Wednesday, 17 October 2018


The SGA has issued the following response to the official figures from Scottish Government which showed a record low, since records began in 2004, of recorded bird of prey crimes in Scotland.
In 2017, there was only one recorded case of raptor poisoning in Scotland.
The SGA has also called for a review of how satellite tags are monitored in Scotland.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “In 2010, in Scotland, there were 22 cases of raptor poisoning which was unacceptable.
"Seven years on, we are looking at 1 case, with shooting and trapping reduced substantially as well. Few, if any, types of crime in this country have declined at such a rate. This is welcomed by the SGA.
 “The SGA has expelled 6 members in 6 years for wildlife crime convictions.
"Going forward, we believe satellite tagged birds should be monitored independently, in the same way SASA currently handles poisoning cases for Government, so that everyone involved in tackling this issue can understand more about any loss of transmission from tags and can develop future strategy, from a position of trust.”

While the SGA acknowledges that persecution still exists and will continue in its efforts to reduce this  further in Scotland, the organisation believes it is important to remember how far things have come in Scotland in the last 10 years.

Obtained through FOI from Police Scotland, this graph, up until 2014-2015 (anticipated updates will show a similar but reducing pattern) shows wildlife crime set against other types of recorded crime in Scotland.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018


SGA members in South Lanarkshire introduced newcomers to locally sourced venison last week, highlighting the possibilities for potential new markets with targeted central support.
Trained urban deer managers provided venison burgers and square sausage, under Scottish Quality Wild Venison assurance, to adults and kids at the Langlands Moss nature reserve in East Kilbride.
Kids from local scout groups and parents were led on walks through the woods to learn about bats and moths at the event hosted by Friends of Langlands Moss.
There they enjoyed the healthy venison laid on free of charge by the local deer managers, with many further inquiries as to where they could buy it themselves.
With Scottish Government promising to invest in local larder facilities to enable more venison to reach previously untapped domestic markets such as consumers in the central belt, the East Kilbride event highlighted the benefits targeted investment could have in growing demand for a quality product which is sustainable, lean and highly nutritious. 
Local deer manager and member of the SGA Deer Group, David Quarrell said: “If a pilot project was started in this area, with a proper chill facility, there is real potential to get venison in front of more people. It is in sustainable supply, it is healthy and realising this resource means locally sourced food, a very low carbon footprint and potential for future growth. It also means that deer are being properly managed around towns and cities and helping to meet Scottish Government objectives in managing green spaces, cutting down on poaching, and preventing deer vehicle collisions.”

Monday, 17 September 2018


Tougher restrictions on permanent rodenticide baiting by gamekeepers, farmers and pest controllers, with legal backing, have been introduced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK rodenticide regulatory body. A detailed booklet, CRRU Guidance: Permanent Baiting, is available from
The practice is only approved where high potential for reinvasion is identified and when all alternatives have been considered. It is prohibited as a 'just-in-case' preventive measure when no signs of rats, nor high reinvasion threat, is present.
The new restrictions address a high risk of wildlife contamination through small mammals such as field mice and voles entering bait stations, eating rodenticide then falling prey to a wide range of predatory birds and mammals. The same applies to some small birds, which possibly explains why anticoagulant residues are found in sparrowhawks and peregrines, which feed almost entirely on birds taken in flight.
One of the main objectives of the UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime is to reduce residues in all UK wildlife. Restricting the use of permanent baiting will significantly contribute towards achieving this, according to Dr Alan Buckle, chairman of the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, the body responsible to UK government for the stewardship regime.
Where permanent baiting is justified, some baits containing bromadiolone or difenacoum are allowed, but not all. Those containing the other three second generation anticoagulants are prohibited.
Rodenticide users need to check product labels carefully before use. There are new statements for prohibited as well as allowed permanent baiting rodenticides. For the latter, the key label phrase is “Permanent baiting is strictly limited to sites with high potential for reinvasion when other methods of control have proven insufficient.”
Dr Buckle adds, "In all situations, permanent baiting must never be a routine practice. But as a monitoring device, non-toxic placebo baits should be used more often.
"To counteract rats' acute fear of new things, there is good reason for having tamper-proof bait stations in permanent outdoor locations, but with placebo rather than rodenticide present.
"Inspecting placebo-baited stations regularly can give early warning of a new infestation. Clearly, when this happens, a temporary switch to rodenticide baits can be made until the infestation is cleared. Normally this should take no more than 35 days, followed by resumption with placebo."

Friday, 14 September 2018

Travelling with a European Firearms Pass if there’s no Brexit deal

Travelling with a European Firearms Pass if there’s no Brexit deal
As it stands you require a European Firearms Pass (EFP) if traveling between EU countries with your firearms and shotguns. EFPs are issued by the EU country in which a firearm owner is resident. You do not need an EFP if you are travelling within the UK and you hold a valid UK firearms certificate.
After March 2019 if there is no deal
Should the UK leave the EU with no deal, EFPs would no longer be available to UK residents wishing to travel with their firearms to EU countries. You would need to comply with whatever licensing or other requirements each EU country decides to impose, as well as UK import and export licensing requirements (see link below for information about export controls but, in summary, export licences would be required for exports of firearms to EU countries, although there would be an exemption for firearms travelling as personal effects).
EFPs would no longer be recognised for EU visitors to the UK. Their sponsors would, as now, have to apply for a Visitor’s Permit but it would no longer be a legal requirement to also produce a valid EFP.
What you need to do
UK residents wishing to travel to EU countries with their firearm or shotgun after 29 March 2019 should contact the authorities of the countries concerned for information about their licensing requirements. This advice would also apply to UK residents who are due to be in an EU country with their firearm at the point when the UK leaves the EU.
If you are sponsoring an EU visitor to the UK, you should continue to apply to the local police force for a Visitor’s Permit. Permits issued before the UK leaves the EU will remain valid until they expire.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has welcomed the Scottish Government's commitment to growing the venison industry in Scotland and beyond, saying it is time for the nation to make the best use of a prized but under-utilised asset.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has been a key member of the steering group helping to drive forward the government's strategic 9-point plan aimed at major sector growth in wild and farmed deer by 2030.
Food and drink is now one of the key pillars of the nation's economy but the SGA has felt, for some considerable time, that the undoubted potential of venison and game has not yet been realised.
The announcement of governmental support has therefore been hugely welcomed by the SGA, whose members include many hundreds of trained men and women responsible for managing deer in Scotland; an industry sustaining 2520 full-time jobs.
"Venison is a tremendous product. It is healthy, lean and sustainable and, for some time, we have been asking for more support to see it reach some of its huge potential," said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.
"It has been a long-held aspiration of the SGA that venison and game should become a regular part of our diet but there have been barriers and not enough awareness.
"We'd like to thank Fergus Ewing for his energy in driving this forward, for recognising the potential that exists and engaging the sector on what can be done. SGA members have the qualifications and meat hygiene training to push forward activity on the ground. With the right level of government support, we are sure we can get venison into local markets; with the potential for people to see deer in a very different light.
"When we first spoke to Fergus Ewing about the potential in the market, he pulled out the stops to pull together all the relevant parties. We are particularly pleased to see recognition at government level that investment in local larder facilities can potentially create employment, ensure the venison resource is used locally and will also help government meet its deer management targets. This is a win-win situation the SGA has advocated for some time and we look forward to helping carry the plans forward."

The key elements of the 9 point plan include: (see full plan at the foot of the official press release).

  • Establish an industry hub for market research and information
  • Identify new markets and build supply chains
  • Drive forward quality assurance
  • Develop skills and training
  • New Entrant and Expansion Fund for deer farming plus the launch of a monitor farm programme
  • Invest in area-based facilities
  • Marketing and education in schools
  • Build on Research and Development to improve productivity
  • Develop new recipes and products

Please see the full Scottish Government press release, below.

Strategic vision outlines sector growth to 2030.
The first ever strategy for Scotland's wild and farmed venison sector has been launched, with the aim of bringing together the wild and farmed deer interests for the first time, and setting out nine "key area" for growth across the sector.   
Those key areas include skills-building initiatives, a fund to support new entrants to venison farming and the need for further research and development.
Speaking from Downfield Farm venison processing plant in Cupar, Fife, Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said:
"I am delighted to help to launch this strategy for this exciting, burgeoning sector in Scotland's food and drink success story.
"Venison is a premium food, renowned for its quality, provenance and health credentials, and its reputation continues to rise in both domestic and international markets.  We know the venison market in the UK alone is estimated to be worth around £100 million per year and demand has been increasing year on year. With this strategy in place, the sector in a Scotland now has a fantastic opportunity to meet rising demand, displace imports and target new market opportunities.     
"I welcome that the industry has come together to develop a plan that will build on the strong foundations put in place by the venison pioneers in Scotland. Deer farming and management play a significant role in supporting a thriving and sustainable rural economy and this strategy will support our shared wider ambitions to grow it.  
"And it's very fitting to launch the new strategy on Scottish Venison Day and during Food and Drink fortnight, the annual celebration and promotion of Scotland's food and drink sector. The Scottish Government looks forward to working with the sector to take forward the actions contained with the strategy."
Bill Bewsher, Chairman, The Scottish Venison Partnership, said:
"Venison producers and processors in Scotland, both wild and farmed, will take very significant encouragement from this new strategy. 
"We are exceptionally fortunate that on the one hand we have a rich asset in our wild deer as a sustainable source of healthy food and, on the other, increasing enthusiasm and undoubted potential to grow our farmed venison sector to meet expanding markets both in the UK and elsewhere. This strategy points all of us in the right direction with a set of common goals for 2030 and we are grateful for the additional support forthcoming from government in helping us to meet them.”

Download the full strategy from this link.

Monday, 13 August 2018


Scientists in the Strathbraan area witnessed nests with four fledged Curlew chicks this year: a first.
An update on the Raven License: The Community perspective.

Scottish Raptor Study Group has launched a Judicial Review of SNH’s decision to grant a licence to the Strathbraan community to control ravens to protect critically endangered wading birds.
The Research licence was the result of 18 months of work by the local farmers and gamekeepers here who undertook counts of ravens and wading birds before applying for the license, which is supported by the SGA and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Many of the land mangers in the license area had taken part in the Scottish Government ‘Understanding Predation’ project, overseen by Scotland’s Moorland Forum.
A multi-party project, Understanding Predation brought together farmers, gamekeepers, ornithologists, raptor workers, RSPB Scotland, forestry interests and others with the shared objective of saving declining waders.
The final report- a unique collaboration of science and local knowledge- concluded that bold and urgent actions were required if Scotland was to save its dwindling populations.
Breeding Curlew, described as the UK’s most urgent conservation priority, have declined by 46 percent in 25 years.
There are now estimated to be only 250- 300 pairs south of Birmingham, a population which could be lost in 8 years.
In Wales, it is predicted the birds could be gone completely by 2025 and Scotland’s response to this urgent wake-up call is now vital.
The UK hosts about a quarter of the world’s breeding pairs in Spring and Summer and what happens here has an impact on global survival.
Inspired by the project, land managers in Strathbraan, who had witnessed the devastation caused by flocks of juvenile ravens hunting fields of wader chicks and eggs, decided to apply for a control licence to protect the local populations.
The Strathbraan area is a core site for breeding waders; something acknowledged by the RSPB’s own  Tayside Wader Survey summary report 2013.
It described Strathbraan East as ‘nationally important’ for Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Snipe and Strathbraan as nationally important for Lapwing and Oystercatcher.
Despite this, populations are still suffering decline (although comparatively less than many other un-managed areas).
The research licence, now to be contested, is an attempt to preserve the core breeding population in a key area.
Crucially, the licence is to protect waders and ravens. In deciding upon the number of ravens to be taken (69), SNH approved the licence on the basis that the numbers would not affect the conservation status of the raven.

Recently, news emerged of the assessment by SNH’s SAC on the ‘science’ of the license.
In terms of the community, we volunteered to suspend the licence whilst these aspects were being looked at. It should be noted that it was not the job of the local land managers to craft the scientific model. It was the job of local land managers to look after the birds and carry out the control humanely and in compliance with the law and spirit of the license, which they have done.

For the community, the justification for the licence came in the shape of what everyone expected- a very good breeding season for Waders here and much better protection for them than in recent times when raven flocks have wiped out chicks in the lowland fields. This, for us, has been a success, no matter how it is measured.

Here is the Community’s statement and latest position: 

“Local farmers and gamekeepers have been united in trying to prevent further loss of rare birds such as the Curlew, which would be tragic especially as action on the ground clearly makes a difference.
“Thanks to the licence, and hens being in good breeding condition, we are delighted to say it has been an excellent breeding year in Strathbraan. Folk at the sharp end have even seen nests of four fledged Curlew chicks for the first time, greatly helped by being better able to protect the chicks and eggs from the raven flocks that have been so damaging in recent years.
“In terms of wader conservation, therefore, it has been a much better season. The license has been temporarily suspended so those on the science side can make adjustments.
“However, the community remains committed to wading bird conservation, spurred on by what has been achieved so far.”


With reference to a news item on mountain hare, focusing on a paper by Adam Watson and released by RSPB at the start of the grouse season, the SGA has released the following media statement.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “This work is largely at odds with what is being seen on the ground in grouse moor areas, where hare numbers- in good breeding seasons- remain very, very high, sometimes reaching densities of up to 200 hares per sq km.
"It will be helpful to scrutinise the study's methods and consistency given such a discrepancy with the current reality.
“Many of the gamekeepers in the survey area didn't see the author undertake counts, even when they were working in these areas daily, and the study's methods have now been superseded by the new science conducted by GWCT and James Hutton Institute for SNH, which was published in January this year. (1)
“A lot of tax payers’ money was spent conducting that work on how to count hares as accurately as possible and gamekeepers are committed to adopting this in 2018 onwards so the true picture emerges as to where mountain hares may be struggling. 
“Data held by GWCT shows the number of hares taken on grouse moors shows no overall discernible trend since 1954, despite the claims by those seeking to legislate against grouse shooting that culls have been escalated to protect grouse (2). The average annual hare cull of 25 000 represents only 7 percent of the estimated population.
“Whilst on Scottish grouse moors hare numbers remain amongst the highest in Europe, we know there are campaigning wildlife charities, looking after hundreds of sites, with suitable habitat but no mountain hares at all. That revelation may shock and will become clearer to the public and government when the new counting methods are widely adopted, which is what the SGA is calling for.
“Scotland-wide counts of areas where hares were once present will also show exactly how many thousands of acres of the species’ preferred heather habitats have been given over to tree planting and regeneration in areas such as the Cairngorms and what impact this has had on the conservation of the species.”

  2. GWCT graph (below).

Friday, 10 August 2018


"“They might not have research letters after their name but they are carrying out practical conservation, paid for by the shooting income that drives the business model."

Scotland’s gamekeepers will deliver millions of pounds of ‘free’ conservation this year despite bracing themselves for a poor grouse shooting season.
That is the view of Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg ahead of the start of the 2018 season on Monday (13th August).
With grouse breeding hit by extreme weather there will be less harvestable surplus for paying visitors to shoot and many estates are cancelling days to preserve future stocks, losing income.
Scottish Government will miss out on tax revenue and the tourism sector will suffer but gamekeeping bodies say Scotland’s countryside will still gain millions from un-costed conservation.
Tens of millions of pounds of public money has been claimed in recent years by bird charities and NGOs, through lottery, EU schemes and grants, to conserve species- cash which could become tighter after Brexit.
However skilled legal predator control, benefitting a range of threatened species, is undertaken by gamekeepers daily as part of their employment, lessening cost burdens on tax payers.
And SGA Chairman Alex Hogg says Scotland will still benefit handsomely from the work of gamekeepers which he believes would cost millions each year to replicate or replace.
“Someone ultimately has to pick up the tab for conservation because it is expensive,” he said.
“Our members are out every day in all weathers controlling predators and undertaking habitat work at landscape scale. This protects game species- the business model- so some of the income comes back, but it also benefits an array of species particularly the many threatened ground-nesting birds we now have in Scotland.
“This year, sadly, it looks like we will welcome less international shots for the grouse and that will squeeze the money available for estates to pay for everything else.
“But the management still goes on every day, without diverting public cash the government needs away from other priorities like schools, roads and hospitals.”
Placing a monetary value on gamekeepers’ conservation work is problematic but the SGA Chairman points to recent conservation projects in Scotland and a 2014 report which estimated the conservation value of shoots to be worth 16 000 full-time jobs. (1)*
It is expected that eradicating stoats in Orkney by trapping and lethal control, for example, will cost £3m of public money. Trapping grey squirrels in order to protect the native red led to Scottish Wildlife Trust receiving £2.46m of lottery grants last year. Millions of pounds of European and heritage cash has been spent trying to increase declining Scottish Capercaillie numbers; a small part of which was used up in attempts to control foxes.
“Stoat and fox control are two examples of skilled work which trained gamekeepers undertake every day using approved traps and snares. They are not involved in eradication programmes. They are trying to keep a balance in the countryside so things don’t get to that point.
“They might not have research letters after their name but they are carrying out practical conservation, paid for by the shooting income that drives the business model.
“By controlling foxes, rabbits, deer and mountain hares, they are also helping the farmers protect livestock, poultry and crops for the food chain, and young trees.
“I don’t think it is an over-estimation to say this service would be valued at millions per annum, if it was to be funded by public finance.”
The 2014 report: The Value of Shooting by PACEC placed the value of conservation on all UK shoots at 3.9 million work days; the equivalent of 16 000 full-time conservation jobs.
Nearly 30 percent of UK shoots are also responsible for sites containing conservation designations.

The Grouse season in Scotland is estimated to be worth £32m to the economy each year.
A survey of 45 grouse estates last year showed that £23m of trade to local businesses was generated by grouse estates before a grouse was even shot. Despite projected lost shooting income that level of investment will already have been committed in 2018.

The Costs of Conservation and Pest Management (some examples).

Saturday, 4 August 2018


Four individuals who worked to end a controversial deer management dispute in Assynt have been presented with a major rural award.
Mary Reid and David Walker-Smith, Ray Mackay of Assynt Crofters’ Trust and woodland adviser Victor Clements all played a part in breaking an impasse over deer impacts at a designated woodland site at Ardvar.
The issue regarding the extent of deer browsing damage to protected woodlands became divisive and Scottish Natural Heritage had decided to impose a statutory Order on the community until fresh evidence forced a rethink.
On Friday, the persistence of the individuals in presenting their case against the odds was honoured with the presentation of the Ronnie Rose award at Moy Game Fair.
The trophy, in the name of the late author, deer manager and MBE, was inaugurated by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) in order to recognise individuals who have devoted significant energy to rural conservation or education.
Judges deemed the work of the quartet to be an example to all fragile communities who believe local knowledge should play a part in shaping futures.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “All of these individuals, and others, played a part in different stages in Assynt, assisted by Victor Clements’ knowledge of how deer interact with their habitats. What unites them are the hours they gave and the passion with which they pursued evidence to re-state their position. They refused to give up and, in doing so, demonstrated to authorities that the knowledge of land managers on the ground should not be dismissed when making decisions affecting peoples’ lives. Their resilience is an example.”
Ray Mackay, Vice Chair of Assynt Crofters’ Trust, who could not make the presentation in person, was at the helm of the local deer management group when SNH decided to back away from using statutory powers.
He said: “This would not be possible if it had not been for all the people who advised, cajoled and encouraged - members of the Assynt Peninsula Deer Management Sub-Group and members of the Sport & Game Committee of the Assynt Crofters' Trust. I would like to thank two people for their support- Jim Payne, owner of Ardvar Estate, and Michael Ross, the gamekeeper there. I would also like to acknowledge the gracious support offered by Dr Mike Cantlay. His first Board meeting as Chair of SNH was the meeting at which the Assynt Peninsula came under the spotlight. Although the Board's decision went against us, Mike kept a line of communication open and, with his input, SNH adopted a different approach which eventually led to the agreement we now have.”
Mary Reid and David Walker-Smith led the local deer group at the beginning of the dispute. They were delighted to receive the award at Moy.
“I feel very honoured that the work I and other colleagues have done for deer in Assynt led to ournames being put forward,” said Mary.
David added: “Hopefully what has been learned will make those responsible for policy documents to listen to those on the ground involved in deer management on a daily basis.”
Victor Clements, who advised the group, said: “The resolution at Ardvar/Assynt shows what can be achieved when people focus on issues and evidence, not the arguments.”
Three individuals also received long service medals from the SGA for 40 years of unbroken service to their profession.
Badanloch Stalker Brian Lyall, Kinloch-Hourn stalker Donald Cameron and Glenfeshie gamekeeper David Taylor all received medals over the weekend, presented by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg and Committee Member, Iain Hepburn.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018


David Howarth with the 2017 Ronnie Rose Award
The SGA is delighted to announce that the 2018 Ronnie Rose Award for conservation and education will be presented on Friday (3rd August) at Moy Highland Fieldsports Fair.
Team SGA is gearing up for the second show event of 2018 and will welcome Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP to present the awards.
As well as the Ronnie Rose award presentation, we will also be handing over the next set of Long Service medals to individuals who have given 40 years of unbroken service to the gamekeeping, stalking, gillie-ing or wildlife management professions.
The first recipients received their medals and framed certificates at GWCT Scottish Game Fair at Scone, a ceremony which swelled the crowd at the SGA stand.
We look forward to seeing everyone for the presentations on Friday, which will get underway at 11am.
See you there.