, Highland Year (1968) inspired many people to become stalkers/gamekeepers. It was reprinted after his death in 1993.
His other books were Highland Deer Forest (1970), Wild Highlands (1972), The Year of the Red Deer (1975), The Ways of an Eagle (1977) and Torridon: Life and Wildlife in the Scottish Highlands, which was published after he died.

He loved the life and ways of the highlands. Trained originally as an engineer in Glasgow, he would cycle home on long weekends to Fort Augustus as he did not like the city.
Whilst with the National Trust for Scotland in Torridon, he established a deer park and an innovative audio visual installation to teach people about deer and highland wildlife.

He was a regular contributor to the Scots Magazine and Shooting Times, writing all his articles in long-hand.



Lea (junior), Margaret and Michael MacNally with the acclaimed book, Highland Year, written by the late Lea MacNally senior. The book inspired many to take up gamekeeping/stalking as a profession.


Glyn Satterley's picture of the late Lea MacNally.

If you would like to support the new Lea MacNally Deer Fund by donation, please contact the SGA Office on 01738 587 515. Funds will be ring-fenced to assist deer projects which require specialist skills outwith those held by the SGA Committee. This is over and above the deer work already undertaken by the SGA. The first investment from the new fund has been to commission the skills and knowledge of respected ecologist Dr James Fenton for the SGAs submission to the Scottish Government's Wild Deer: A National Approach consultation. We will be highlighting this work in the forthcoming edition of Scottish Gamekeeper.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

SGA CHRISTMAS CARDS AND GIFTS NOW AVAILABLE



                                                                SGA Christmas cards


                                                                       SGA Notelets


                                                                  2015 SGA Calendar


With Christmas approaching, SGA members and supporters, like everyone, will be thinking about cards and gifts for friends and family.

Thanks to the hard work of a busy SGA HQ, this year we can offer packs of special SGA Christmas cards, hand-crafted by none other than Committee member, Bert Burnett.
Bert has placed a fun slant on some SGA campaigns and conservation projects, with cards featuring celebrating wading birds, un-docked gun dogs and red deer up to their neck in the white stuff!
He has also carefully sketched some excellent notelets featuring gun dogs in the field, which will make excellent gifts or cards for those special written messages.
We also have a new SGA calendar for 2015 featuring some excellent images from yesteryear as well as topical modern-day shots. You may even recognise some familiar committee faces, but in the flush of childhood. The theme is ‘Gamekeeping Through The Ages’ and the calendars are already proving highly popular.

Hand-crafted SGA Christmas Cards by Bert Burnett (pack of 6): £5.00
Hand-crafted SGA notelets by Bert Burnett (pack of 8): £3.50
SGA 2015 Calendar: £8.50.


To order any of these items, contact the SGA office on 01738 587 515.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Join the new SGA Fishing Group.


As many will have heard, the SGA has formed a new SGA Fishing Group, which will operate in the same way as the grouse and deer groups currently do within the organisation.

Our new fishing group is for river workers and anglers. It has come about as a result of conversations with ghillie members, organisations and concerned individuals.

People are rightly worried about many issues and, although the SGA has always represented river ghillies, it was decided that greater representation was required in the shape of a new, dedicated group that could give a voice, often missing, to the working people on the rivers and to anglers keen to affect positive change to help preserve salmon and trout, jobs and the benefits to communities which stem from a healthy wild fisheries system.

As a process of working towards the formation of this group, the SGA Committee enlisted Duncan Ferguson last year as a new member, working alongside existing member, Colin Espie, a ghillie of nearly 40 years experience.

The group is now into Phase 2, which is seeking candidate representation from regions across Scotland, mindful that each river or geographical location is likely to have different priorities. In order to assist this process, regional meetings will be held over the coming months, in order to outline the aims and ethos, and expand the group’s membership and support.

The aim of the group is:

- to give a powerful voice to river workers and concerned anglers, in order to affect positive change and to preserve employment and the many benefits which come from healthy wild fisheries.
- to form its own policy direction, based on strong leadership and using the skills and knowledge of its members and supporters, gleaned over many years at a practical level.
- to engage effectively with policy makers and political departments, as part of an existing 5300-strong membership organisation, in order to advance its members’ interests.
- to ensure that the group’s interests are represented fairly and widely in the local and national media.

Some of the many issues already highlighted by the group are:

- the need for curbs on unrestricted netting
- the need for strong government leadership on the breaching of environmental standards by aquaculture companies in the west of Scotland
- the need for better data on wild fish populations
- the need for river workers to have greater say in major decisions potentially affecting their work, jobs and livelihoods such as the Scottish Government’s Land Reform aspirations.
- the need for increased predator control under licence and sustainable habitat improvement

If you are interested in joining the SGA Fishing Group and fighting the many issues facing your industry, you can do so now by subscribing as a member.

For £40 per year, you can join under the new ghillie/fishing category.

This not only gives you access to the group’s activities, it also gives you one of the best value country sports memberships in the UK including fishing and shooting liability insurance for individuals and syndicates (if you are also a shooter) and a host of other benefits indicated here

By subscribing, the funds will enable the group to support its work initially, whilst we will also be seeking donations, as the SGA also does in other operational areas, in order for us to be able to deliver campaign objectives.

If you want to keep in touch with the group’s activities but cannot commit time to assist, joining as a supporter member for £25 per annum will also keep you abreast of all group activities. It will also provide vital financial input towards a worthy goal.

Frequent posts on our website and social media platforms, as well as news and bulletins in our quarterly member magazine, will keep you up to date on campaigns, additions to the group and regional meeting dates as we take the group forward.

What the SGA has achieved to date and why joining the SGA will help get your voice heard:

Since its formation in 1997, the SGA

- has ensured its members are represented on all the major countryside stakeholder bodies at government and non-government level
- has lobbied Westminster, Holyrood and EU governments
- fought, through a 5000-strong march in Edinburgh and political engagement, the worst excesses of the Watson Bill, maintaining its members’ ability to flush foxes with terriers.
- campaigned for member rights to be able to use essential tools for predator control through the passage of the WANE Bill
- has informed governmental best practice guidelines on deer management, firearms, the Access Code and snaring
- delivered a 5400-strong petition to Holyrood, calling for an end to tail docking legislation, currently now under review.
- successfully fought for the retention of a system of  voluntary deer management rather than having deer numbers controlled by Holyrood.
- delivered its most successful year-long conservation campaign, the 2014 SGA Year of the Wader
- been a key stakeholder in Land Reform negotiations and in consultations on the Wild Fisheries Review
- has outlined proposals to put forward a ‘countryside MSP’ for election to the Scottish Parliament
- has inaugurated the Lea MacNally Deer Fund to fight deer-specific issues in Scotland
- has introduced the new SGA Fishing Group, to give river workers and anglers a greater voice to affect change in the fishing industry.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

All Deer Managers - Please Help Our Industry With A Questionnaire

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is supporting a vital initiative to update the 2006 PACEC Report, in relation to the deer sector.

The 2006 PACEC Report was a watershed document which helped deer managers and industry groups quantify, in detail, the number of jobs and benefits the deer sector generated.

Without it, it would have been very difficult for us to present consistent and transparent information to policy-makers.
We now seek YOUR help to update the PACEC Report, making it fit for the present day.

As we move towards the Scottish Government's further review of deer management in 2016, it is essential that the deer sector has accurate, independently-verified, information to demonstrate the financial and employment value of deer management to the Scottish rural economy.

We also seek to gather more information on deer population trends and to assess progress in relation to deer management planning, habitat monitoring, deer counting and public engagement.

The attached questionnaire is therefore of critical importance for all involved in deer management, both in the Highlands and throughout the lowlands and near urban situations.

View and Download the Questionnaire (PDF FILE or WORD DOCUMENT)

Please participate whether you are a land owner or farmer, employed or vocational deer stalker, Government Agency or Local Authority deer management employee.

Complete it as an individual regardless of whether you are involved in a deer management group and please also draw it to the attention of any friends and colleagues. It is imperative that we, as an industry, can demonstrate, in facts and figures, our economic contribution and accurately convey a wider understanding of our collective responsibilities relating to the management of the habitat and in particular the management of designated and sensitive sites across Scotland.

I very much hope that you will take the time to complete the questionnaire, which is attached. These can be filled in online and printed and sent or printed off, filled in and sent.

Yours Alex Hogg, Chairman, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

SGA FISHING GROUP RESPONSE TO WILD FISHERIES REVIEW


SGA FISHING GROUP RESPONSE TO WILD FISHERIES REVIEW RECOMMENDATIONS.

A Spokesman for the SGA Fishing Group said: “The SGA Fishing group has called for a quota system to be introduced to urgently conserve dwindling salmon stocks.
“We are pleased the report recognises the implications of unregulated netting activity when salmon stocks are low.
“Rod anglers have shown, through record voluntary uptake of catch and release policies in recent years, that they can fish sustainably and still contribute to a healthy fish stock.
“What the introduction of a science-based licence to kill fish will do is bind everyone to the same principle of sustainable management, whether using a rod or a net, something our members feel has been lacking in recent times. We hope the government support this recommendation fully.
“In terms of rod licences, we do not disagree with the concept and are fully supportive of measures which will make angling appealing to more young people. However, we have doubts over how such a system can be policed.
“Moving forward, we have real concerns that the views and knowledge of our working members on the rivers will become lost in a national body top-heavy with civil servants and scientists.
“If the national body is to remain credible and effective, it needs to take into account the knowledge and experience of people on the rivers.

“While the report touches upon the affects of aquaculture on wild fish stocks, we are disappointed it does not recommend intervention measures when operators are known to be breaching environmental standards.”



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

SAVE THOUSANDS WITH OUR MEMBER VEHICLE DISCOUNT SCHEME WITH FORD UK




As members will have seen in the most recent edition of Scottish Gamekeeper, the SGA has forged an exciting partnership with Ford UK that will see SGA members receive significant cash discounts on both work AND private vehicles.
Our exclusive arrangement with Ford UK will also see a portion of the member discount returning to the SGA to help us promote and defend the vital work of gamekeepers, stalkers, river and land ghillies, fishing group members, wildlife managers and rangers.
Ford UK has an extensive range of vehicles, from road cars to vans and transits as well as the highly acclaimed and hard working Ranger series.
To show what’s possible, we can reveal some of the cash discounts SGA members will receive if they choose Ford UK.
The Blue Ranger (double cab) Limited (pictured) carries additional savings from £2799. 
The Orange Ranger (double cab) Wildtrak (pictured) comes with additional reductions of £1721- a significant saving.
Terms and conditions apply, subject to availability, spec and colour.
Our arrangement will also cover all the latest Ford models and new releases and SGA members can also test drive before buying.
The designated Ford UK dealership for the member arrangement is Macrae and Dick, 130 Dunkeld Rd, Perth, Perth and Kinross PH1 3AA
(tel) 01738 625121.
Only paid-up members of the SGA will comply for the discounts and membership will be verified by the SGA office and Macrae and Dick Ltd.
If you would like to join the SGA or renew your membership, you can do so online here: http://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/about-us/join.html or by calling the office on 01738 587 515.

Monday, 6 October 2014

SGA FISHING GROUP RESPONDS TO CONTINUED GROWTH IN FARMED FISH

The new SGA Fishing campaign group issued the following response today (Oct 6th) to the Scottish Government announcement of further growth in fish farm output.
The SGA Fishing group is fully supportive of rural employment and benefits to local communities. However, it feels the Scottish Government is not doing enough to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts from fish farming operations.

A Spokesman for the new SGA Fishing Group said: “While the SGA is fully supportive of job creation and economic benefits in rural communities, our members have real concerns about the impact of fish farming on Scotland’s wild salmon and sea trout stocks.
“Some aquaculture operations on the west have been responsible for sea lice infestation levels three times the industry’s own safe limits, which cannot be sustainable, and the industry is highly reliant on chemicals which affect the health of wild fish.
“We feel more needs to be done by Scottish government to ensure the marine environment and wild fish are protected against the well documented negative impacts of fish farming.”

SGA RESPONSE TO GENERAL LICENCE ENABLING CLAUSE

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association issued the following response today (October 6th) to media reports highlighting further tools for SNH to tackle wildlife crime.
While the SGA is committed to tackling wildlife crime and its root causes, the organisation maintains its initial opposition to this enabling clause, which has been part of the General Licences throughout 2014. 

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “While the SGA fully supports the tackling of wildlife crime, we have always maintained that this General Licence enabling clause is ill-judged and could have serious unintended consequences.
“Individuals, if found guilty in court, can already have their General Licence removed. This new clause, however, applies to both individuals and land. 
“Therefore, a law abiding gamekeeper going about his or her job properly could lose their livelihood and family home on the basis that the estate upon which they are working is ‘suspected’ of a wildlife crime.
If one teacher in a school is suspected of illegality, do all fellow teachers lose the ability to do their jobs, in that school? No, this would not happen.

“This will be open to legal challenge as a breach of rights. Similarly, it gives those opposed to shooting, encouragement. We have already seen incidents where estates are under placed suspicion for illegally set traps when the damage has been caused by others who have sought to interfere with legal estate operations.”

Friday, 3 October 2014

NEW SGA FISHING CAMPAIGN GROUP CALLS FOR QUOTAS


A new fishing campaign arm of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is calling on Scottish government to adopt a quota system for 2015, to conserve plummeting stocks.
Catches of wild salmon and sea trout have dipped alarmingly in the last two years and river ghillies, boatmen, bailiffs and anglers are fearful for an industry worth £113 million.
Analysts expect catch records for 2014, available by the end of the year, to highlight significant problems in Scotland’s coastal waters and rivers.
Last week, The Marine Conservation Society advised that wild Scottish salmon should no longer be eaten because of its conservation status, claiming Scotland has ‘no management regime in place to prevent an increase in coastal netting.’
Now a new SGA fishing group has been established to ensure government hears the urgent concerns of river workers and anglers, with 2800 jobs sustained by the activity.
The new group feels Scottish government could help the industry and ease tension between anglers and netsmen by applying quotas through a tagging system.
A record of 92 per cent of all Spring salmon were returned to the rivers by anglers through voluntary catch-and-release initiatives in 2013, helping to preserve fragile stocks.
However, no such restrictions have been extended to, or embraced by, netsmen.
Under a tagging system, anglers and netsmen wishing to kill fish will have to apply for a tag and quotas for how many fish can be taken would be based on available science.
“Wild fish need all the help they can get and it is clear that lack of action is no longer an option, which is the main reason for this new group,” said Spey ghillie, Ian Gordon, part of the new body.
“The views of professional ghillies and river keepers have been ignored by too many for too long and we need to provide ghillies, salmon and sea trout anglers and interested parties with a strong voice to ensure the longevity of species, sport and way of life.
“One of the immediate actions Scottish government could take, in time for next season, would be to look at quotas through a tagging system.
“Both anglers, river workers and netsmen, at the end of the day, all want the same thing; more fish in our rivers.
“By applying quotas that everyone is bound by, Scottish government can ensure that conservation measures are targeted and only what is harvestable is taken.”
Poor survival at sea, seal predation and high mortality caused as a result of lice infestations from fish farms have all affected Scottish salmon and sea trout numbers.
One of the proposals being discussed by the new group is a pilot river re-stocking programme, to add resilience to the industry- a key source of rural employment.
Colin Espie, Deeside ghillie for over 40 years and part of the new SGA fishing group, said: “With the current drop in Spring catches, in particular, something needs to be done and people need to speak up now to help the situation.”

New group member, Duncan Ferguson, agreed: “Fishing is such an important part of the rural economy. We need to help tackle the problems and also to encourage the future generations who will become the guardians of our rivers.”

*PLEASE NOTE: We will have more news next week on our website about how you can get involved in the new SGA fishing group.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

SGA RESPONSE TO LEEDS UNIVERSITY MUIRBURN REPORT

In response to a new report by Leeds University stating that burning of grouse moors leads to environmental changes, the SGA has given the following response:

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: "It is important to monitor the affects of all management practice on land.
Those clamouring for curbs on grouse shooting, for example, should assess the carbon released through widespread afforestation and pine regeneration programmes on peat soil in the Scottish uplands, which have the same drying and degrading affect as described in the Leeds study, including the release of stored pollutants.
“Controlled heather burning, following the strict Muirburn Code, only takes place within very short, regulated, seasons. Following best practice, it only takes place when the fire will not burn into peat edges.
“Aside from providing benefits acknowledged by SNH and organisations such as RSPB when it comes to conservation for black grouse, for example, controlled muirburn helps alleviate more damaging environmental problems on peatland.
“Rotational strip burning acts as a fire-break against the spread of wildfires which scorch peat over large areas, releasing carbon into the atmosphere at a far more damaging rate than any controlled muirburn would. We saw this at Mar Lodge when a campfire caused the loss of 10 hectares of important blaeberry amongst Pinewoods.

“Regenerating heather, which has lost its nutritional value, through cyclical muirburn provides vital food and shelter for birds such as waders, some of which are now only stable on grouse moors, so it is important to see the study within context.”

Friday, 26 September 2014

CAN YOU HELP A RESEARCH PROJECT ON MYXOMATOSIS?

Dear members/supporters, a research project at Pennsylvania University, USA,  is collaborating with workers in Australia to investigate the evolution of the myxomatosis virus and, for comparison, also wish to have samples from the United Kingdom. 
The SGA has agreed to help this research in any way possible.
If you have infected rabbits then please contact Brian.Boag@hutton.ac.uk 
Brian may be able to collect infected rabbits but, if this is not possible, may request eye lid samples to be sent in small bottles which would be supplied by him. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

MSPs: DON'T CONFUSE CAMPAIGNS WITH JUSTICE


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called on politicians not to bring campaign charities into wildlife crime policing as a knee-jerk reaction to pressure.
Scottish government will shortly announce whether to extend the investigative powers of SSPCA in wildlife crime cases, with a public consultation on the subject closed.
The idea was mooted back in 2010 during deliberations over the WANE Bill but was dismissed by MSPs and legal advisors.
Then Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, while supportive of SSPCA’s involvement in wildlife crime enforcement, stressed further powers raised ‘significant issues of accountability’ and noted that SSPCA could not be viewed as a ‘neutral organisation’. 
However, the unexplained death of 24 raptors in Conon Bridge in March has led to campaign groups exerting pressure upon MSPs to push for new SSPCA powers.
It has also led to public criticism of Police handling of the case and assertions officers are too stretched to tackle wildlife crime adequately.
However, Scotland’s gamekeepers believe politicians should make the decision on evidence rather than events in Ross-shire.
They feel conservation groups have used the incident as a campaigning tool when little is yet known about the case.
“There is no doubt Conon Bridge was an appalling crime. All partners and stakeholders in this case hope to get to a situation where there is closure, ultimately a prosecution and appropriate sentencing,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg.
“However, we feel it has also become a campaigning tool by certain groups eager to achieve their own objectives.
“RSPB Scotland, for example, pushed to make Conon Bridge a case for licensing of grouse moors even though there was no suggestion it was ever anything to do with grouse or shooting of any kind.
“We hope, therefore, that politicians manage to separate Conon Bridge from what the possible implications are of having two campaigning charities, SSPCA and RSPB, neither of whom have the same accountability as Police, involved in the delivery of justice. The two issues should not be conflated.
“There is certainly no argument to suggest having SSPCA inspectors, with the same evidence to work with as the Police, would have made any difference in Ross-shire.
“If more resources are to be put towards wildlife crime, they should go to Police Scotland or another body accountable to the state which has no campaigning objectives.”
SSPCA has a stated campaigning aspiration of trying to have legal traps and snares banned; essential tools in the control of pests and predators for many who work legitimately in the countryside.
However, new powers proposed would enable their inspectors to investigate, amongst other things, cases involving traps and snares.
Recently, the SGA highlighted the case of a Perthshire gamekeeper and his family who were put through 18 months of ‘hell’ after a case involving an un-set crow trap brought by the SSPCA.
The case was thrown out by the Procurator Fiscal on the eve of trial due to lack of evidence.
“Extending SSPCA powers in these areas is opening up the possibility of legal breaches because the SSPCA inspectors can not be seen to be impartial when dealing with these cases. Indeed, there is already concern about the use of the powers they currently hold.

“Since 2010, when this issue about powers was first debated, there has been a significant reduction in confirmed raptor poisoning cases, from 28 to 6 in 2013. While more still requires to be done, we believe it could be a backwards step to risk what has been achieved as a reaction to events in Ross-shire.”

Thursday, 4 September 2014

OBITUARY: EWAN CAMERON ORMISTON

The SGA would like to pass on its respects to the family and friends of Ewan Cameron Ormiston, a keen supporter of the SGA and a highly popular and knowledgable figure in stalking circles across the whole of the highlands.

Please see the obituary below, kindly provided by Ruaridh Ormiston.

Ewan Cameron Ormiston – 07th April 1929 to 29th August 2014 (85 years).

Born at Banchor Farmhouse, Laggan Road, Newtonmore. Died at Raigmore Hospital Inverness.
Cameron Ormiston sadly passed away peacefully in Raigmore Hospital Inverness on Friday the 29th August 2014 after a short illness. A fit and active man all of his life he was still shifting ponies and going about his daily rounds only a few weeks before he died.
Born in Banchor Farmhouse Newtonmore to Ewan and Elcie on the 7th April 1929, he claimed his prowess at shinty came about because his mother walked him through the goalposts on the The Eilan shinty pitch the night before he was born. After some time in Newtonmore school he then went on to be educated at Gordonstoun, something few people would have ever realised.
A sportsman all of his life and one of the greatest all rounders in the Highlands, he not only played Shinty, even captaining the team, but was well known on the Highland Games circuit for competing in both the Light and Heavy events as well as running Hill Races and Wrestling. A unique diversity of talent seldom seen today. During his National Service he was a PT Instructor in the army and later on a very keen Clay Pigeon shot like his father, travelling all over Scotland to compete and meet good friends.
The family were always associated with The Balavil Arms Hotel in Newtonmore where they helped start the first ski school in Scotland in 1948 and of course they pioneered Pony Trekking Holidays in 1952, two years before anybody else, in association with the Scottish Council for Physical Recreation. Something that grew in to a huge industry through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
His dad Ewan was also very well known for his Butchers and Game Dealing business that fed so many during WW2 because most game, especially venison, was not rationed. It is believed they had control of around 700,000 acres of deer forest at this time with teams of stalkers and ghillies, including Cameron himself, heading out from Newtonmore with lorry loads of deer ponies and people to remote estates from Cannich to Islay to harvest this venison, before returning it to Newtonmore to be butchered and wrapped in hessian and put on the train to the cities and eventually Germany too after the war.
His real passion however was his Highland Ponies, closely followed by Highland Cattle – traditions that his sons have all kept going today, having inherited his great eye for stock and an ability to work with all livestock. In his early years, along with his father, they had upwards of 300 ponies used for the deer and leased out to Highland estates too, these then became the basis of the pony trekking workforce. There is hardly a farm in Badenoch that Cameron and his father have not farmed at some point, but he is probably best known for his years at Strathmashie Estate at Laggan during the 1970’s and 1980’s, where is own sons learned their trade among the ponies and cattle and also the deer too.
His proudest moment in the horse world was when he won Reserve Champion overall of the show in the Fredricks Trophy at the Horse of the Year Show in London in 1966 with the stallion Glentromie Trooper. This was closely followed by another of his stallions Torrin of Croila winning the overall ridden mountain and moorland at Olympia in 2008 for the Stanford family.
In latter years he lived at a new house “Mo Dhacaidh” (Gaelic for “My Home”), that he built at Croila Stables in the village, never retiring but still doing his daily rounds of all his animals even at 85 years old. He still attended all local shinty matches supporting his beloved Newtonmore and every week made time to go round and visit all his old friends (and some younger ones) just like his father had done before him. A true Highland Gentleman who meant so much to so many and who will not be forgotten for a long time to come.


Funeral will be on Friday 12th September in Newtonmore at 1pm at St Brides Church.