Tuesday, 12 February 2019

BLOG: DAMAGE TO LEGAL PREDATOR CONTROL TRAPS



A post yesterday (above) on Twitter showing images of legal predator control traps for stoats created a lot of heat. When the SGA reminded those in the comment thread, who had already started to talk about knowingly damaging these traps, that this was a criminal offence (which it is), this caused outrage.

By saying that the SGA would inform Police (which the organisation has a policy on due to the amount of vandalism to legal property which goes on today) this was viewed with further ire.

The SGA will never stop reporting damage to legal predator control traps to Police. They are legitimate tools used by trained operators as part of their employment. Not everyone is a fan of every industry but we would expect retribution if we walked into someone’s office, threw their computers out the window or wrecked them because we didn’t like what they did.

Rail trap in Angus damaged by the public and rendered inoperable.
Wildlife or species management is difficult for some. This is acknowledged. SNH reviews trapping and the General Licences which permit their deployment in the Scottish countryside are assessed annually. All snare operators in Scotland must be trained and personal ID numbers, obtained from Police Scotland, must be attached to every snare set legally in this country, as part of the Snare Training (Scotland) Order 2011.

The SGA was not attempting to intimidate Helen for having a view or wanting to spark debate on issues of trap setting. She is perfectly entitled to do so and hold those opinions. We asked, legitimately, whether she was reflecting the views of Environment Link, of whom her organisation (The Ramblers Association) is a member. She said she was not, which was accepted. We are sure Helen will air similar views again on other elements of legal management.

What the SGA did, for those who wanted to read the tweets (see all below), was remind that we should be mindful of social media posts and that the hills walkers enjoy are also people’s workplaces. We said to her that her comments had encouraged the type of activity that perhaps she had not intended. If this is deemed to be an act of intimidation or a ‘sinister’ warning off, as was suggested and shared elsewhere, then we will have to agree to differ. It does raise questions over whether free speech is afforded only to those on one side of a debate. 

It is the SGA’s responsibility, as a member organisation, to protect our trained members who are carrying out legitimate and legal work; work which they should be able to undertake without the fear of having their tools criminally damaged. It is well acknowledged that control of abundant predators, using humane traps and snares, benefits a range of ground-nesting species, not just game.

A 9 year experiment by GWCT at Otterburn in England showed that, on land managed by gamekeepers, where predator control of crows, stoats and weasels was carried out, wading birds had up to 3 times more chance of breeding success. If we want to maintain red-listed wildlife in our country, then there should be some acknowledgement of the benefits of predation control. Indeed, RSPB and SNH are to receive £6m to eradicate stoats from Orkney in order to conserve the wildlife there, by eliminating them.


Helen may not have been intending to encourage the comments about how to illegally disable, wreck traps or throw them in burns. In fact, we would like to put it on record that we do not believe this was her intention. It was, however, undeniably one of the consequences, with a number of posts in the thread, and other posts relating to the original, clearly alluding to this type of activity.

The SGA will not be reporting Helen, as this was never the intention or meaning. We dealt with that by pointing out, in her second tweet, that her post had had a different affect than she intended (see below). We will be reporting the comments about damaging legal tools to Police, as is our policy to do so.


*All members, please continue to report all damage, tampering, theft and vandalism of legal traps and snares to Police Scotland. Please ask for a crime number or, if applicable, incident number. Please also report this to the SGA office. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

NOMINATE NOW FOR OUR 2019 AWARDS

The SGA is now accepting nominations for its three mains awards of 2019, recognising the achievements of individuals and the wealth of talent and knowledge within the game and wildlife sector.
The first closing date is June 7th for Long Service Medal nominations. 
These new awards proved popular in the inaugural year (2018) and it’s now time to forward the names of anyone who has given 40 years of unbroken and continuous service to gamekeeping, gillie-ing, stalking or wildlife management.

Next up is the deadline of June 21st for nominations for SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year, 2019. The award is open to nominations from estates, senior staff, shoot operators or college lecturers who believe an individual to be a youthful ambassador for their profession, on land or river.
Finally, it’s the 4th Ronnie Rose Award for services to conservation or education on river, low ground, hill or forest.

The award has a closing date of July 19th and, already, some nominations have arrived; proving the importance placed on this trophy within countryside management circles.
To nominate in any of the three award categories, please contact info@scottishgamekeeper.co.uk naming your candidate and providing a supporting statement or evidence to justify their consideration.





*Photos show our proud award winners from 2018. Well done to all. 


2019 SGA AGM WITH BUSHWEAR- full details

The 2019 SGA AGM with BushWear will have a European favour this year, with members set to hear management insights from a range of cultural and social perspectives.
On Friday March 1st, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg will welcome members and invited guests to the Centenary Suite at McDiarmid Park, Perth, for the organisation’s biggest membership event of the year.
The SGA is delighted to announce outdoor clothing and equipment specialists, BushWear, https://www.bushwear.co.uk as this year’s headline sponsor and company representatives will be showcasing Pulsar thermal technology at the event.
There will also be special pre-order offers on selected new Pulsar products for SGA members on the day.
Over the past few years, the annual general meetings have been very well attended and, with the industry readying itself for deer and grouse reviews in 2019, a large turnout is again expected.
As well as the traditional Chairman’s address, this year’s event will welcome special guest from Norway, Hans Ulberg, as one of the principal speakers.
Hans is set to fly in prior to the AGM and his talk will focus on interactions and conflicts between large carnivorous species and livestock populations in rural environments and economies.
Now primarily a dairy farmer, Hans has spent years studying predator/prey relationships and sits on the government agency assessing autopsies of dead animals for evidence of predation. 
Hans will discuss key species; deer, bears, lynx, wolves and beavers; their differing levels of protection and legal management approaches in Norway.
“We are delighted to have Hans with us. Vice Chairman Peter Fraser has been in regular contact with him, organising for him to come over and, with emerging challenges for everyone when it comes to species management, reintroductions and large predators, I am sure that a perspective from Norway will be of great interest to attendees,” said Chairman, Alex Hogg.
“We have a diverse range of speakers once again, all bringing something different to the day the Committee is certainly looking forward to hearing their views and life experiences and giving members the chance to ask them more about their chosen subjects.”
Also on the speaker list will be Simon Lester, former Head Gamekeeper on the Langholm Moor Demonstration project. http://www.langholmproject.com
Sadly, the ‘Beast from the East’ meant Simon’s flight from England had to be cancelled last year but the SGA is delighted to welcome him this time, weather permitting, and will be interested to hear his views on Langholm’s lessons and valuable insights from his work with DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Recovery programme over the border. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/innovative-licence-issued-to-help-hen-harrier
Author, speaker and ambassador for greater understanding of Lyme Disease, Morven-May MacCallum, will address the floor with her personal experiences of coping with the debilitations of a disease which is becoming a growing public health issue.
Her acclaimed book, Finding Joy, has helped raise awareness of the life-threatening condition whilst her inspiring talks at events and in Parliament have encouraged greater engagement on Lyme Disease and the journey health authorities and others need to travel to combat Lyme Disease in future. https://morven-may.co.uk
Doors will open for registration at 9am and all members must bring their membership numbers for check-in. As well as selected merchandise, new SGA wall-planners will be available for the first time.
AGM sponsors BushWear, established 15 years ago and with stores in Perth and Stirling to cater for central belt country sports enthusiasts and outdoor workers, are delighted to be partnering with the SGA during the course of 2019.
“The gamekeepers the SGA represent are so vital to the rural way of life and preserving the sport we all enjoy. Indeed, gamekeepers are the core of our business, not just as they need the best clothing and equipment but because they are such good product testers,” said Managing Director, Andrew Small.
“There is no other group that will put a product through its paces as quickly as the Scottish gamekeeper!”
BushWear has been at the forefront of changes in technology in the outdoor sector and several new products will be available for demonstration.
Something that has seen huge changes in the last 5 years and has revolutionised vermin control for keepers is Night Vision and Thermal equipment. We are delighted to be attending the AGM in partnership with our good friends from Thomas Jacks, the importers of market leading Pulsar Night Vision and Thermal equipment.
“We will be showcasing a selection of new Pulsar products, which will give attendees the opportunity to handle them and test their impressive performance. Star of the show will undoubtedly be the state-of-the-art Pulsar Thermion Riflescope. This revolutionary new piece of thermal technology is housed within a compact magnesium alloy bodyshell that is strong and lightweight. With five models in the series, the Thermion Riflescope features a 320x240 12µm thermal sensor on the XM30, XM38 and XM50 units, whilst the XP38 and XP50 units feature a 640x48 17µm thermal sensor, all of which have exceptional image quality and digital zoom.
“Dependent upon the model, the Thermion Riflescopes can reach a detection range of up to 2300m. They are Stream Vision compatible and include built-in video and can record still images.
The redesign of the Thermion Scopes has the appearance of any regular dayscope and feature a 30mm tube that can be attached with standard mounts.”





Saturday, 26 January 2019

BLOG: WHY THE SGA WILL NOT STOP CALLING FOR ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SATELLITE TAGS



Angus eagle with tag visible below the neck.
Reactions to Friday's media story make it apparent that those presently in ownership of satellite tags aim to resist calls for them to be deployed in a more transparent and accountable way and to have them monitored independently.
It can perhaps be understood why such transparency may be resisted. Tag ownership provides those deploying it with publicity and political leverage, without the requirement of a standard of evidence normally expected for accusations of criminality.
For avoidance of doubt the SGA will never refrain from calling for greater accountability over the use of sat tags and independent monitoring of what they show.
Satellite tags can, when used in a collaborative manner and with appropriate data sharing/ownership arrangements, offer useful conservation benefits and insights. The SGA is not advocating stopping using them.
However, as an organisation, the SGA believes they are now being deployed for a very different reason. The organisation also believes that the statistical significance of tag failures, re-appearances of tagged birds, the number of birds and tags that are not recovered even when no criminality is suspected (a quarter of the 'suspicious tags' in SNH's satellite tagged eagle report were recorded away from grouse moors yet these tags were never found) makes the case robust for independent analysis of what they are telling us.
There is a need for evidence, not interpretations of evidence, particularly when countryside matters can be divisive with often conflicting interests. It is also concerning that SNH holds no data from the many tags currently in operation.
The SGA will not stop calling for accountability and transparency, therefore, because it believes it is right and reasonable to do so.
The SGA made it clear that, if greater transparency means a greater ability and likelihood of bringing criminal cases to court, then that openness should be in the interests of all seeking to tackle wildlife crime.
Authorities must decide, going forward, whether they regard this to be of value.

Below is testimony of a gamekeeper from one of the estates questioned over the loss of transmission from the tag of the Hen Harrier reported as missing in Angus, as referenced in the original SGA story on Friday 25th January. Until recent communication, local estates have had the burden of criminal suspicion hanging over them.

"When the story came out, the Police came to the estate and said what had happened with the tag stopping. I offered to get a team to help with the search. We were told that wouldn't be necessary. I was then told we would hear what was happening, probably by the end of the week. That didn't happen. I called the Police 7 or 8 times afterwards to see what the latest was but never got an answer or a call back.
"It was only when the Police came back to ask about something else that I got a chance to ask about the missing Hen Harrier. I was told 'oh, that pinged back up again and re-appeared'.
The understanding was that the bird had been spotted in North Perthshire.

When the gamekeeper in question asked why no one had told him this before and why something had not been put in the paper to clarify that point, he was told that it was not the role of the Police to do so.

Update: Attempts by a blog (with the sole aim of banning grouse shooting) to undermine the veracity of the SGA's stance on satellite tags fail to address the simple, key issue of accountability and transparency which would clear up the many issues regarding tags.

This morning, Police Scotland acknowledged in communications with a freelance journalist that the reasons for the loss of submission from the tag fitted to the Hen Harrier in question remains unexplained; the classification for this stemming from an acknowledgement within Police Scotland that there can be a number of reasons why tags lose transmission.






Friday, 25 January 2019

SGA CALLS FOR SATELLITE TAG ACCOUNTABILITY

An eagle in Angus photographed with a tag dangling below its head.  Pics by Mike Groves.

Angus eagle with dislodged tag, clearly visible.

Scotland’s gamekeepers are calling for accountability regarding satellite tags fitted to wildlife.
The call comes after The Scottish Gamekeepers Association learned that a tagged Hen Harrier, reported as disappearing ‘suspiciously’ in Angus last May, was re-sighted in Perthshire afterwards, according to investigators *.
Anti-grouse moor campaigners who owned the tag’s data publicly blamed the grouse industry, urging Scottish Government to license the sector.
However, no media statements were issued to correct the accusations, leaving local estate employees living with the burden of criminal suspicion.
The SGA has also learned of a sea eagle currently flying around Grampian with a tag dangling from its body, potentially endangering its welfare.
The female sea eagle, pegged with yellow wing markings and the letter ‘E’, has been spotted by concerned land managers.
In recent times, four golden eagles have also been independently photographed in the Angus glens with displaced tags; one clearly hanging from a bird’s neck.
Another eagle was observed in Perthshire last week with the bird’s feathers completely obscuring the tag; something manufacturers acknowledge will distort readings.
Gamekeepers believe tags are now being deployed by campaigners as political weapons, aware there is no independent scrutiny.
Whilst the SGA is not advocating a ban, they believe Scottish Government must act to make fitting and monitoring of the devices accountable.
An FOI to Scottish Natural Heritage by SGA revealed that the heritage body currently holds no information from satellite tags in Scotland, despite hundreds being operational.
Similarly, tag reliability cannot be independently verified as there is no duty for tag owners to disclose information regarding malfunction.
“At the moment, satellite tags are like the wild west,” said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg. “Anyone with funding can buy one, have it fitted to a protected bird, and retain its data. They can then release interpretations to the media, if the tag stops. We saw this with the choreographed ‘Fred the Eagle’ case near Edinburgh, which remains unexplained despite a concerted attempt to finger a grouse moor.
“Although tag fitters are approved, we have seen basic ‘granny knots’ used to fit tags and we have just heard of two tagged Harriers in Perthshire being killed by foxes within three days, with only one tag and body recovered. A tagged adult Harrier lost on National Trust ground this year was never found, neither was its tag, and a predated youngster was only discovered by chance. These are stories the public never hear and it is a shame they have to come out behind a veil of secrecy.
“Despite claims these devices are almost infallible, failure rates and unexplained loss are high and there have been numerous examples of lost birds turning up alive or birds re-appearing miles or days from last tag signals.
“If this information was held independently, all this could be scrutinised transparently by experts and the relevant authorities could act accordingly.”
Late last year the SGA commissioned a legal opinion of SNH’s report into the fates of satellite tagged golden eagles, a paper which sparked the present review of grouse shooting.
The opinion, authored by QC Ronald Clancy, made a strong case for independent scrutiny of tags as the report relied entirely on manufacturer data for its conclusions.
“The present tagging system gives rise to accusation but no prosecutions. 
“If tags are to be used to identify crime then the information must be held independently so it may lead to court action.
“If independent data monitoring makes things more difficult for people committing wildlife crime, that surely is in everyone’s interest,” added SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.

*The SGA learned of the re-sighting of the bird in Perthshire through one of the estates questioned following the original accusation. The estate were later told by those investigating the case that the bird had subsequently been re-sighted in Perthshire. The SGA, rightly, has no investigative function but the organisation has no substantive reason to doubt the estate, or the information forwarded by those involved in investigating the case.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

SGA WILL CHALLENGE FOX HUNTING PROPOSALS

The results of one evening of fox predation at a woodland edge.
Earlier today (9th Jan) Scottish Government announced proposals to alter fox hunting legislation in Scotland.
Of principal interest to SGA members who rely on foot packs as the only effective and humane way to control foxes in dense forestry blocks, Scottish Government appear to have departed from Lord Bonomy's views in their commissioned Review (see below) and have stated that they will limit the number of hounds which can be used to flush foxes to 2.
Minister Mairi Gougeon said that a licensing scheme was being considered which could permit more hounds to be used for legitimate pest control.
The SGA is to seek discussions with other countryside groups who require packs of trained dogs for legitimate fox control in order to ensure a robust challenge to any proposals which might limit the ability for foot packs to operate effectively in Scotland, something which will have serious consequences for threatened wildlife and valuable farm stock.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said:"We will be seeking talks with farmers tomorrow. If any proposed licensing system makes it onerous for fox control with pack operations in dense woodland, vital foot packs for legitimate pest control will just give up.
"Scotland has one of the highest fox densities in Europe. We say, on one hand, we want to save the Curlew, then do this. Maybe this shows where priorities lie. It is another nail for important rural industries and rare ground-nesting wildlife that Scotland has a global responsibility to protect."Reducing the ability to control foxes in forestry will be a disaster for wildlife and farm stock. Two hounds will simply not work. It’s a totally ineffective tool. We are already seeing Forestry Commission denying people access to woods for legitimate fox control because it has become too political. This will pave the way for a complete lock-down and is poorly thought through."I think there is a growing awakening amongst rural workers that they are becoming political bargaining chips and I think we can expect a very strong reaction to this."

Lord Bonomy stated in his Review of fox hunting legislation, commissioned by Scottish Government, that using two dogs could 'seriously compromise effective pest control'.




Monday, 24 December 2018

NO FISH FARMS IN SALMON MIGRATION ROUTES, SAYS SGA FISHING GROUP




River workers have urged Scottish Government to protect iconic wild salmon by refusing permission for new Scottish fish farms in known wild salmon migration routes.
Members of the SGA Fishing Group are deeply concerned at the impacts sea lice outbreaks from open net farms can have on wild salmon.
Now they want government to act with urgency on two recommendations from the Rural Economy Committee’s inquiry into Scottish Aquaculture.
Cross-party MSPs recommended a ‘precautionary approach’ be taken to new fish farm applications, recognising potential impacts aquaculture operations can have on wild salmon.
As part of a package of 65 recommendations they also advocated relocating existing sites which have been proven to present problems to the marine environment and productivity.
Keeping farms away from known wild salmon migration routes is practiced in Norway.
In British Columbia, several large fish farms are to be closed over the next two years to prevent negative interactions between farmed and wild salmon.
High sea lice burdens can cause disease and mortality when wild fish pass the vicinity of pens and moving farms further offshore to areas of higher water flows can lead to improvement.
The SGA Fishing Group eventually wants to see fish farming operations moved to closed containment facilities onshore but feels better siting now would be a start.
“The SGA Fishing Group is not opposed to sustainable fish farming. It is a considerable employer in the highlands and we value lifeline jobs in remote areas.
“There is an opportunity, though, to take steps to address some of the issues between wild fish and farmed,” said SGA Fishing group member, Iain Semple.
“Careful siting of new farms and re-siting the problem ones quickly will not cure everything but these moves would be a step in the right direction. Wild fish and the fisheries that depend on them in the west have suffered and we need to tackle the issues if progress is to be made.
“Scottish Government have heard evidence, in reports from the ECCLR and REC Committees. They can steer the process for the benefit of everyone.”
As part of its review, the REC Committee asked Scottish Government to produce mapping and guidance for local authorities, so planners could decide on suitable and unsuitable sites.
Poor siting close to river estuaries and in sea lochs with poor tidal water exchange have been blamed for sea lice concentrations and accumulations of medicines and faeces from farms.
Wild fisheries in the west feel that fish farm expansion has been one of the key factors in the collapse of some local salmon stocks, through lice and disease.
There have also been a number of high profile escape incidents, with fears over interbreeding.
Wild fisheries account for 4300 FTE jobs and £80m in GVA to Scotland, according to Marine Scotland, and there is concern for ghillie jobs in the wake of severe falls in catches nationwide.
Many rivers are now subject to conservation orders such as mandatory catch-and-release, with Atlantic salmon facing pressures in the marine and coastal environment.
“Wild salmon are iconic, so are our rivers. People come here for the experience of fishing famous rivers, for our environment and the expertise of our river workers. Like fish farms, communities rely heavily on jobs and wider benefits.
“It is important steps are taken to allow both to co-exist better in future,” added Mr Semple.


Friday, 21 December 2018

NEW STOAT TRAP LEGISLATION WILL BE IN FORCE FROM 3RD JANUARY- all the latest news.

The Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Amendment Order 2018 has been laid before the Scottish Parliament. The Order is due to come into force on 3 January 2019.

Trappers will still be able to use the following spring traps for stoats until 31 March 2020:

·         BMI Magnum 110;
·         BMI Magnum 116;
·         Fenn Vermin Trap Mark IV (Heavy Duty);
·         Fenn Vermin Trap Mark VI (Dual Purpose);
·         Kania Trap 2000;
·         Kania Trap 2500;
·         Solway Spring Trap Mk 4;
·         Solway Spring Trap Mk 6;
·         Springer No 4 Multi-purpose (Heavy Duty);
·         Springer No 6 Multi-purpose; and
·         WCS Tube Trap International.


However, as of 3 January 2019 the following spring traps will be removed from the STAO:

·         Fenn Vermin Trap Mk I
·         Fenn Vermin Trap Mark II
·         Fenn Vermin Trap Mark III
·         Imbra
·         Juby
·         Lloyd
·         Sawyer.

Here are some useful guidance notes about using new traps and the regulations surrounding their use, taken from the amended Order.

Tully Trap manufactured by or under the authority of KM Pressings Ltd, 37B Copenhagen Road, Sutton Fields Industrial Estate, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU7 0XQ, UK.



The trap is to be used only for the purpose of killing or taking stoats, weasels and rats.
The trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species..

Goodnature A24 rat and stoat trap manufactured by or under the authority of Goodnature Limited, 4-12 Cruikshank Street, Kilbirnie 6022, Wellington, New Zealand.

The trap is to be used only for the purpose of killing stoats, rats, weasels and mice.
The trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel or enclosure which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species; or set at a minimum height of 30cm off the ground and entered by an artificial tunnel attached to the trap and that protrudes for a distance of no less than 70mm from the trap entrance, and which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species.

 In entry 4 (Doc 150), for the conditions in Column (2), substitute—
Where used in a closed-end tunnel configuration, the trap may be used only for the purposes of killing or taking grey squirrels, rats, stoats and weasels. Where used in a run-through configuration. The trap may be used only for the purpose of killing or taking rats, stoats and weasels, the trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species. The tunnel may be closed-end or a run-through configuration. The tunnel must include an internal baffle arrangement that conforms to the type described in the Department of Conservation’s design specifications as set out in their trap use instructions published on the website of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture on 3 January 2019. The trap must be positioned in relation to the baffle or baffles and to the side of the tunnel so that it conforms with those specifications..

In entry 5 (Doc 200 and Doc 250), for the conditions in Column (2), substitute—

Where used in a closed-end tunnel configuration, the trap may only be used for the purpose of killing or taking grey squirrels, mink, rats, stoats and weasels. Where used in a run-through configuration, the trap may be used only for the purpose of killing or taking rats, stoats and weasels. The trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species. The tunnel may be closed-end or a run-through configuration. The tunnel must include an internal baffle arrangement that conforms to the type described in the Department of Conservation’s design specifications as set out in their trap use instructions published on the website of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture on 3 January 2019. The trap must be positioned in relation to the baffle or baffles and to the side of the tunnel so that it conforms with those specifications.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

2018 SGA POLARIS ATV WINNER ANNOUNCED



The SGA is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2018 SGA Polaris ATV raffle is highland member, Bruce MacGillivray.

The annual raffle proved again to be a major hit with members, supporters and the public who purchased tickets at Scone and Moy shows, through the magazine, office and the online Safeshop https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/safeshop/ 

The draw took place in the SGA HQ in Perth, with member Agnes Kippen pulling out the winning ticket. Mr MacGillivray has been notified of his win and the keys for the Polaris Sportsman 570 will be officially handed over in the New Year.

Well done Bruce, from all at the SGA. A surprise pre-festive gift.

And thanks to all who purchased tickets and supported the SGA. It is very much appreciated by everyone at the organisation.





National Firearms and Explosives Licensing Firearm Certificate Holders – Health and Wellbeing



National Firearms and Explosives Licensing
Firearm Certificate Holders – Health and Wellbeing

Police Scotland’s priority is to ensure public safety, operate a firearms licensing process that delivers a quality service to certificate holders across our diverse communities in Scotland and keep people safe. Our firearms community currently includes almost 51,000 firearm and shotgun certificate holders and around 22,000 air weapon certificate holders. We work very closely with our key partners and colleagues in the Scottish Government, Home Office and shooting organisations to create a shooting environment that is safe, compliant with firearms legislation and does not disadvantage our certificate holders.

An important benefit of partnership working is that together we are committed to safeguarding the welfare of certificate holders by being alert to and identifying any concerns early. You will be aware that GPs now share information with us confidentially, regarding any medical concerns they may have regarding their patients who hold firearms, and this helps to keep certificate holders and others safe. Police and shooting organisations rely on honest, responsible certificate holders to inform police if they are diagnosed with or treated for any relevant medical condition. This forms part of the declaration signed by applicants when they apply for a firearm or shotgun licence.           
          
Part of our ongoing prevention work is safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our certificate holders, by intervening early where there are any concerns. Unfortunately we often find out about problems that they are experiencing in their lives when it is too late, and sometimes following tragic circumstances. We need communities to inform the police of any concerns that they have about their own or other certificate holders’ welfare, even if this is a situation that may affect someone’s ability to safely possess guns at that time. These are often temporary situations and can be as a result of a marriage breakdown, employment challenges, bereavement, physical or mental illness, alcohol or substance misuse, farming issues, financial difficulties or anything else at all that may have a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing.     

Police Scotland are working in partnership with all of our key partners across the shooting organisations as we realise that certificate holders and their families and friends may be reluctant to speak to police and raise concerns, for fear of having their guns removed. Together we want to reassure the shooting community that any action taken will follow engagement with your GP, if a medical concern is identified, and discussion with the certificate holder and will be proportionate, based on risk and take cognisance of all the circumstances.

We are already frequently contacted by responsible certificate holders and their families with concerns about their loved ones and people regularly volunteer to relinquish their firearms until such time as any issue has resolved itself or we have received an assurance from their GP that they are not a danger to themselves or others. Police Scotland encourage this proactive responsible approach and appreciate that we could be dealing with working farmers for example whose livelihoods may be affected so we will endeavour to return firearms as soon as possible. We will also consider other measures such as enhanced security, remote storage or temporarily sharing guns with other certificate holders.
If you have any health concerns regarding yourself as a certificate holder or someone else who holds or has applied for a firearm, shotgun or air weapon   certificate, please call your GP, NHS 24 or 999 in an emergency, as appropriate.

If you are a member of a shooting organisation then you may wish to contact them to discuss any concerns or you can call Police Scotland on 101 or report a concern anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.