Friday, 7 February 2020

CHANGES TO GENERAL LICENCES AND SGA COMMENT


Scottish Natural Heritage today announced the changes to the General Licences, coming in from April 1st 2020.
and scrolling down to the links entitled: General Licensing Changes Summary and General Licensing Changes for 2020 FAQs.

In response to the changes, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The changes as regards SPAs are nothing other than a cave-in to Wild Justice who are motivated by causing as much disruption and frustration to shooting as possible.
“SNH itself has admitted there is no evidence to suggest General Licences are causing adverse impacts on SPAs but that ‘potentially’ they could.
“This is not justifiable or proportionate. There are lots of things in life that could ‘potentially’ happen. That doesn’t justify licensing everything. This is a response, in our view, motivated more by fear of legal challenge than the conservation of wildlife. 
“We are forever told SNH’s licensing team is too stretched to deal with often routine licensing matters. If predators are hammering fragile species on an SPA and a land manager can’t act because SNH have staff on holiday, and can’t process a licence, then those species will take a step nearer the exit door. 
The fact black backed gulls have been removed from both licences (GL1 and GL2) will cause real concern in some areas because, in some parts, they are the single biggest predatory problem land managers have to deal with to protect wildlife and livestock. 
“In general, other than helping a bit with Greylag geese, this is all going one way. It is a General Licence of fear and makes protecting species like globally threatened waders even more difficult.
“On rivers, where salmon are struggling, the opportunity to look closer at predatory piscivorous birds has again been lost, despite predation being identified as one of the key factors imperilling this iconic species.”


The SGA has contributed to an industry wide statement from a coalition of land management organisations. See below.


GENERAL LICENCE RESTRICTIONS POSE A THREAT TO CONSERVATION

Greater restrictions on the use of general licences - which allow certain birds to be controlled to prevent crop damage, predation of at-risk bird species and the protection of public health – could pose a threat to wildlife conservation efforts.

Following the announcement today of new restrictions on general licences by Scottish Natural Heritage, a joint statement was issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates. 

The organisations said:

“The use of general licences has long been a vital tool to help preserve wildlife and precious habitats. While SNH has recognised that they are useful, legal methods, the land management sector is very disappointed that, yet again, we are being burdened with excessive and unnecessary regulation and red tape.

“We feel particularly let down over changes that will mean land managers having to apply specifically for prior approval from SNH’s licensing team to control certain birds on Special Protection Areas. The birds customarily controlled in these areas can be vast in number and any delay in approval being granted could well have a detrimental impact on protected at-risk species. This seems counter-productive.

“It is regrettable that SNH has taken this decision while it acknowledges there is no clear evidence that the use of general licenses have an adverse impact on Special Protected Areas.

“There has been insufficient engagement and communication with land managers who will have to implement these changes and our organisations are seeking urgent reassurance from SNH and Ministers that consents will be granted quickly and easily in the face of the likely impacts on Scottish biodiversity.”

ENDS 

Monday, 3 February 2020

BLOG: WHY POLITICIANS SHOULD HEED THE WORKING VOICE


I was left shaking my head reading comments on Twitter from people objecting to Pete Wishart and John Swinney attending an end of season game dinner hosted by BASC.
I would like to show my support for both for doing so. In fact, it has never been more important for politicians of all colours to listen to the working people of our countryside.
Maybe I am wrong but when the Parliament was set up in Edinburgh, I thought it was so that the voices of all Scotland could be heard, not just the vocal people who believe their view is the only one.
Sadly, I feel we are getting further and further away from that optimism of when the Scottish Parliament came into being and what it was meant to deliver - for all the geographic locations of Scotland.
Both of these senior politicians make a living from representing the constituents in their areas and, in those areas right now there is a lot of genuine concern for their jobs and the future.
The votes of those individuals matter the same as any others and it should be remembered that it is by serving the interests of their constituents that politicians return to Westminster and Holyrood to deliver what their voters- and their parties- want.
A lot of the comments I read seemed to come from issues of class. There is a very narrow focus and it infuriates people like me.
What commentators don’t seem to understand when they jump on bandwagons is that our members represent the working people of the countryside. They have the same worries, trying to bring up families and keep roofs over heads as the factory or shift workers of Glasgow or Dundee. The difference between the rural working person and the urban working person is often very little, other than geography. A decent wage, decent conditions, good healthcare and schools for their kids. That is what most of us want.
Whether we like it or not, most people work for a wealthy man or woman somewhere down the line, whether you are working for an estate owner, working on the rigs or working for Amazon.
Like any other industry, there are good bosses and bad. Our members are thankful that, in the main, they have bosses who have continued to invest and have kept jobs on, when seasons have been wiped out by weather or other factors beyond control. That doesn’t happen in all industries and we all know folk that have lost jobs when times get hard. I don’t want to see that for our members.
Our skilled membership are delivering a lot for rural Scotland. They are a quiet folk by nature but they are growing increasingly irritated by what they see as a continuing attack on all they hold dear.
Despite being working people, they have been largely abandoned by parties who once considered themselves to represent working people. This is a real shame and something I have found difficult to understand.
There are many people in our industry that will vote different parties. We are not a political organisation. We are a broad church that represents all our members. There are members of our own committee who have been SNP supporters for decades and they, too, find some of the venom directed on these Twitter posts to be galling to say the least.
What our members are crying out for just now are politicians that will listen to their concerns, on moor, hill, forest, riverbank or wherever and will give them their voice, even if that is to disagree or to debate.
In my view, the politicians that do that are more likely to find support for their aims in their own constituencies than those who continue to ignore them. It is those who ignore, and not people who do take the time to listen to the views of all, that will fan the tension that is beginning to grow among rural working folk.



On that note, we are running a political poll for members on our website, in response to all the feedback we have been getting. There are 3 basic questions. It takes under a minute. Scroll down the website homepage and take the poll. Find it, here: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

GAMEKEEPERS RESPOND TO GOVT ON DEER MANAGEMENT REVIEW


Today, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has responded to the Deer Review Panel report on Deer Management, announced by Scottish Government. 
The report can be read, here, and the SGA recommends that all deer members read the report as soon as possible, giving their comments to the office, as we will be seeking urgent talks with Scottish Government. https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/corporate-report/2020/01/the-management-of-wild-deer-in-scotland-deer-working-group-report/documents/the-management-of-wild-deer-in-scotland-deer-working-group-report/the-management-of-wild-deer-in-scotland-deer-working-group-report/govscot%3Adocument/Deer%2BWorking%2BGroup%2Bfinal%2Breport%2B-%2B19%2BDecember%2B2019%2B-%2Bpublication%2Bnumber%2B%25281%2529.pdf

See the Chairman's response, here: “If Scottish Government brings in the changes it signalled with the Werritty report into grouse shooting and some of the frankly damaging recommendations for deer in this report, it may find it begins to lose the delivery support and good will of a key rural sector. “We said in our own positive Deer Vision report, published before Christmas, that our members have killed close to a million deer in Scotland in the last 10 years.
“SGA members represent a significant portion of the skilled manual labour force on the ground, who will be necessary to deliver targets, whether they be for climate or biodiversity.
“This sector is getting tired of being kicked from pillar to post and this report, which basically signals a free-for-all on an iconic Scottish species, is a further hammer blow. We will be gauging the temperature within our membership over the coming days and seeking urgent talks with Government.”




To view 'SGA Deer Vision- the 10 years ahead', go to: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/deer-vision/



*At the time the make-up of the panel was announced, The SGA told Scottish Government that it was not fully representative as it contained no one within the deer sector who was operating as a practising deer manager.


Thursday, 23 January 2020

SGA RESPONSE TO DEFRA TROPHY HUNTING CONSULTATION (UPDATED)






On Saturday, DEFRA's consultation on the import and export of hunting trophies into and out of the UK, closes. There is still time to respond so ACT NOW by clicking below: 

Update: (24th Jan): the consultation has today been extended by 1 month to 25th February 2020. Please respond.



https://consult.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-management/trophy-hunting-consultation/?fbclid=IwAR0PEjK60bNBovUlz53x8bp6kSNAF2ACIeVNG5wH6Dzgbwp-sBGc2ePznRg

We have been encouraging our members and supporters to answer this important consultation because it will have direct repercussions in Scotland - if the proposals lead to a ban on hunting trophies.
The SGA has opted for no change to current rules and, in order for those who may want some guidance to help complete the consultation, we are publishing the official SGA response, here, to the principal question of why we propose no change (Option 4).


"Well organised hunting can be as much a part of a sustainable future for threatened species as mainstream state aided conservation efforts, and in some cases even more so."


The views of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is that what is taken away from the activity of hunting (ie: a trophy or souvenir/memento of a hunting trip) is of secondary concern to the the way in which that hunting activity is carried out. The focus should be on the sustainability of the hunting itself- and the welfare of the animals being hunted- and less on the trophy.
Most countries devise their own laws regarding how hunting operates and it is the responsibility of each nation to ensure the sustainability of hunting- and welfare standards- within its own borders and in accordance with its own priorities. The agreed definition of what is a 'trophy', for the purpose of international regulation and enforcement, is currently adequate. 
In our view, the greater spotlight on 'trophy hunting' as being a derogatory activity, or an activity worthy of societal scorn, could actually do more to endanger threatened species and communities than any organised hunting activity. As we see it, the debate on this has narrowed to emotional viewpoints, often advanced by celebrities or influencers, and there is now a real danger that hunting becomes synonymous ( in the view of the public) with poor moral values when, in fact, well organised hunting can be as much a part of a sustainable future for threatened species as mainstream state aided conservation efforts, and in some cases even more so.

We know, from our own experience, that the way to ensure rare species receive the appropriate level of awareness and funding, is to attach some form of connection or value to people. Some may find this slightly sad (that we cannot conserve without 'gain') and there is some sympathy for this viewpoint, but it tallies with human nature and we should not be overly surprised that there is less poaching, often more conservation funding and greater awareness of species' plights in areas where people have a financial incentive to keep animals at a sustainable number and in prime health ie: for the provision of controlled hunting and the accrual of accompanying financial gain.
While it is laudable that the UK is considering 'taking a lead' in this debate, there is a real danger that - in doing so- the UK becomes silently responsible for worsening the lives and living conditions of people in resource-poor communities, whose fates we do not have full cognisance of. 

Hunting can provide a way for people to live in remote areas and provide for their families when other alternatives for meaningful employment or trade are few or virtually non-existent. When people live in these communities, the environments tend to be looked after and invested in. The hunting 'issue', therefore, is multi-factorial, with many shades of grey, and the current debate, often played out on Twitter, does not begin to scratch the surface of what is at stake for species or communities. 
For this reason, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association , which represents 5300 members in Scotland, feels that interfering in this complex area, would be best left to situations where there is a necessity to do so ie: if cross-border enforcement is demonstrably not working. As far as we are aware, this is not the case.



Given the complexities and, in order to respect the right of individual countries to determine their own laws on sustainable hunting and animal welfare, we propose no change to present proposals. Hasty law, on the basis of emotion or an impression that there is a 'need to do something', could very well lead to a chain of unintended consequences which could be much worse for both animals and fragile peoples.
There is an argument to say that conservation funding can be sourced from hunting alternatives such as eco tourism and photo journalism. We do not hold the view that it is one or the other. 
The reality, from those who have trialled both models, is that a mix- and some pragmatism- is often best. In areas where there are large densities of visible animals, photo tourism can attract visitors and funds. However, this is not everywhere and, in other circumstances, having smaller parties or hunters paying higher prices can be better for habitat preservation, can mean less disturbance and less requirement to provide built tourist infrastructure in fragile habitats.
In Africa, for example, 70 percent of wildlife occurs outside of full protected areas and nature tourism can be unviable in these areas because of remoteness and lack of accommodation. Again, this debate is not about the secondary 'trophy', it is about how a balance is struck, in regulation and other ways, by people on the ground in the countries directly affected.
Where we have acute concern with this consultation is with Option 3. We refer to our own situation, here, in Scotland. 

We are very fortunate, as a nation, to have a visible presence of native wild herbivores. Deer are important aspects of our culture and identity, they help support 2520 jobs in remote areas and are regularly voted the favourite animal of the Scottish people. 
Skilled deer management is necessary to regulate populations and ensure the overall health of wild deer and their habitats. This management provides employment, healthy food and habitat protection.
A percentage of the annual cull of deer is undertaken by visitors, often from overseas, who pay a lot of money to shoot deer under the expert guidance of a deer stalker or other trained deer manager. This money then circulates through communities (often in sparsely populated areas), providing crucial business whilst essentially providing a service which is necessary anyway (the management of deer populations to be in balance with their environments). 
Many visitors who travel a long way to Scotland will want to take a memento of their trip back home with them so they can talk about it to their friends or simply cherish the memory. Often antlers will be taken back to other parts of the world.






"Deer are important aspects of our culture and identity, they help support 2520 jobs in remote areas and are regularly voted the favourite animal of the Scottish people."

As an organisation supporting the lives and interests of professional deer stalkers and managers, we cannot support any regulation which could act as a disincentive to others to travel to our country and take part in sustainable deer stalking experiences. 
Strict firearms laws as well as the personal decisions of some carriers not to carry hunting arms into the UK has already led to headaches for legitimate sporting businesses in Scotland and further moves which could reduce visiting hunters could impact on employment in rural areas. 
At a time when the climate is in the spotlight internationally and there are moves to increase mitigations such as tree planting, the ability to manage wild deer populations increases rather than diminishes and moves which could restrict such management in Scotland will provide a net loss for conservation. 
We do not believe that this outcome is what is intended by this consultation but, should option 3 proceed, we fear that this is what will happen.
As there is a requirement to select a second choice, we have opted for Option 2 although, ideally, we would not have answered anything other than Option 4. While option 2 sounds good in theory (everyone wants benefits to be ensured) it will be extremely difficult to police in reality and adds a further layer of difficulty likely to outweigh any potential gain.



Monday, 20 January 2020

AGM 2020: SPEAKER NEWS AND UPDATES

The SGA Committee is delighted to announce that the 2020 Annual General Meeting with Grahams of Inverness will be held in the highland capital on Friday March 6th.

As ever, we have a varied programme of UK and international speakers lined up for the showpiece event at Caledonian Stadium, home to Inverness Caley Thistle FC.

We are also delighted to welcome the generous support, as Principal event sponsor, of outdoor clothing and equipment specialists, Grahams of Inverness, who have been supplying our members with shooting and fishing gear for many decades. 


Established in 1857, Grahams is a household name and go-to place for all gamekeepers, stalkers, ghillies and wildlife managers, as well as country sports enthusiasts, and the SGA is delighted to continue our association with the store and brand. Find out more about Grahams, here: https://www.grahamsonline.co.uk

With so much change potentially afoot in our profession, the 2020 AGM is set to be a key one and seats are expected to go quickly, making prompt booking essential (See the foot of this story for how to book your seat).
The Werritty review into grouse shooting (https://www.gov.scot/publications/grouse-moor-management-group-report-scottish-government/ ) is set to change the landscape for moorland keepers and the reports of SNH ( https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2019-11/Publication%202019%20-%20SNH%20Assessing%20Progress%20in%20Deer%20Management.pdf ) and the appointed Deer Working Group will also bring deer issues further to the fore over the coming weeks (https://www.gov.scot/groups/deer-working-group/ ).
These issues, and more, will be the focus of SGA Chairman Alex Hogg’s keynote speech to attendees in Inverness.
There is political focus around pheasant releasing down south and, in Scotland, our famed salmon rivers are having to cope with a declining stock which threatens the fabric of our wild fisheries.
At the time of writing, the speaker line-up is still being fully finalised but already confirmed to travel from Iceland is Jon Helgi Bjornsson, a landowner with an insider insight into how the prolific salmon rivers of Iceland are continuing to hold stocks and retain anglers.
This will be of keen interest to our ghillie members and everyone with a stake in the health of our rivers.
Wild Deer Best Practice, and the need for everyone to reinvigorate it, will be the subject of a talk by SNH’s Alastair MacGugan before the day switches to two major health concerns in rural areas.
Dr Sally Mavin, Clinical Scientist at Scottish Microbiology Reference Laboratory at Raigmore in Inverness will be updating the floor on new research regarding Lyme Disease and early diagnosis. (https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/web-resources-container/scottish-lyme-disease-and-tick-borne-infections-reference-laboratory-user-manual/ ).
We then welcome Jim Hume, Convener of the National Rural Mental Health Forum with Support In Mind Scotland, who will be discussing work to support the mental health of rural workers ( https://www.ruralwellbeing.org ).
“We may yet have some additions to the speaker roster but, already, we have a varied programme and we are looking forward to being back in Inverness.
“The last time we visited the highland capital on AGM day, our members had to brave the ‘Beast from the East’ and, naturally, attendee numbers were a bit lower as a result, with the speaker programme also having to be pared back, for travel reasons.
“That said, it was still a great event with fantastic speakers and a really engaged and enthusiastic audience. It is important, as a sector, for us to get together and be able to discuss the challenges- particularly the political ones- that we are all going to face in 2020 so we are looking forward to getting feedback from the members on the day,” said SGA Vice Chairman, Peter Fraser, who has been putting together the programme for some weeks.
The member-only day will begin with registration at 9am and the usual introductory refreshments. 
Anyone wishing to attend must register their place with the SGA office on info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk or by calling 01738 587 515, to enable the staff to plan seating and catering.
Lunch will be served at the close of the speeches and members will be made aware of menu choices when booking their place.
See you in Inverness!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

AGM 2020 DATE ANNOUNCED


The SGA Annual General Meeting will take place on Friday 6th March 2020 at Caledonian Stadium, Inverness, IVI 1FB.
All members are invited and speakers for the event from the UK and overseas are expected to be finalised shortly, with full details to follow.
Please put the date in your diary and note that booking a place is essential.
We are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the day.

If you intend to come along, please contact the office on 01738 587 515 or info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk




Tuesday, 7 January 2020

MEMBER VIEW: MIXED MESSAGES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

A member wanted to highlight high carbon travel ads
A member called the SGA office after reading a copy of the RSPB member magazine, Nature’s Home. She said she was impressed with the glossy mag, Spring edition, but wanted to highlight ‘confusing messages’ about climate change in the publication. 
“It seemed like a case of do as I say, not do as I do,” was her view.
Also a member of RSPB, she said she enjoyed the conservation articles but felt the climate messages sat badly alongside ‘excessive’ pages advertising expensive and exotic foreign holidays involving high carbon travel.
There were adverts for tours to Africa, Asia, Australasia, the Americas, Canada and Patagonia despite a parallel single page on RSPB’s eco friendly travel partners.
Adverts included high carbon emission combined fly-and-drive holidays.
The main leader comment article in the magazine by the Chief Executive talked about how the charity took part in September’s global youth and climate strikes, while lamenting that evidence of our impact on the planet was all around us.
There were further articles talking about ice floes melting and new records for CO2 emissions, with pleas for politicians at the 2020 London Climate Change Summit to put the world’s future before their own interests.
Conservation Director Martin Harper used part of his column to talk about the need for urgent action to tackle climate and ecological emergency.

According to the Scottish Green Party website, "Air travel is the most polluting mode of transport by far- the amount of carbon emissions generated is significantly higher than any other common consumer behaviour.”

* On checking for accuracy, the 100 page magazine carried 14 and a half pages of international travel adverts with a further 5 pages of UK tours potentially requiring flights for those outside the British Isles -  a fifth of the magazine.
The advertising from overseas travel companies would be worth a considerable amount of money to the RSPB.

RSPB Vice President Chris Packham campaigns with Extinction Rebellion whilst also financially benefitting from overseas tours on his official website.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

MASSIVE CHANGES FOR GROUSE MOORS FOLLOWING WERRITTY REVIEW



GROUSE SHOOTING REVIEW REPORT WILL
MEAN ‘SEISMIC’ CHANGE FOR MOORS IN SCOTLAND.

URGENT MEETING SOUGHT WITH GOVERNMENT
Rural organisations said today that the recommendations of a government-commissioned review of grouse moor management will mean a ‘seismic’ change for grouse moors across Scotland.
Following publication of the review group’s report, a joint statement was issued by: British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates. 
“The recommendations of the Werritty Review will mean a seismic change for grouse moors across Scotland.
“This report has recommended a barrage of measures that will leave the grouse shooting sector engulfed by legislation and red tape. On top of that, penalties for wildlife crime in Scotland are about to get much tougher.
“The sector has already willingly embraced change and improvements in how it operates.  We believe further enhanced training and codes of practice covering muirburn, mountain hare management and medicated grit are the best solution rather than onerous licensing provisions and we will be seeking an urgent meeting with government to discuss these key areas.
“The review group has recognised that there is no case for the banning of driven grouse shooting. They also accepted that licensing of grouse moors in general is hugely contentious, complex and unnecessary at this time. Nor is there scientific evidence to justify such a measure. Should it be introduced in the future, it would push an important rural business sector beyond breaking point.
“Grouse shooting plays a vital role in helping to sustain communities and delivers multiple social, economic and environmental benefits. It would be a tragedy if the massive private investment that underpins these benefits is put at risk by a package of regulatory measures that will herald fundamental change. 
“Scotland already has the most stringent laws to deal with raptor persecution in the UK and they’re about to get even tougher with proposed jail sentences of up to five years and wide-ranging new financial penalties – which we support. There has been huge progress in recent years to combat raptor persecution and incidents are now at historically low levels. We are committed to playing our part to help eradicate the problem but are deeply concerned that law-abiding rural businesses will be buried under an avalanche of regulation and added costs as a result of this review. That may well force people out of business and put families’ livelihoods at risk.
“At a time when climate change and the environment is of paramount importance, we take great pride in the environmental and conservation contribution made by grouse moors through carbon capture and the careful management of Scotland’s much-loved heather clad landscape. Inflicting an even greater burden on moorland managers would jeopardise this.
 “We welcome the fact that the review recommends greater transparency and independence around the satellite-tagging of birds of prey. However, its proposals do not go far enough in seeking to create an open and accountable system.”

THE FULL REPORT OF PROFESSOR WERRITTY'S PANEL CAN BE FOUND, HERE: https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/publication/2019/12/grouse-moor-management-group-report-scottish-government/documents/grouse-moor-management-review-group-report-scottish-government/grouse-moor-management-review-group-report-scottish-government/govscot%3Adocument/grouse-moor-management-review-group-report-scottish-government.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3B08uOGlvxf0x6SoaL4Spfu5dw21UKDo3hVgIZm5GKe4YOdKa_ycXnx9w

What Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I would like to thank Professor Werritty and the other members of the Grouse Moor Management Group for undertaking this important review and for their extensive work over the last two years.
“As well as the issue of raptor persecution, the review was asked to look at grouse moor management practices including muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and also to examine regulatory options including possible licensing of grouse shooting businesses.
“It is important that we give careful consideration to the recommendations, alongside other evidence, before issuing a response. An important part of this will involve meeting key stakeholders to discuss the findings of the review, and we will publish a full response to the report in due course. At this early stage, however. I believe the option of a licensing scheme will need to be considered and - if required – implemented earlier than the five-year timeframe suggested by the review group.”





Wednesday, 18 December 2019

SGA FISHING GROUP PETITIONS PARLIAMENT ON STOCKING OF SALMON RIVERS


Robert White of the SGA Fishing Group has tabled the Holyrood petition on behalf of members.


The SGA Fishing Group has launched a parliamentary petition demanding a full stakeholder consultation on the future of stocking on Scotland’s salmon rivers.
On some waters in Scotland, hatcheries are operated, enabling salmon eggs to be stripped from broodstock and grown on in controlled conditions before being released back into the river.
The idea is to eliminate factors which can lead to early mortality, improving the chances of salmon reaching maturity, putting more fish into the system.
However, some ghillies and river workers with hatcheries are seeing increasing restrictions placed on the activity by Marine Scotland, who have developed a new position on stocking.
They are concerned that the fisheries scientists’ standpoint could become official government policy without proper consultation with ghillies, riparian owners and hatchery investors and employees.
Marine Scotland officials have discussed their position at river board meetings but have not achieved a consensus within the industry.
With salmon conservation becoming an increasing priority and Scotland’s fisheries struggling badly with declining catches, angler numbers and reducing local economic impacts, some ghillies believe the issue is too important to be slipped through without a full debate.
And while they understand that stocking can be contentious, even within the industry itself, they believe a full stakeholder consultation is the proper route for any future action.
“The SGA Fishing Group is not necessarily pro-stocking. There are a mix of views on the subject, across Scotland, some for, some against,” says Tay ghillie Robert White, who launched the petition on behalf of the SGA Fishing Group.
“However, we believe the proper process is for a full consultation. There is a feeling that Marine Scotland has rushed this through and then went out to try to build support. 
“We don’t feel that is the right thing to do and ruling stocking out, or certainly making it increasingly more difficult, may prove to be too hasty.
“Salmon catches are decreasing at a worrying rate in some areas and fisheries, too, are feeling the affects with some rivers recording their worst years recently. 
“Taking hatcheries - as a tool - off the table, without a proper debate, could be short-sighted and we hope everyone whose lives are bound up in salmon and the future of our rivers get a chance to have a full say.”
Hatcheries have proved successful in some rivers but less so in others, with local circumstances regarded as being a determinant.
Concerns, too, have been raised about genetic integrity of the fish although hatchery broodstock are from natal rivers in most cases.
On the other hand, some anglers in Scotland -worried at seeing their pastime eroded-, favour hatcheries because they see rivers taking a proactive approach to the problem of less fish.
“There are a number of different arguments,” added Mr White. “However, a lot of investment has also gone into some hatcheries and the people involved really need to be in the loop with the direction of travel.
“There is also a school of thought which says putting more fish into the river may enhance the chances of more coming back. All these views deserved to be properly aired.”

Ends.


You can watch Robert talking about the SGA Fishing Group petition on YouTube, link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y1NOe5DLiI


The SGA Fishing Group is the fishing section of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which has 5300 members in Scotland. It has its own identity within the organisation as it is specific to fishing matters only, hence the name: The SGA Fishing Group.

To learn more about the petition and to sign: see Petition link: https://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01782

Infographic courtesy of SGA Media.













STANDING UP FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES- FULL PRESS RELEASE


Press release, in full (below) from Scotland's Rural Communities. Well done to SGA members who joined the peaceful demonstration outside Perth Concert Hall on 17th December.

Around 150 rural workers staged a demonstration in Perth last night (17th Dec), protesting against Chris Packham’s ‘relentless drive’ to wreck their livelihoods.
The BBC presenter from the south of England- an outspoken critic of fieldsports- was giving a talk on nature photography at Perth Concert Hall.
However, his appearance was met with a crowd of rural demonstrators calling on the Springwatch presenter to end what they called a ‘relentless campaign of misinformation’.
Chris Packham has backed two Westminster petitions to end grouse shooting, which supports 2500 Scottish jobs, and has mounted legal challenges to other country sports and farming.
The Fair City protesters said Packham was waging war against rural workers and their families through misinformation and unsubstantiated allegations, designed to damage their futures.
“Chris Packham is well aware of his position but he is using his celebrity status to distort the truth with un-substantiated allegations, tarring whole communities,” said gamekeeper, Allan Hodgson.
“He doesn’t know these communities, how they work and what binds them together. It’s a bit rich. He hasn’t managed land in his life and knows nothing of the challenges. What he is seeking is to ban activities which bring benefits and jobs to people, helps threatened wildlife and fragile areas. Folk have had enough. If he is serious about making things better he shouldn’t start by trying to put people who manage the land every day, out of work- he should be talking to them. He has obsessive tunnel vision and is ignoring science.”
The  celebrity presenter, Vice President of the RSPB, has been on collision course with the countryside, leading to letters to broadcasting chiefs over his impartiality as a BBC presenter.
During a march in London he labelled the shooting community ‘psycopaths’ and was forced to apologise to farmers after falsely stating on social media that they shot endangered Lapwings.
His campaign group, Wild Justice, enraged both the farming and shooting community this year by legally challenging General Licences, the permits required to control crow and pigeon populations.
As the court process dragged on, farmers reported financial damage to crops, injury to livestock and the loss of dwindling birdlife.
“He is happy to mount legal challenges to fox and crow control, which helps protect rarer wildlife and farm livestock, yet he will call for deer to be slaughtered in Scotland if it fits with his own personal agenda,” said one of the protestors. “His concern for wildlife seems to be very selective.
“He protests against climate change yet flies off on carbon belching tours abroad and makes a business from tour parties doing the same in his name.
“Study upon study has shown that, where gamekeepers are managing for game, they are also giving a helping hand to many species which are virtually absent elsewhere in our countryside, including the nature reserves he seems to love.
“But there is no attempt to listen to that side or acknowledge the good that many long-serving land managers are doing in the countryside.”
Rural people from all over the country traveled to the peaceful demonstration, carrying banners saying: ‘Standing Up for Our Rural Communities’ and “Gamekeepers- the Curlew’s best friend’.

*NB: Chris Packham is currently campaigning against HS2. This morning, the TV celebrity announced on Twitter (18th Dec) that he is to take no more internal flights. 
His official website, as of 11.15am, was still advertising overseas wildlife tours. https://www.chrispackham.co.uk/category/travel-with-chris-packham