Monday, 20 January 2020

AGM 2020: SPEAKER NEWS AND UPDATES

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, 9 January 2020

AGM 2020 DATE ANNOUNCED


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

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




Tuesday, 7 January 2020

MEMBER VIEW: MIXED MESSAGES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

MASSIVE CHANGES FOR GROUSE MOORS FOLLOWING WERRITTY REVIEW



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

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

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

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





Wednesday, 18 December 2019

SGA FISHING GROUP PETITIONS PARLIAMENT ON STOCKING OF SALMON RIVERS


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


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

Ends.


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


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

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

Infographic courtesy of SGA Media.













STANDING UP FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES- FULL PRESS RELEASE


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

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

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





Friday, 13 December 2019

WINNER OF THE 2019 SGA ATV RAFFLE ANNOUNCED

The drumroll begins as Sue delves into the raffle entries box
The SGA is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 SGA ATV raffle, sponsored by WM Rose & Sons Ltd, is Mr William Halley of Saline, Fife.
The draw was made this morning (13th December) by SGA Office Administrator Sue Timms at our Perth HQ and, after learning of his win, by telephone, Mr Halley described the draw result as 'absolutely great.'
The SGA would like to thank WM Rose & Sons Ltd (please see their article in the forthcoming Winter edition of Scottish Gamekeeper) for kindly sponsoring the ATV and to Polaris for being our ATV partner.
We would also like to thank everyone who kindly supported the organisation by purchasing tickets for the annual draw.
In the New Year we will be presenting Mr Halley with the keys to his brand new Polaris ATV.
Well done, William, we hope this makes the festive season even better.

Wait for it................

And there we have it- well done, William.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

OFFICE SERVER ISSUE- WE ARE NOW BACK UP AND RUNNING.

To all our members, the SGA office was hit with a server breakdown this morning, debarring access to phones, computer systems and member database. Thankfully, the issue has now been rectified and we are all back online. Normal service will resume. We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience. Team SGA.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

PROPOSED NEW SENTENCES A 'GAME CHANGER' IN WILDLIFE CRIME





The SGA was at Holyrood today in front of the ECCLR Committee for a round-table discussion on proposals contained within Scottish Government's new Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protectionsand Powers) (Scotland) Bill, laid before Parliament in September.
Within the Bill are proposals to increase maximum penalties for the most serious wildlife crime offences to 5 years in jail or an unlimited fine or both.
Maximum penalties for other wildlife offences are to be increased to a 1 year jail term, a fine up to £40 000, or both.
The Bill also extends the time available for enforcement bodies to bring evidence to court.
Crown officials admitted the new measures offer greater flexibility to deal with a wide range of offences and opens up the possibility for persons accused of serious crimes to be tried before a jury.
The 5 year jail term also elevates wildlife crime to the 'serious crime' category, increasing the ability  of the Police to be able to apply to deploy 'intrusive' surveillance in cases where a jail term of 3 years or more could be deemed an expected outcome and there was no other means to gather evidence.
With Scotland already having strict measures in relation to wildlife crime, the SGA said the proposed new penalties will raise the bar to a previously untold level.
Speaking to the Committee in Edinburgh, Gamekeeper Les George said: "The new sentences are a game changer. For a gamekeeper, the levels of fines are not affordable. If a gamekeeper was found guilty of an offence, they would lose their job, lose their home and their firearms. They would never work again as a gamekeeper. It would be over. It's a game-changer."
Les also told the committee that, while the Police deploying covert cameras in serious cases could be justified, their could be serious implications if campaign bodies were empowered to use covert surveillance.
He told the committee he had suffered, personally, from illegal filming.
"We are not against that (Police being able to deploy cameras in serious cases) but we are concerned about the impact on privacy. I have had people filming my house and my wife and daughter caught on camera. Our fear is that it will encourage vigilantes to do more illegal camera work."


Monday, 9 December 2019

STATEMENT: HEN HARRIERS

Following an RSPB report this morning regarding Hen Harriers, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: 

"The SGA has an unequivocal stance on wildlife crime. It has demonstrated this in action, removing 8 members in the last 7 years for wildlife crimes.
“However the lack of evidence in the press release suggests to us that this is an attempt to influence government over Professor Werritty’s imminent review of grouse shooting.
“Young Hen Harriers are scientifically proven to have very high natural mortality and 
more and more high profile cases of satellite tag failures are coming to light all the time.
“To suggest the tags of birds which die naturally are always found is simply untruthful.
“The RSPB know that. When Hen Harrier Brian disappeared on an RSPB reserve in the Cairngorms National Park, the tag was never found.
“Beyond the orchestrated campaign, there is no actual evidence to link these two losses of tag transmission to persecution or persecution on grouse moors."