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.  



         



Thursday, 29 November 2018

CHANGES TO STOAT TRAPS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW



The fully approved Tully Trap, designed by SGA member Darryl Elliot, will become legal at the end of February, 2019.

Following changes to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards, members and supporters should make themselves aware of new guidance recently announced by GWCT as these will have consequences in less than 5 weeks.

To simplify:

  • By end of February 2019 (in Scotland), the Tully trap will become lawful for stoat weasel and rat trapping, providing it is set in a tunnel ‘suitable for the purpose’ in respect of non-target animals and human safety.
  • By end of February 2019 (in Scotland), DOC traps (DOC150, 200, 250) can be used in run-run-through tunnels for stoats, weasels and rats but not for grey squirrels, providing the tunnel ensures humane-ness and  is ‘suitable for purpose’. All 3 DOCs can also be used in baited, single entry traps.
  • By end of February 2019 (in Scotland), Goodnature A18 squirrel traps are legal. 

On 31st March 2019, Humane Trapping Standards Regulation 2019 comes into force. This means that only 12 months remain to replace outgoing traps.

On 1st April 2020, Fenn/Springer, WCS Tube, BMI Magnum will become illegal for stoats and should not be used.

To find out more about the Tully Trap, see the video, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=gKA7IWm_tI4


Thursday, 8 November 2018

SGA CALLS TO ASSIST POLICE OVER LOSS OF HEN HARRIER TAG TRANSMISSIONS

On Monday, the SGA made the statement, below, regarding loss of transmission from satellite tags fitted to 4 Hen Harriers, communicated in a press release by RSPB Scotland.
We reiterate that any member with any information should contact Police Scotland immediately. 
We would also like to make it known the SGA has requested to Scottish Government on several occasions that tags be independently monitored in order to offer the general public, stakeholders, government and law enforcement agencies greater transparency over what is happening in incidents such as these, or indeed as much clarity as is possible without prejudicing important work.
The SGA understands that of 7 Harrier chicks tagged in Spring this year at Mar Lodge, 3 died within weeks whilst still on the estate at Mar Lodge, which is owned by National Trust for Scotland. This may be in keeping with studied research showing high natural mortality of Hen Harriers in year one of life (believed to be in the region of 70 percent, although this is debated in some quarters).
It is understood one of the tags stopped signalling for several days before reconnecting, with the likely explanation proffered being that the solar tag (presumably attached to a chick) was face down, making it unable to achieve sufficient power to send a signal. It was thought the carcass was perhaps then turned over by a predator, enabling a signal to be transmitted again, as the device then had sufficient light to re-establish contact.
Should a bird have come to an end, away from where it was originally tagged or was last signalling, it could be similarly difficult to locate, particularly if the tag loses the ability to transmit in the wild. If cached underground by a predator such as a fox, attempts to find any carcass is likely to be futile, as is widely and independently acknowledged. 
In SNH's satellite tagged eagle report, for example, the final signal of around 25 percent of the tags earmarked as being 'suspicious' were neither on- or near- grouse moors. Some were in the west of Scotland, many miles from grouse interests and in island areas where, again, there is no grouse shooting at all. 
In those cases- away from any grouse moors-, no birds or tags were found either, highlighting the difficulties associated with locating birds and recovering satellite tags using final fixes or signals. 
This was acknowledged by the RSPB themselves when Harrier Brian's last signal was recorded on one of their own Reserves at Insh Marshes but no body or tag was found, although no speculation regarding Brian was relayed to the media by RSPB. At that time, RSPB only stated, on a website blog aimed at its members, that final signal was only an 'indication' of where a bird was spending time but was not an actual indicator of where a bird may have died.
See their response to the disappearance of 'Brian', here: 

If anyone is out and about in the landscape, please look very carefully at the ground around them and report to Police Scotland, if anything should be discovered.
Birds or tags, if recoverable, may be many miles from the last known signal.
The SGA believes satellite tags should be monitored by neutral agencies in order for everyone to better understand what happens when a tag stops- and whether birds are being persecuted.  If they are, facts need to be known. This is in everyone's interest and the SGA has asked Scottish Government for this step towards accountability to be taken forward.
Using an evidence-based and transparent approach, appropriate action and steps can be taken by all.
The SGA has never, at any stage, stated that persecution does not exist. This is reflected in our policy in that, if an SGA member is convicted of a wildlife crime, they are removed from the SGA. 
Similarly, if an SGA member is proven to be responsible for the loss of transmission from these tags, we will act.
However, evidence and facts, rather than speculation, are important if further progress is to be made.


Responding to the RSPB press release on Monday, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: “Until the findings of satellite tags are monitored by independent experts or bodies, we will never fully understand what happens when tags lose transmission nor will anyone be any closer to being able to do anything about it.
“There could be many factors at play. Our understanding is that the majority of the 7 tagged Hen Harriers chicks at Mar Lodge this year have died in some circumstance or another, with one tag going off radar for some days before signalling again, so we are not going to speculate on cases.
“Around a quarter of ‘suspicious’ tags studied in SNH’s satellite tagged eagle report lost transmission away from grouse moor areas, including islands, yet the tags themselves were never recovered.
If anyone has any information, they should contact Police Scotland.”

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

SGA STATEMENT: REVIVE CAMPAIGN SEEKS TO PUT THOUSANDS OF RURAL WORKING FAMILIES ON THE DOLE


Please find below the full statement from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding the launch of the Revive campaign. 


A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Despite the veneer, the majority of these organisations and individuals have never been interested in ‘reform’. People should not be fooled. This is a wrecking ball campaign by a cohort seeking to ban grouse shooting and to put thousands of Scotland’s rural workers and their families on the dole.
“Over the coming weeks, while government independently reviews grouse shooting, we expect the track record of tactics which has seen members within this group covertly filming land managers undertaking legal activities and spreading misinformation in a bid to get the result they crave.
“Those seeking to use their charitable lobbying influence in Edinburgh to kill off livelihoods should take responsibility for the consequences and provide alternative employment for the lives they will wreck.”


Saturday, 27 October 2018

SGA CHAIRMAN RESPONDS AGAIN TO GOAT HUNTING FURORE


SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has written to the Telegraph in the wake of #Goatgate this week. The full text appears below.

The SGA has learned some individuals have been critical of representative organisations for a lack of response to this emerging story and wants to make some points known regarding its own involvement.

The SGA would like to make it clear to all members that, as the story was breaking on Day 1, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg provided direct comments to The Scotsman newspaper, the iPaper, The Sun, The Telegraph, Deadline News Agency, Pressteam Agency, The Press and Journal and The Daily Mail as well as providing context and information for many individual journalists covering the story.

Due to dealing with many other important organisational issues such as time-dependent Government consultations, the SGA declined some broadcast interviews on Day 2, allowing others to take up the slack, but Chairman Alex Hogg provided this further article and a further comment article for The Sun newspaper, on Day 3.

Text from Telegraph article, here: By SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.

"Some people don’t like to see animals killed. As a gamekeeper of over 40 years, it is something I have become accustomed to, as part of a job that requires the legal control of abundant predators, such as foxes and crows, in order to give ground-nesting birds a chance in life. That includes the curlew and the plover, not just the game birds. And while I have respect for other peoples’ viewpoint as regards killing, I personally believe and understand why it is sometimes necessary- and advantageous.

I have not controlled goats, personally. I have had to kill wild or injured sheep before, but not for sporting reasons. Hundreds of thousands of animals are killed in Scotland each year to protect various interests, whether it is trees, crops or private property. Over 300 buzzards a year are killed at Scottish airports for air safety, yet people don’t stop having holidays to Tenerife, even if they abhor the idea of protected birds of prey being killed.

The public aren’t keen on hungry seagulls eating their sandwiches at lunch time and councils will order in the pest control, on the QT, to keep residents safe. We kill rats in industrial quantities, for hygiene and to control the spread of disease. They are animals, too, even if less photogenic than some.

Back to goats, the RSPB, with over a million members, and a strap-line of “giving nature a home” controls feral goats at Inversnaid, on Loch Lomond, to protect woodland.

This has been done by culling (and means such as using contraceptive darts) and is rightly given the name of conservation to protect important habitats. Yet, show the gun and outrage ensues. Why? What makes one type of killing different from another?

In my personal view, we appear to have forgotten that management of the land and management of species often go hand in hand and someone has to pay for that management, either by realising a sporting asset or through tax payer’s money. On Thursday it was announced that the RSPB and SNH will receive £6 million to eradicate Orkney’s stoats, again for conservation reasons. Gamekeepers manage stoats daily, at no cost to the public.

Last year, in Scotland, 112, 500 deer were killed and Michael Russell, - the Brexit Minister who responded angrily to the picture of Larysa Switlyk posing with a dead goat on Islay - has personally campaigned for more culling to promote Scottish Government’s forestry expansion target and to bring more protected sites into favourable condition.
Yet, in the west, feral goats can do as much damage to the natural heritage as deer can. There seems to be a selective view of the “natural heritage” and what ought to be killed without the knowledge of the processes which underpin it.
Similarly, under government approval, increasing numbers of deer are shot in public forests at night and, only a few years ago, John Muir Trust, named after the Scottish conservationist, left 86 stags to rot away on a Knoydart hillside. I can't recall the same level of abuse being directed towards them as the American TV star.

Michael Russell was at pains to make a distinction between “trophy hunting” and land management. He has a point. Ultimately, though, a goat is shot or it’s not. Furthermore, his own government’s policy targets will necessitate many more goats being shot in the west in the future, whether by an American huntress, a local farmer, or whoever else.

By transporting a bit of her own “hunting” culture to a Scotland unaccustomed to it, the huntress misread the mood, no doubt. As to the shooting of the blackface, I cannot comment without knowing full facts.
However, with social media as it is (the threats and abuse were possibly more illegal than the hunting), politicians have to be in possession of all the facts before wading in. The Greens chose to make political capital for an anti-bloodsports policy that would put nearly 9,000 people, like me, on the dole. That is their prerogative.
But the public have to realise that species management is carried out the world over. Scotland is not a special case. 
If people want to pay to help that process along, do we say “no”? Shooting in Scotland is worth pounds £200 million a year, and supports 8,800 jobs.
Maybe we just need to tone down the pictures next time." 


Friday, 26 October 2018

NEW GRADINGS FOR SALMON RIVERS ANNOUNCED


Marine Scotland has announced the gradings for Scottish salmon rivers following changes to its approach in modelling the conservation status of rivers.
These gradings first came into force in April 2016 in order to regulate exploitation and determine which measures were necessary to protect the declining conservation status of wild salmon.
However, many complaints were received as anglers and custodians felt the methodology did not adequately capture the true picture of stocks in certain waters and this has now been refined further.
Scotland's 173 rivers have now been classified and their gradings can be searched online at https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0054/00542420.pdf
Rivers with a Category 3 rating will have to apply mandatory catch and release.