Tuesday, 11 August 2020

GOLDEN EAGLE TOM: THE NEED FOR NEUTRAL BROKERS

Last month, members of Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group made a plea for satellite tags fitted to raptors to be monitored independently and not by campaigners. 

Their reasoning was that campaigners fitting the tag and paying a company for the data can interpret that data and use it for their own media objectives, without law enforcers actually being able to identify any evidence (not even a feather or a thread of cloth in this world of major DNA advancement) of criminality at an alleged crime scene. 


In certain cases, there is actually no concrete evidence to suggest that the bird is even dead at the time media coverage begins to land on timelines.

The publicity objective, principally, is to call for a ban on driven grouse shooting or to attempt to influence Scottish Government to introduce a licensing system.


Some members of the Tayside group plus local shepherds, community members and families had been out, combing the hills looking for golden eagle, Tom, whose last signal had come from a grouse moor in the area. Landowners had issued an appeal for information.

They were not happy at, again, the prospect of being smeared and were hoping beyond hope that something could be found to lay some of the allegations to rest. Theirs is now a world where there is no protection from such allegations.


Yesterday, Golden eagle Tom was the subject of a campaign video- just ahead of the grouse shooting season on 12th August- involving Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and Ian Thomson, the trio involved in a similar video about Fred the Eagle not all that long ago.


In that incident, the same trio signposted Fred the Eagle’s demise to a grouse moor in the Pentland Hills; something which the Police never really bought into, although all the proper investigations were carried out.


To this day, despite generating millions of pounds of media coverage, eliciting an interview from a Government Minister and stoking ire amongst everyone from councillors to Parliamentarians, criminality has not been established in the case of Fred the Eagle. There is no evidence in existence to suggest it was killed by anyone connected to a grouse moor in the Pentland Hills which can only ever manage to shoot a few infrequent family days for the pot because of the huge amount of public access from the city of Edinburgh. Fred never spent any length of time on that moor.


It didn’t help the course of an investigation that satellite tag information was handed to Police in an unorthodox manner, and in two stages, because those who fitted the tag (the people making the video and media claims) had yet to interpret all the data before giving it all over to those who actually enforce the law in Scotland. It might be presumed, in a just country, that the Police would be better making those interpretations. If that cannot be done, then a mechanism ought to be introduced where the Police are assisted in doing just that, which is what the SGA would like.


It did not help, either, that Chris Packham was busy making a second publicity video- a further interpretation- before Police were actually handed all the tag evidence. It was like running a major court trial where there was no need for any judge or defence. The verdict had ostensibly been delivered.


Whatever happened to Fred the Eagle, the conflicts between campaigns, publicity and justice were more than amply highlighted, in a very public way. It was this embarrassment which sparked The SGA to petition Parliament on the need for satellite tags to be monitored by neutral bodies who did not have such an inordinate amount of ‘skin in the game’. 


Ruth Tingay has been involved for many years as the central author of a previously anonymous website whose rationale is to end driven grouse shooting. Chris Packham has petitioned the Westminster Parliament calling for exactly the same thing. 

There can be no doubting the ‘skin in the game’ with this pair. Ian Thomson- an RSPB investigator- has seen his impartiality placed under recent spotlight. Last week, a teasing tweet on his private account literally set a Twitter hare running; the implication being that grouse gamekeepers were possibly shooting mountain hares. Twitter’s hounds of hell descended and, in a few hours, there were tales of hare ‘slaughter’ being shared on pages such as Scottish Raptor Study Group. Mr Thomson seemed to want to explain his tweet away as an innocent ‘question’ after it was all exposed as lies. He wasn’t fooling anyone. See a blog on this, here: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2020/08/blog-comedy-of-mountain-hare-twitter.html


What is perhaps more concerning is that tax payers’ money goes into paying for RSPB’s investigative services and also into the coffers of Scottish Raptor Study Group monitors who provide data on raptors. Their political agendas are barely hidden yet both are now firmly part of the establishment which influences how wildfire crime is handled today at a national level in Scotland.


In Mr Packham’s video about Tom, he did state that he did not know precisely what happened to Tom. He didn’t need to. The signposts and insinuations were all there. In terms of public perception, it was job done. 


What this case does, in our view, is highlight again why satellite tags fitted to raptors ought to be monitored independently. Whether Scottish Government chooses to licence grouse shooting or not, who knows. It is not the central question. 


However, individuals and communities deserve to be protected from smear and allegation. Two sides of a story ought to be heard in a country which prides itself on justice. If due process is followed and evidence suggests someone is guilty, be that on their own head. The playing field would be level and people could have no complaint. No one is seeking special dispensation from the law. The SGA, for one, would wholeheartedly accept the conclusions of a fair and honest process.


However, this process- as it stands- is neither fair or honest and, if judgements are to be handed down through the media by celebrities and those with ample skin in the game, it simply denies the rights of the other side to defend themselves properly, other than a few paragraphs at the tail end of a story which has already damned them. 


We agree with Mr Packham, no one can know what happened to Tom, but there are a number of things to consider. 


As RSPB themselves stated, when Hen Harrier Brian’s last signal was sent from one of their own nature reserves in the Cairngorms National Park in 2016, tags only offer an ‘indication of where a bird has been’. They cannot establish causality. Similarly, tags will be programmed to give readings at specific intervals, for example hourly or more. Birds, if they have come to an end, could travel some distance from the last received signal, making that last signal less meaningful. 


This is a crucial point which deserves independent analysis. Birds will- and do- spend time around moors because there is a food supply. Perhaps it explains why even some Police officials will state that final searches are often more procedural- although thorough- rather than being conducted with any real hope of finding clues. Why are there never clues at the site of the last signal, not even a solitary feather that can be tested in a lab? Is the last signal site actually that meaningful at all, beyond ‘indication’?


The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Reintroduction project is an interesting case. A female eagle allegedly killed two other eagles in a territorial battle. All birds were tagged but only the body of one of the two dead birds was found despite land being walked with trained dogs. That 2nd body is still missing. Campaigners say that birds which have died without human intervention are found and birds illegally killed are not, because criminals hide both body and tag.


This case turns that on its head. No bird, no tag, nothing found: yet no one has called out ‘persecution!’


If that tag data had been held by campaigners, would they have alleged persecution?


Satellite tags can stop with no warning if they are subjected to trauma. Birds fighting can be a cause of trauma, as above. 


What is known is that Tom flew into an area of Perthshire (not his natal area) where there are already eagles. Indeed, independent bird monitors recorded an eagle in exactly the same location just hours after Tom’s tag last signalled. It is not beyond plausibility that territorial tussling occurred over that territorial area. 

Similarly, there are 2 wind turbines three quarters of a mile from where Tom’s tag last signalled and 16 turbines about a mile and a half away. It is not beyond possibility that Tom could have entered those areas. Indeed, turbines and bird strikes are recorded the world over.


Other reasons for tag failure can be simple technical malfunction. Any piece of electronic equipment can fail without prior warning. Unfortunately, you don’t always get a friendly message urging: ‘download your data because I’m going to crash in around 1 hour 35 minutes.’ In addition, place this equipment in the wilds of Scotland, in all weathers, and there is an additional possibility of malfunction.


Some other potential causes of tag failure are:


  • wintry/inclement weather
  • partially obstructed habitats
  • transmitter failure
  • end of tag lifespan/degradation
  • forest cover (research of 181 attempted ‘fixes’ to the satellite from a Microwave Telemetry tag in forest cover showed only 7% to be successful)*
  • poor fitting of tag (feathers can grow over the tag, preventing accurate readings). One study showed fitting of the device can ‘bias resulting data’. Photographs have also captured images of eagles with tags hanging off.
  • bird dies of natural causes, tag battery too low to enable accurate final signal and recovery.
  • persecution


Trapping and Satellite tagging of raptors such as Golden Eagles, has also been found, in several studies, to


  • decrease survival


*’An Investigation into the accuracy and performance of a lightweight GPS tag used to track wildlife.’ Paul Duffy, 2010. Dept of Spatial Information Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology.


If a gamekeeper killed Tom, they deserve everything coming to them. The SGA would condemn it wholeheartedly.


But satellite tagging has become political. There are too many people with too many agendas (on all sides). Some neutrality must be brought to bear.


If you would like to see independent monitoring of satellite tags fitted to raptors, why not write to Nicola Sturgeon firstminister@gov.scot

Roseanna Cunningham CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

Thursday, 6 August 2020

BLOG: POLARISING DEBATE AND THE RSPB

The RSPB blog: ‘A comment on some recent unpleasant events’, published August 4th, has created quite a bit of anger amongst the SGA membership, particularly at the same time as a Tweet, posted by RSPB investigator Ian Thomson, was attempting to make mischief for the grouse sector over mountain hares.


See, the RSPB blog, here: https://community.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/b/martinharper/posts/a-comment-on-some-recent-unpleasant-events


The first point to make, on behalf of the SGA membership, is that hopefully the RSPB employee on the receiving end of what Mr Harper described in his blog is safe, feels supported and is ok.


One of the things which can be agreed upon is that incitement to violence in public messaging is unacceptable, particularly when it involves staff members who are simply there to do their jobs, away from the front-line of a highly polarised snake-pit of ‘debate’.


However, it is wholly wrong and an extremely low blow for the RSPB to take the moral high ground on this issue and conduct some form of revision of history. There are not enough pots and kettles in the universe to make this stand. The most quoted comment we have received from members is “how dare they?”.


The RSPB media machine, for years, has worked very hard to bore away at working land managers UK-wide (see one image above from an RSPB publication, 2011). A rich conservation ‘business’, they have been highly successful in tapping into annual streams of public cash and managing to keep their metropolitan membership happy with colouring books for kids at summer fairs whilst the hierarchy tries to keep as quiet as they can about the role the RSPB has in things like tipping poison from helicopters on Gough Island and eradicating whole species of wildlife from geographical areas.


What they cannot do, though, is claim they have played no part in alienating swathes of working people who have major roles to play in ongoing conservation (but have to do so while making a living), free of the tranches of public cash which are meat and drink to RSPB. The RSPB are as much the architects of the poisonous media atmosphere which follows countryside issues, today, as anyone else.


It is only a few months since the SGA had to seek private assistance to investigate death threats to staff following a very public intervention by the RSPB’s Vice President Chris Packham into the attempts by farmers and gamekeepers in Strathbraan to secure a legal licence to control a tiny proportion of Scotland’s raven population in order to protect a disappearing red listed bird, described by the RSPB as the UK’s most pressing conservation concern. Not only that, following a public letter by Mr Packham- one of the most polarising figures in countryside politics today- encouraging everyone to write to SNH about the licence, even the Chairman of the nature body received threats on his life; his family home being guarded at one stage by private helicopter.


These are not idle comments by some rogue on a Twitter thread who’s had a few shandies. These are planned attempts to shut things down, disrupt the course of events and use BBC celebrity status, emotive and derogatory language and anything else to hand to change matters affecting working people in their own communities. Mr Packham’s dual role in RSPB- who claim not to be anti shooting - while he petitions the Westminster Parliament to ban driven grouse shooting- is another matter but, like predator control and the use of species control licences- land working people have become inured to the conflicts and apparent hypocrisies lying within this power-bloated organisation.


The most recent death threats are not the only ones received by SGA staff members. There have been others and equally as troubling to those innocent people involved, some who are no longer with us. The public messaging from RSPB has had a role to play in all of them, particularly around the time of the red kite poisonings in Ross-shire. 


The RSPB may be many things to some people but they cannot cry wolf when they reap some of what they, themselves, have sown. 


No one- including this RSPB employee- deserves the incitement of violence but the change of tone in public messaging is not, as Mr Harper puts it, just ‘more prevalent in modern life’, it has been going on awhile and RSPB, probably even before his time, have not been backward in coming forward when engaging in it.



OFFICE MOVE: MEMBERS TAKE NOTE

Today, August 6th, the SGA office will be temporarily closed as staff complete the move to a larger office in the same building.
The office will afford staff greater ability to put social distancing measures in place, as they stagger a return from home working.
It will also provide the SGA with access to a larger meeting space.
Unfortunately, this will mean that all telecommunications systems will have to be closed down in the old office until the move is completed and services are re-connected. It is estimated that this will be done in the one day.
We apologise for the temporary inconvenience.
If you have queries, please email us on info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk and staff will answer as soon as possible.
The SGA would like to applaud the attitude and commitment of the office team of Carol and Sue in coping  with all the changes during the Covid 19 upheavals but still maintaining services for the membership.
Well done #TEAMSGA.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

BLOG: THE COMEDY OF THE MOUNTAIN HARE TWITTER STORY


How to set a hare running. Literally.


Above is a tweet by RSPB’s wildlife crime investigator, Ian Thomson.

Why would Ian Thomson, an investigator who- because of his position within the law- obviously values the rule of evidence above all else, want to set a (mountain) hare running with a half-baked tweet implying that hare shooting was taking place on an Inverness-shire grouse moor?


Of course, he wouldn’t be aware that such a tweet would set the Twitter echo chamber booming and bring to heel all the extremists which no longer look as if they are merely on the fringe of the RSPB, for whom Mr Thomson is employed.

After all, how could the poor investigator imagine that this would be the consequence? He is in a profession, where truth, neutrality and the law are the prized currency, not politicised Twitter campaigns.


Indeed, impartial investigation must be why SNH have paid RSPB for their investigations services down the years, using Scottish tax payers’ money.


The relevance of this will not be lost on anyone in Scotland who has become accustomed to the tactics of RSPB, extreme campaign groups such as Revive, the Scottish Green Party, the animal rights mobs and the conduits between them all, when they smell blood and want to pressure a nervy Scottish Government, increasingly dislocated from the countryside, into making decisions to benefit their own interests.


To recap, the mountain hare open season began on August 1st. 


Since then, the coalitions have been pressurising Scottish Government to move away from their stated position in the Parliament, on the day the Animals and Wildlife Bill was passed, that they would not rush to ill-considered legislation on mountain hares without consulting relevant stakeholders about how a licensing system for managing hares would work.

That would make some sense, given grouse moors are the only places in Scotland which now have mountain hares in any number (up to 35 times more than non-grouse moors).

So, how do you get your way? You go looking for pictures of gamekeepers legally killing hares, use words such as ‘slaughter’ and ‘organised shoots’ a lot and, if none of this is happening- well,… you can always imply that it is. Nothing to lose, lots to gain.

A few tweets, the drums start beating. Hell, even Dr Ruth will write a blog on ‘unconfirmed reports’ and Scottish Raptor Study Group (again a non-politicised group paid for using tax payer’s money) will retweet it and keep the jungle drums beating. Tag in the relevant Ministers, urge the belligerent to write to Mairi Gougeon and Nicola Sturgeon to ‘stop the slaughter’ and to accuse them of ‘blatant disregard for Scotland’s protected wildlife’ and sit back and wait until Govt loses its bottle. Job done.

Premeditated, calculated, political, mischief making. The stuff for dark arts practitioners but surely a line not to be crossed by impartial investigators in the law.


Now, the truth. 


We know what the Inverness-shire red flags and ‘shots’ were and it was nothing to do with mountain hares. It is very comical, though. Only the politically desperate or people with fantastical imaginations would confuse target shooting with benchrest rifles (the ‘cameras’ on tripods) as ‘a slaughter of mountain hares’; or the hanging red flags to be sinister attempts to keep observers away (they were for wind readings and to keep the public safe and out of the line of fire). The boxes were rifle cases.

The Angus ‘reports’ are on the entirely falsified end of ‘unconfirmed’. 

Then again, truth or proof, in rural matters- it seems- does not matter any more. 


If you are fed up of this relentless castigation of hard working rural land workers by cash-rich campaign groups who will use any tactics to put families out of work and on the dole, tell the same Ministers copied into all the seedy tweets. 


Roseanna.Cunningham.msp@parliament.scot


Mairi.Gougeon.msp@parliament.scot


Nicola.Sturgeon.msp@parliament.scot




LOCKDOWN HEN HARRIER SUCCESS IN ANGUS GLENS


Four Hen Harrier chicks fledged successfully from a nest in the Angus Glens during lockdown, reversing breeding fortunes for the raptor in the region in recent times.

It is 4 years since Harriers reared young in the local glens, with a returning pair of birds breeding successfully.

However, since that nest was found and monitored by the local raptor study group, the adult birds have failed to rear chicks in 3 consecutive years, to the disappointment of land managers.

Now the wait for new chicks is over with a different pair successfully breeding during lockdown on a mixed estate in the glens which welcomes visitors for grouse shooting and deer stalking.

The success was recorded by licensed monitor, Mike Groves, who observed the youngsters whilst respecting the wishes of the estate gamekeeper to allow the birds peace to nest, with minimal disturbance.

“For a few years, in another nest in Angus, the same pair of Harriers have been trying to breed without success. I, and others, were beginning to wonder if we would see chicks in the Angus Glens again,” said Mike, who has been monitoring raptors in the area for decades.

“This is a historic moment. This is a different pair of adult birds. When I spoke to the estate, they were aware the Harriers were there and understandably wanted to keep it low profile, which I had sympathy with. 

“Personally, I believe in minimum disturbance to give the birds the best chance. When you visit nests, it places immense stress on the adults and they don’t settle for a while afterwards.

“Thankfully, as of yesterday, all the young were flying. It is wonderful to see. It is a stepping stone for Harriers in this area.

“Some people make comments online saying that the Angus Glens are desolate. The estates are proud of the wildlife they produce. All around, I see attitudes changing. This is an example of that.”

Hen Harriers are often the subject of polarised debate between game estates and anti-grouse shooting factions.

Scientists on the multi-party Langholm Moor Demonstration Project found that breeding Hen Harriers benefit from grouse moor management by gamekeepers but campaigners blame grouse estates for persecuting the birds because they eat red grouse.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “We know from the gamekeepers in the area that sightings of Hen Harriers are now much more frequent in Angus.

“Even though the other pair have not bred successfully recently, they have been coming back safely to the Glens for years, flying around many of the local estates.

“The news of this successful nest is hugely welcome.”

Despite a slight drop in Harrier numbers at the last review, the Scottish population of the raptor is holding up well compared to the UK-wide population.

Lianne MacLennan of Angus Glens Moorland Group said: “The estate and the gamekeeper deserve huge credit. It is that work which has provided the habitat and food source for this nest to be successful. We only hope now that the birds are allowed peace as year one chicks are highly vulnerable anyway without the stress of excessive monitoring.”

Lockdown has seen successes for other breeding raptors in the Angus Glens, with peregrines, eagle chicks, high numbers of merlins, buzzards, short eared owls and kestrels fledging on local moors.


 

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust launching online services to support gamekeepers’ wives and partners

The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust (GWT) is launching a new initiative to address the problem of depression and mental health issues in the countryside, exacerbated by Covid 19.

The HIND training course focuses on mental well being and awareness, coping strategies and building resilience. This course has been built and will be delivered by one of our volunteers Sally Thompson who is a mental health professional.

The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust is aware of the pressures and difficulties rural families can face through work related issues, ill health (both physical and mental health), financial pressures, isolation and loneliness and that “it is ok not to be ok.”

A key focus is to address these issues in a practical manner, which led to ‘The Stag Training Initiative’ created by The GWT and IED Training Solutions, a company established by several former Royal Marines.  Following on from this success the HIND course is a natural next step. 

CEO Helen Benson said “We know how important it is to ensure families and individuals are supported in difficult times. The partners of gamekeepers are often the lynchpin of the family unit, keeping the family going when times are tough.  Supporting and encouraging anyone who is or could be affected is the aim of the HIND course and providing strategies to cope in addition providing information of further services and contacts if required.”

The course is held online with accompanying notes and support throughout, is free and is held in 7 sessions over 2-3 weeks.  There are six delegates on each course which is held on a confidential platform.  Further details or booking can be made by telephone 01677 470180 or email: enquiries@thegamekeeperswelfaretrust.com


Tuesday, 28 July 2020

CHAIRMAN'S BLOG: POISONING THWARTS PROGRESS

  A JUVENILE WHITE TAILED EAGLE
The news that a Sea Eagle had been found poisoned in Donside has dominated the headlines. It makes me personally sad and angry. We were quick to condemn it yesterday, as soon as we heard the news. 
When the SGA formed, one of the first things we discussed at our earliest meetings with Government at the new Parliament was how we could get on top of poisoning in our countryside, which was getting way out of hand. 
We can judge things differently today but anyone who has been in land management for any length of time will know that pesticide was used fairly liberally at one time. Sheep farmers, if they are honest with themselves, will nod to that and, in our industry, we knew it had to stop.
The SGA made a commitment at our AGM that we, as a newly formed organisation, were firmly opposed to the use of illegal poisons and that we would work to stop it.
Through my feelings of anger yesterday at this incident, I was also rippling at the suggestion from many online commentators that the SGA had not been able to control its membership when it came to poison.
There are a lot of good land managers in the area in question who I know would not have touched that bird. I know them and their management. That leaves unanswered questions and I hope the Police get all the support they need to find the culprits and bring them to justice.
Obviously, judgement has already been delivered in the courtroom of Twitter. I am not saying I or the SGA know anything different, because we don’t, but we certainly want to establish facts and hope the Police find those facts so we get more light as opposed to endless heat.
Secondly, the SGA has been a very important player in the successful reduction in illegal wildlife poisonings in Scotland. The official, verified figures (apparently now less important than figures produced by campaigning NGOs) show very clearly how land-management related poisoning has dropped dramatically in Scotland.
Incidents, these days, tend to be isolated and we welcome that, wholeheartedly.
That is why yesterday felt like a return to a different time. We have acted with zero tolerance when it comes to poisoning and, while our many critics prefer to ignore the official statistics, the numbers still speak for themselves.
When these incidents happen, amidst the anger and emotion, we tend to forget how far we have come from the 2010 figures showing 32 poisoning incidents in Scotland. 
Official Scottish Government quarterly figures from SASA indicated that there were no incidents of abuse of poisons in 2019. See: https://www.sasa.gov.uk/document-library/wiis-quarterly-reports-2019
Again, many people will bat this away as irrelevant. To me, the figures are important. These are figures approved by the Scottish Government’s appointed toxicologists.
Wildlife crime continues, of course, and that is rightly met with scorn. Opponents of shooting, particularly grouse shooting, say tactics have changed. 
The SGA acknowledges that some tagged birds have been illegally killed and this is unacceptable. We can make that message no clearer. We continue to work with Police Scotland and, for a small mostly voluntary body, commit a lot of our organisational time to wildlife crime related issues.
However, we do not believe that the numbers suggested are the truth and the proliferation of non-independent NGOs involved today in wildlife crime investigations makes it extremely difficult to get to the truth.
This, sadly, is now a politically weaponised field and that is why we petitioned Scottish Parliament last year for independent monitoring of satellite tags. The type of neutral information which bodies like SASA can deliver would be invaluable in getting to that truth, where there is nothing else but fury and noise.
As with this poisoned Sea Eagle, we want the facts. If you can help Police Scotland, do so by calling 101.



Monday, 27 July 2020

STATEMENT: POISONED SEA EAGLE, DONSIDE.

Statement from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) on the press release issued today from Police Scotland regarding a poisoned Sea eagle, Donside.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Given the major progress made in virtually eradicating illegal wildlife poisoning in Scotland, hearing this news is extremely disappointing. The SGA condemns it wholeheartedly.
In 2010, there were 32 wildlife poisonings in Scotland. That was unacceptable. The SGA committed to Scottish Government that we would do all we could to address the issue within our own industry. We delivered on that promise. Today, thankfully, these cases are now extremely rare in this country. 
This incident sets back considerable progress made by stakeholders over the last decade- and more- in addressing poisoning. The SGA fully supported the Scottish Government’s illegal pesticide amnesty in 2015 and continues to educate on this subject.
We acknowledge Sea eagles can pose problems in land management; something which is well documented, but this is absolutely the wrong way to address a conflict. The SGA reiterates its condemnation.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Country Sports Proposed Framework For Appropriate Covid-19 Precautions

Following collaboration between the shooting organisations in Scotland we have worked together to produce the following guidance for the coming season, this guidance will of course be subject to our members follow the Scottish Government guidance at the time, so please check the link regularly. If you have specific queries, please contact the SGA office who will assist where possible.


Friday, 26 June 2020

SGA STATEMENT: RSPB PRESS RELEASE ON HEN HARRIERS

Please see the SGA statement released yesterday on RSPB beginning their concerted attempt to force grouse moor licensing with the release of a story on satellite tags failing.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Until satellite tags are monitored independently of organisations which are lobbying for increased grouse moor legislation, we cannot have trust in how data is being interpreted and reported.
“When Hen Harrier Brian’s last signal was found to have been on an RSPB Reserve in Insh Marshes in the Cairngorms National Park in 2016, the bird was never located. RSPB said the last signal was only an ‘indication of where a bird had been’, not that it was killed there, and then went quiet. Why?
“A Golden Eagle tagged as part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle project was thought to have been killed by another project eagle. It’s tag was supposedly functioning fully well but was never found, either. Why not?
“There is no evidence to suggest these 2 cases are any different in any way. They would simply not stand up, evidentially, in any court in the land.
“The SGA has a very clear wildlife crime policy and has expelled 8 members in 7 years who have been convicted of wildlife crime. We will always take a hard stance on this issue. However, we will not hang people out to dry on the basis of speculation provided by groups with clear agendas.”