Friday 20 December 2013


As we head into the Christmas holidays, we are pleased to announce that 1757 people have answered the SGA's tail docking petition. We still have a further month to go until the petition closes, so please keep up the signing and sharing. Click here, then on the blue letters to sign.

Friday 13 December 2013


Towards the close of week three, 1280 people have completed the SGA’s Tail Docking Petition. Thanks to all those who have done so, so far. Let’s keep sharing and signing. Working dogs need your help. Click on the blue letters and complete the form or share this link amongst your friends.

Friday 6 December 2013


The 2013 SGA Honda ATV is bound for the Outer Hebrides. The draw for the quad was made this afternoon in the SGA office in Perth by staff George Macdonald and Sheila Beattie. And the lucky recipient of this year’s prize, kindly donated by Honda UK and J.M.T Manufacturing Ltd in Forth, Lanarkshire, was SGA Syndicate member from Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Steve McCombe. Steve was notified of his win by telephone moments afterwards and informed us a celebratory drink would be in the offing this evening. The SGA would like to thank all members, supporters and members of the public who kindly purchased raffle tickets through our magazine, from the office and at Game Fairs in 2013. The income helps us to fulfill our aims of representing gamekeepers, ghillies, stalkers, wildlife managers and rangers. We would also like to thank Honda UK and JMT for their continued support. You will be able to read all about Steve’s win in the forthcoming edition of Scottish Gamekeeper, our quarterly member magazine...


Close to the end of week two, 753 people have signed our petition to the SNP government to reverse the ban on the docking of working dogs’ tails. We haven’t extrapolated all the data on this, this is just a weekly outline update on the number of people who have hit the YES button. The petition is due to close on January 31st so we still have plenty more time to share, sign and encourage others as we aim to see the overturning of this law which has led to suffering for working dogs, torment and cost for their owners and the loss of important Scottish breeding lines which has damaged the future of the industry. Please keep encouraging people to sign. The SGA would like to thank all those who have helped so far. Members, members’ friends, industry partners, gundog owners and clubs across Scotland, the NGO and other supporters, as well as members of the public. We’d like to thank proactive people who have taken it upon themselves to phone and write to Ministers and welfare groups to get answers for themselves. So, keep up the good work, keep signing and sharing. You can also take the petition directly from our Facebook page. Just press the petition icon on the right of the header.

Monday 2 December 2013


Following the release of an unofficial report by the RSPB today on the Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in 2012, the SGA issued the following response. An SGA Spokesman said: “The RSPB has clearly spent a lot of money in writing this report, which entitles them to put forward their own viewpoint.“With this agenda in mind, it is important, that the public refer to the actual crimes, as published annually by the Scottish Government with information provided officially by the Police and SASA, rather than speculative possible or suspected cases, which are clearly going to confuse the public.“All PAW partners, including ourselves, are fully behind the printing of the official statistics annually, based on actual legal cases, and see no reason why this should change.“While we have been encouraged by the progress made, with the official statistics stating a record of only 3 confirmed cases of illegal poisoning of birds of prey in 2012, reports such as this do little other than damage to on-going partnership efforts designed to reduce crimes against birds of prey.“As stated consistently, the SGA continues to advocate legal means to solving countryside conflicts. Because of this, the clarity and impartiality provided by law is important to us.”

Friday 29 November 2013


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association would like to thank all those who have signed our tail docking petition, which closes on January 31st 2014, so far. We understand there have been some technical issues to circumvent. We are pleased to say that problems affecting iphones were rectified this morning. Please DO sign and keep encouraging others to do so. If you have a personal social media page, please share it there, too. Twitter, Google Plus, whatever, we need to break through apathy and get this changed for good. Please find the link below. Click on it and where you see the blue letters, click there and complete the petition. The petition closes on January 31st so we have a great chance to show the SNP government that the voice of the working countryside deserves to be listened to, as we were promised. *Due to compatibility issues with certain computer systems, we are aware some people have been unable to sign. We will continue to try to rectify any technical issues. If they prove to be insurmountable, we will include a downloadable form on our website before the closing date, where people can sign and return. We don't want to miss anyone out. Once again, thank you for your great support and let's keep fighting the good fight.

Monday 25 November 2013


Can you help? Do you have any old photographic 'treasures' lying around or in a box somewhere? If you do, maybe you can assist us. We are looking to re-instate the SGA calendar for 2015 and we'd appreciate your input. We're looking for a collection of images that would make a great composition around the theme of 'gamekeeping through the ages.' It could be ghillie pics on the river back in the 1920s or stalking or shooting in the 70s/80s/90s- and anything in between! If you have a favourite image that would make a great addition to our 2015 calendar, we'd love to hear from you. Contact the office on 01738 587 515 or email If you want to post a photo, post it to' Calendar', The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Arran House, Arran Road, Perth, Scotland PH1 3DZ. We promise to return any photographs safely after use.

Wednesday 13 November 2013


Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg was at Holyrood today, giving evidence to the Rural Affairs Committee on the subject of how deer are managed in Scotland.The SGA, which represents 5300 working gamekeepers, stalkers, wildlife managers and rangers in Scotland believes rural jobs and the viability of fragile communities will be at great risk if local people have their input on deer issues removed.Deer stalking and deer management supports 2520 jobs in Scotland and, at present, local people with an interest in deer in their area are represented on deer management groups.These groups take into account local biodiversity, designated site requirements, jobs, the welfare of the local deer population and community viability.“We were glad to have the chance to make the case for workers in remote communities. There is a real fear that if we lose the balancing input of working people when it comes to deer management, jobs will be lost and local businesses in these communities will suffer," said Mr. Hogg.“There was a lot of contesting of figures regarding how many deer we actually have in Scotland at the present time and SNH will be able to present the accurate picture when they give evidence. “What was interesting was that, in all the talk about the conservation aspects, little was heard- other than from ourselves and the people who work every day in deer and wildlife management- about communities or jobs in these areas.“The argument has been made that a statutory deer management system would create more gamekeeper jobs. I have been a keeper for about 40 years and previously worked for the Forestry Commission and I can tell you, this is not the case.“Full-time stalker jobs in these areas, and the wildlife and habitat management that goes with that, will be removed. In their place, contract stalkers will be flown in to shoot as many deer as is deemed to be required and will then leave the community to deal with the consequences and impacts on their businesses.“There will be nothing like the same level of concern for the socio-economics, the people of that community, or the welfare of the deer, which will simply become a number.“A lot of progress has been made with the voluntary system, particularly when you consider 84 per cent of designated features on designated sites are now in favourable or improving condition - a figure which has been omitted in much of the debate so far.“We believe the current system best balances biodiversity, deer welfare, local jobs and community socio-economics.”

Sunday 10 November 2013


Please see the following full response from The SGA to the story on mountain hares written by Rob Edwards in today's Sunday Herald. This full response was given to the writer but was not used for 'reasons of space'. Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "In 2006/2007, a study by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)
 contrasted the number of mountain hares found on intensively managed grouse moors with those on less intensively managed moors and, finally, on estates where there was no grouse interest at all and, therefore, little or no management. "What was found was that mountain hares were found on 64 per cent of the area intensively managed for grouse, 9 per cent on less intensively managed grouse moors and on estates where there were no grouse interest, mountain hares were absent. "The truth, therefore, is that legal removal of abundant predators by gamekeepers benefits mountain hares as well as red grouse and ground nesting birds. Indeed, the inability to produce mountain hares above subsistence level in other areas is the bigger and more worrying story in terms of the long-term success of the species. "There is a population of mountain hares in the highlands which is relatively high compared to anywhere else in Europe but there is no denying that there are issues and The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is aware of these. Tick numbers have increased dramatically in the last ten years and hares carry tick and louping ill virus, helping to perpetuate the disease. Louping ill virus produces high mortality in red grouse and can cause potentially fatal brain swelling in humans called encephalitis. "As there is no ready alternative, suppressing the numbers of mountain hares on grouse moors (where numbers are comparatively much higher) is the only route open to land managers. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association proposed an acaricide treatment experiment for deer, sheep and hares some time ago which was rejected by the then Scottish Government because a special license would have been required to treat wild animals. "Clearly, for the benefit of hares, grouse and humans, more work needs to be done at this level on progressing vaccination and acaricide treatments and it is something The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is progressing with partners and readily supports."

Wednesday 30 October 2013


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is to declare 2014 the SGA Year of the Wader, fearing Scotland is about to follow Wales in seeing its wading birds decimated.Ground nesting birds such as lapwing, curlew and plover breed up to three times more successfully on grouse moors, due to heather burning and legal predator control by gamekeepers.However, keepers are deeply concerned that numbers are declining in these key areas, too, and the SGA is to dedicate 2014 to highlighting the need for tougher action.The representative group will invite all grouse moors in Scotland to report counts of wading birds, as well as their productivity at two critical times of the year.These figures will provide an accurate picture of how waders are faring on keepered land and will offer a baseline for similar counts in future years.Officials also hope the data can inform how proper management for waders, including legal predator control and rotational muirburn, can be delivered in areas that are failing.Scotland has lost 56 per cent of its lapwing and curlew in only 17 years with conservationists blaming climate change and habitat loss through farming practices.However, Scottish gamekeepers who work the land every day reckon this is only a small part of the story.They feel that unless Scottish government listens to practical land managers, waders could pass the point of no return and they see Wales as an example, where 75 per cent have been lost in the last few decades.“It is clear that new conservation responses are needed to help our vulnerable ground nesting birds,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg. “Millions of pounds of tax payers’ money has been spent on costly habitat programmes through the advice of conservation bodies.“However, The State of Nature Report, which showed 60 per cent of the UK’s species continuing to decline, and the latest BTO Breeding Bird Survey, prove that this approach, when taken alone, has failed to deliver the answers for birds such as waders.“Our keepers, who have physically protected and work to protect Curlew, Lapwing and Plovers on their ground for years, have been warning that this is happening. We now have an imbalance in our uplands that needs to be addressed by government before Scotland goes the same way as Wales.”A study of the Berwyn Special Protection Area (SPA) in North Wales by GWCT analysed the trends of upland birds between 1983 and 2002 when grouse shooting ceased, gamekeepers were removed, and it became a National Nature Reserve (NNR).Formerly a rich grouse shooting area, the NNR is run by Countryside Council for Wales, with the largest block at Severn Trent Water operated as a bird reserve by RSPB.During the study period- in which grouse moor management stopped- lapwing became extinct, golden plover declined from 10 birds to one and curlew declined 79 per cent.Red grouse declined 54 per cent, Hen Harrier numbers crashed 50 per cent, black grouse declined by 78 per cent and now 75 per cent of Wales’ surviving black grouse population exists on the one remaining keepered moor at Berwyn.In the same period, protected buzzards doubled in abundance, peregrines increased seven-fold and raven numbers doubled.“Conservation in this country has centred around the advancement of protectionist policies, site designations and central hand-outs for habitat programmes without any stipulation for predator control.“When the public sees the return on investment with this approach, they are entitled to ask where the birds have gone and, if this has failed, why we continue to pay for and play a losing hand.“We believe the SGA Year of the Wader, and our ongoing counts, will help the government and the public realise what is happening and what needs to be done before conservation-listed Curlew and Lapwing, in particular, disappear.“It has been widely accepted that predation by larger predators can have a devastating affect on the survival of vulnerable prey species, particularly when the predators are increasing and their prey decreasing significantly. The Welsh example shows this, clearly.“The government needs to adapt to this scientific reality and use the legal licensing powers it holds (as it has done in Orkney recently by allowing islanders to bring greylag geese numbers back to sustainable levels to protect cereals crops) to relieve the pressure on some of our precious wild birds.“Licences have also been issued to protect sheep at lambing time from Ravens so there are already examples where the powers the government holds can be used to bring about positive results.“Throwing public cash, which will be siphoned by conservation groups for habitat schemes, without control of predators, is self-defeating.” Problems of Habitat Solutions without Proper Predator Control: Potts GR, 1980: The effects of modern agriculture, nest predation and game management on the population ecology of partridges: Advances in Ecological Research. This paper showed that predator control unlocked the potential of habitat improvement. Without predator control, generalist predators respond better to the habitat improvement than the birds it is designed to benefit. By agreement, the UK is required to take special measures to protect SPA sites.2005: Nature’s Gain: How gamebird management has influenced wildlife conservation says: Curlews are about 18 times more abundant in the North Pennines SPA, managed for grouse shooting, than they are in Berwyn SPA in Wales, a large part of which is managed as a bird reserve. The Upland Predation Experiment: Otterburn 2000-2009, undertaken by GWCT scientists over 9 years.4 plots of 1200 hectares on the same Northumberland moorland area were studied, two where gamekeepers controlled foxes, crows, stoats and weasel numbers.On the other two, there was no predator control. The study was then swapped over at the half-way mark. Summary: Lapwing, golden plover, Curlew, Red Grouse and Meadow Pipit bred almost three times as successfully on the plots with predator control compared to the plots without.23 per cent of pairs fledged young on areas without predator control compared to 64 per cent on areas where predator control was practiced. The findings, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and summarized in 2010 paper, Waders On The Fringe, stated: • Agri-environment schemes on their own, without proper predator control, seem unable to give rise to an abundance of breeding waders or even bring about a significant improvement in sparse populations. • The low breeding success on our areas without proper predator control suggest that predation is likely to be contributing to population declines of waders elsewhere. • The contraction in breeding range of some waders, like lapwing and curlew may be being caused by, or at least aggravated by, predation during the breeding season.

Monday 7 October 2013


Elaine and Iain Hepburn and all at the SGA would like to pass on sincere thanks to everyone who made Saturday's Charity event at Dunmaglass such an overwhelming success for the 5 chosen charities. At the last count, over £33 000 had been raised on the night, with some donations still to come in. A truly incredible effort. Thanks go to all those who donated to the auctions and raffles and to all those who bid and made it such a special- and highly enjoyable- evening. Well done to all.

Friday 27 September 2013


Scotland’s gamekeepers fear the iconic Capercaillie is doomed unless conservationists advising government agencies get real to tackle pine marten predation.Despite an assurance by First Minister Alex Salmond that the Caper would not be allowed to ‘die on his watch’, keepers fear a second extinction is perilously close.While individual birds exist in fragmented pockets, the only remaining viable breeding population exists in Badenoch and Strathspey.And while better weather in 2013 is expected to show fragile productivity increases, gamekeepers expect those gains to be off-set by predation in the coming months.The Scottish Gamekeepers Association warned 12 years ago that increased predation, by pine marten, foxes and crows, would imperil the largest member of the grouse family. A scientific study in 2009, using cameras at 20 nests, showed predators destroying 65 per cent of those nests in Abernethy Forest, part of a reserve run by RSPB.Of those destroyed, 57 per cent were proven to be by pine marten, which, like the Capercaillie, is legally protected but significantly more numerous.Members of the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) group for Capercaillie have acknowledged the need for a trial removal of pine marten from core areas to assess the problem.So far, no research license has been granted and frustrated gamekeepers, represented on the group, fear conservationists are running scared of making the tough decisions required to prevent the bird becoming extinct.“If all the right things are done, there is still a good chance we could save the Capercaillie. However, there needs to be some hard decisions taken and some bravery from the government and those advising them when it comes to dealing with the pine marten issue,” said the SGA’s Allan Hodgson, who sits on the BAP group.“Unless advisors make the case that having an infinite number of predators and a finite number of prey in the remaining core area is unsustainable, the Capercaillie will be lost.“When it was suggested deer fences were the problem for Capercaillie, they were removed quickly. When it was suggested habitat loss was the problem, lots of public money was ploughed into that. All of these things are important, as is weather, but it has taken those tasked with saving Capercaillie far too long to act consistently on predation, despite warnings from practical land managers. It has been danced around for years at meetings because no one has been willing to get their hands dirty; fearful it may make them unpopular with their members.“There seems to be a realization, finally, that predation by foxes and crows is a problem but on areas such as the RSPB reserve at Abernethy, where chick productivity has been consistently poor, the control of foxes is inadequate. The habitat there draws in Capercaillie from other areas to be eaten. Forestry Commission rangers are now doing a bit more predator control but it is like placing a sticking plaster over a mortal wound.“What’s needed are new conservation measures, alongside the existing programme of work, and that must include measures to deal with all predators and pine marten in the remaining core Capercaillie area.”A managed scientific trial using live traps to capture and transfer pine marten during the breeding season in the remaining Capercaillie heartland has been mooted.Such a localized trial may establish the benefits or otherwise to Capercaillie survival in the core area, if pine marten were removed. So far, nothing has been done.In 2011, SNH updated their science on Capercaillie, acknowledging that changes in weather patterns and increasing evidence of predators in forest habitats were a factor in steep declines.Previous studies focused on deer fence collisions and weather while new evidence showed a fourfold increase in pine marten, through legal protection, and a threefold increase in foxes in Capercaillie forests.“The correlation between weather and generalist predators has been realised but there now needs to be movement on a trial for pine marten- and fast. We’ve tried everything else,” added Hodgson.“This is not about popularity contests, it is about stepping up to save a bird which has a resonance with Scotland or just letting it die without getting the gloves off.”


Contrary to what is being reported in some areas of the press today, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association would like to make it clear that the idea of a trap and transfer trial for pine marten in core Capercaillie areas was mooted by the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Group for Capercaillie, of which the SGA is only a part. It was not a specific proposal from the SGA (as press release states). The SGA has legitimate concerns about shifting problems elsewhere; problems which will required to be tackled later. However, in the interests of proving that Capercaillie benefit from the removal of pine marten (or otherwise), then the SGA is willing to assist such a scientific project. This outcome would be seen by the SGA as more progressive than the present crippling inaction which is putting the Capercaillie at great risk.

Friday 20 September 2013


Scottish Natural Heritage is looking for responses to this short survey regarding wild deer best practice training, which organisations should deliver wild deer best practice training, costs, travel and further training. If you are interested in wild deer best practice training by the SGA, please contact the office on 01738 587 515.

Friday 13 September 2013


A Perthshire teenager honing his craft at the royal estate of Balmoral has been named The Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s Young Gamekeeper of the Year 2013.Despite his tender years, judges were impressed with the aptitude of 18 year old Greg Sinclair, who has already gained experience at both Atholl Estates and the Queen’s estate in Deeside.The award recognizes the contribution made to responsible game management in Scotland by a young gamekeeper, ghillie, wildlife manager or ranger.Candidates are recommended by estates and course leaders from Scotland’s three gamekeeping colleges.The winner is then judged from a short-list, with criteria including adherence to law and best practice and an understanding of the value of gamekeeping to Scotland’s biodiversity and economy.Raised in Alyth, Greg entered the profession initially through a 2 year Skillseekers programme at North Highland College UHI in Thurso.He is now studying for a National Certificate through the college whilst working at Balmoral and has gained experience of management from riverbank to mountaintop.SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “There were a number of very good candidates; youngsters that represent the next generation.“Their work in creating the conditions for gamebirds and other wildlife such as Curlew, Lapwing, Plover, red squirrel and Black Grouse to flourish in our countryside is vital. Responsible game management brings so much to Scotland and to rural communities and that is why it is so important to have a well trained, skilled workforce of the future.“Greg has already worked with deer, grouse and on the salmon rivers and shows great potential. He is held in high regard by his college lecturers and on the estates where he has been learning his craft. We are delighted for him and, indeed, all the youngsters that were interviewed on the short-list for the award.”Greg first took an interest in gamekeeping when helping his brother on an estate when he was only 12.At Atholl Estates he managed for deer, grouse and salmon as well as looking after stalking ponies and engaging with sporting clients on shoot and stalking days.His current role at Balmoral encompasses a similar wide spectrum.“It is great to win this award. I have been interested in gamekeeping from a very young age and I took the opportunity to learn through the college and through the practical work on the estates, which I have really enjoyed,” he said.“Managing the countryside keeps everything the way it should be and helps maintain a balance. It is not just gamebirds. The work of gamekeepers is very important for other species. We have Black Grouse at Balmoral, for example, and there was a lot at Atholl as well.”Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and Chair of PAW Scotland, Mr Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am very pleased that a young gamekeeper, Greg Sinclair, and all the other nominees, are being recognised for their contribution to responsible countryside management. It is always encouraging to see young people making the most of skilled and specialized training and then graduating into work.“Countryside sports create valuable income and employment in rural areas.“This award recognizes that young gamekeepers, ghillies, wildlife managers and rangers have an important and varied role to play in managing Scotland’s natural environment and ensuring that safe, modern and progressive land management practices are promoted.” The final short-list for SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year 2013. Greg Sinclair Connor Campbell Paul Rafferty Ryan Stewart. All finalists deserve recognition for their contribution to their profession. The SGA would like to pass on its best wishes to all as they pursue their careers.

Friday 23 August 2013


In the Herald newspaper of 23rd August, 2012, Rob Gibson SNP MSP and Convener of Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee called for a system of statutory deer management in Scotland which brings the current voluntary system under parliamentary control. In response, Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The views expressed on this by Mr Gibson have clearly come from one viewpoint and the one example in Assynt where the John Muir Trust were seeking to impose a higher cull target to carry out tree regeneration. “Whilst this may have been a laudable imperative on John Muir Trust ground, their refusal to entertain fencing, to properly consult with their neighbours and to discuss alternatives, meant their laudable imperative then became a major problem for everyone else and was clearly going to have a negative socio-economic affect, putting jobs at risk.“In unusual cases such as this, there exists a mechanism within the WANE Act where SNH can intervene where there are clear and sound socio-economic reasons to do so.“This one area, however, is not wholly representative of the situation across Scotland where the voluntary deer management system is operating well and, in recent years, has been working better thanks to greater co-operative working with SNH.“Country sport activities, including deer stalking, bring major economic value to Scotland, as well as preserving employment and opportunities in areas where there would otherwise be greater migration without a healthy industry. This is not something we should be ashamed of or decry and we certainly wouldn’t with any other high value Scottish industry.“One of the problems in introducing a statutory system, for example, is that when responsibility reverts to public bodies, it is very difficult for the public purse to be able to match private investment and introducing such a system would place a heavy resource burden on SNH and the tax payer at a time when there are many other priorities.“Policing it would be extremely difficult because deer roam across boundaries. They are not contained within certain rivers or watercourses like fish are, for example.“While these aspects alone would make such a system highly problematic to work, there is also the major problem of perception.“Strangling the countryside with further red tape is the last thing that the people who work there every day would want or need and many would deem it another centralized attack on their way of life.“Taking decisions away from the people who have the requisite knowledge to make them and placing them in the hands of those they deem to have less, is hard to justify. “What you could end up with is the worst of both worlds. An unpopular, inflexible system operating at high cost to the public purse which doesn’t solve the problem it was set up to address.”

Thursday 22 August 2013


The SGA diary for 2014 is now available at the office along with a brand new addition to the merchandise range- the first ever SGA log book. The Log Book has been released following inquiries from our members for a suitable book in which to write snaring records and any other relevant records of estate operations, whilst out and about. The book, which has a robust cover, is slightly larger than the SGA diary but would still fit readily in an inside pocket. It contains Fox Snaring legislation and a snaring log sheet where members can write details of inspections, any catch and even if snares or traps have been tampered with. There are also handy calendars for 2013, 2014 and 2015 at the back. The 2014 diaries and Log Book are in an eye-catching tan colour this year. You can buy a diary for £5 and a Log Book for £6 ***As a special deal, we are also offering diary and log book together for a combined price of £10

Saturday 10 August 2013


Gamekeepers have warned grouse moors could soon become the last safe haven for Scotland’s threatened wading birds, with latest figures indicating widespread declines. With only days until the start of the grouse season, keepers on Scotland’s moors fear the evocative call of the Curlew could become increasingly rare. Lapwings- on the conservation red list- amber-listed Curlews and Golden Plover are regular breeding visitors to Scotland’s upland grouse moors. A 9 year study by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust showed ground-nesting waders breeding three times more successfully there because of legal predator control by gamekeepers, which reduces the numbers of crows and foxes that predate nests. This was further borne out at Langholm in the Borders where falls of 75 per cent in wader numbers were observed when gamekeepers were taken off the moor following the cessation of grouse shooting in 1995. Now a new BTO Breeding Bird Survey, published at the end of July, is reporting dramatic falls in Scotland’s rare wader populations. Lapwing numbers have fallen 56 per cent in only 17 years, causing major conservation concern. The number of Curlews have also plummeted 56 per cent in the same period, with Golden Plover numbers dipping by 18 per cent. Gamekeepers on many grouse moors still house productive populations of wading birds while their decline accelerates elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association believes the government needs to take decisive action now before it is too late. “Proper grouse moor management, with rotational heather burning and the legal control of foxes, carrion crows, stoats and weasels has helped rare wading birds. The distinctive call of the Curlew is a common sound and keepers love seeing them as they go about their work,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg. “These latest figures are a real warning, though. If more grouse moors ceased for example, or more keepers were taken off the hill, who would protect these birds? “On areas where wildlife is not being managed, the declines are rapid and scientists predict we will start to lose them from some key areas altogether. “A lot of public money has been handed out in the past for habitat management schemes but that money has been wasted because we have far less waders now. It should be a condition that those receiving public money should carry out proper predator control or the money should be returned. “It is a duty of the government to find a solution to help vulnerable wildlife. We petitioned government on this years ago but nothing was acted upon. The fall in wader numbers has to be seriously looked at, and with some urgency.” Declines in waders on non-keepered areas have been put down to predation, aforestation, agricultural intensification, loss of habitat and climate change. Gamekeepers point to predation pressure as being the limiting factor with the biggest balance of scientific proof. Despite predator control on areas managed for shooting, the number of carrion crows overall have been increasing since 1961 while fox numbers continue to rise. Protected Badgers, that predate nests, are increasing markedly and the newly published BTO Breeding Bird figures show a sharp increase in specialist predators. Common buzzards have risen by 31 per cent in Scotland since 1995 and ravens have leapt up by 35 per cent. “We can bury our heads in the sand and blame climate change for everything or we can look at the problems immediately affecting our birds and deal with them,” added SGA Chairman Alex Hogg. “The government needs to look at what is causing these declines in our wading birds and act decisively. If they need to monitor these birds to see what is happening, they need to do so as soon as possible before there’s no way back.”

Sunday 4 August 2013


In today's Scotland On Sunday newspaper, a story regarding GWCT research at Langholm Moor on the ability or otherwise of grouse to co-exist with Hen Harriers on grouse moors stated that The Scottish Gamekeepers Association would support wide use of diversionary feeding to see how effective it is on other grouse moors. The SGA would like to clarify that, at no point, was this asked of the SGA. The SGA believes that whether or not a grouse moor chooses to trial diversionary feeding is entirely up to the individual moor or estate. The SGA expressed no view either way in the article on whether diversionary feeding should be used widely. The comments attributed to the SGA also omitted the key final sentence, which stated the following: "The effectiveness or otherwise of diversionary feeding will only truly be tested at Langholm, however, when there are enough grouse to shoot. Currently, that is not happening.” Read the full SGA statement, which was given to Scotland On Sunday, here. Again, the first element of the statement supplied refers to the wider findings of the Langholm research and not specifically to diversionary feeding (hence the references to wading birds, which was removed by the newspaper). “The scientific research work at Langholm is vital and has proved what many land managers working every day in the countryside have know for some time. This can be seen most readily when you look at the data when the gamekeepers were removed from Langholm Moor. The numbers of wading birds crashed, as did the productivity of Hen Harriers. “Game management, with grouse shooting providing the economic driver to carry on all the associated habitat and predator control work, provides a suite of conservation benefits for grouse, waders and Harriers.“With the research having established that part, the next part is to put the techniques in place to reduce the impact of Harriers on grouse, thereby reducing the conflicts.“There is still some distance to travel here.“Diversionary feeding, for example, has been shown to work when Harrier numbers are at fairly low densities. The effectiveness or otherwise of diversionary feeding will only truly be tested at Langholm, however, when there are enough grouse to shoot. Currently, that is not happening.” Please Note: The SGA is fully supportive of all research which promotes the legal resolution of conflicts and refers in its statement to the positive work being done at Langholm Moor.

Wednesday 31 July 2013


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is teaming up with wildlife crime officers in a bid to prevent illegal freshwater pearl mussel fishing in Scotland.The bi-valve mussels, Margaritifera margaretifera, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and are often found on the bed of salmon rivers where they can live for up to 80 years.Seventy two of Scotland’s rivers support reproducing populations and represent some of the world’s most important sites for the survival of the mollusc.Sadly, the population is now critically low, due, in large part, to pearl fishers hoping to find the precious white pearls, for which they are famous, inside the shells.Pollution is also a cause of their decline and a case in March saw directors of A & Construction fined £11 000 for causing irreversible damage to hundreds of pearl mussels in the River Lyon while working on the Inverinian Hydro Scheme.Now the SGA has signed an agreement with the National Wildlife Crime Unit in order to build intelligence that can help tackle illegal fishing.Gamekeepers and ghillies often work around the remote rivers containing mussels and guidelines have been set out to encourage confidential reporting of suspicious activity to police. Activity they will be looking out for includes persistent wild camping beside rivers containing mussels, suspicious vehicles and individuals wading through mussel rivers taking an interest in or using glass bottom buckets to survey the river bed.Keepers and ghillies will also have their eyes peeled for piles of discarded shells although it is understood many modern fishers dispose of shells away from the banks.SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “This is a really important initiative and the SGA is delighted to offer the assistance of its members. Many of them are working these rivers and I know some have contacted Police before when they have seen suspicious activity.“This agreement gives people the information to help and gives them the confidence that they can engage freely with the Police, knowing the information will be treated confidentially.“I would encourage as many of our members as possible to get involved for the good of the remaining freshwater pearl mussel stock in Scotland.”Charlie Everitt, Investigative Support Officer of NWCU said it was important that wildlife crime officers engaged with those who could offer vital information.“We recognize that the only way we can start to identify illegal pearl fishers is with the help of the rural workers and the NWCU are very grateful for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s support and assistance of their members.“Pearl fishing can happen in some of the remotest parts of Scotland and the only way the Police may ever hear about it is if members of the public working in those locations inform them. This is why we are appealing to ghillies and gamekeepers who work on the land around rivers containing freshwater pearl mussels to please contact the National Wildlife Crime Unit if they see any suspicious activity – however small or insignificant - that may be related to illegal pearl fishing.”NWCU have also enlisted the help of members of Scottish Land and Estates and the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards. Ends.

Monday 29 July 2013


The introduction of Real Time Information (RTI) by HMRC will change the way estates are required to inform the tax authority about money paid to casual labourers such as beaters, pickers-up, ad hoc loaders, heather burners and students. With the shooting season now almost upon us, it is important estates and shoots have taken appropriate steps to keep themselves in line with the new policy. As of 6th April 2013, employers operating PAYE have been required to send electronic details to HMRC, online, in real time ie: on or before they pay an employee, rather than at the end of the year which has been common practice for shoots for some time. Employers have no choice in this and those failing to comply will be penalized.As well as the technical aspects of when and how PAYE returns are submitted to HMRC, other changes brought about by RTI have involved the payment of casual workers or students as these are categorized the same as any other employees and have to provide a minimum amount of information PRIOR to any payment being made. In order to assist the collection of this required information, we have a template available in the SGA office for this purpose. Estates/shoots should contact the office on 01738 587 515 if they require a copy which can be presented to casual workers to fill in. This template should be used every time a new employee is taken on, even if he/she is a casual worker or a student. HMRC are clear on this point. The relevant information on the sheet must be provided PRIOR to payment being made. Information required includes names, addresses, date of birth, sex, NI number, bank details and employment information. If fake information is provided, it could result in penalties for the estate/shoot and employers should only pay when they have this information and know it is correct. Disclaimer: While the SGA is seeking to provide helpful information on how the changes will affect estates and shoots, each estate may have different ways of working/number of employees, etc, and the SGA strongly recommends that each shoot/estate contacts its own accountant to make sure it complies. The SGA cannot accept liability for the content contained above, which was correct at the time of printing. Please Note: RTI is a system of reporting how payments are made. Income from beating has always been taxable, unless the individual's total income is below the minimum tax threshold. That remains the case. Similarly, beaters and other shoot helpers can still be paid in cash. The new electronic RTI system may make it easier to catch up with some people not paying enough tax (that is one reason it has been introduced - to reduce fraud and tax evasion) but the requirement to pay tax or not on beaters earnings, depending on total income, is completely unchanged.Beaters still need to declare their beating income on their annual tax return, even if they know the shoot has already paid their tax at source.

Thursday 11 July 2013


The SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award is now open for entries and we want to hear from you.Not only is this an opportunity to endorse the work of a young keeper/ghillie/wildlife manager/ranger who is making a real difference in his or her profession, it is also a celebration of what responsible management brings to Scotland and wider biodiversity.If you work with, tutor, or employ a young gamekeeper you feel deserves recognition for their work, the SGA would love to know about it.College lecturers, Head Keepers and individual estates are all allowed to nominate candidates.The nomination process is now open for the 2013 Award, won last year by 23 year old Paul Kidd from Dundee, who was raised in a non-gamekeeping family in a Scottish city.A £125 cheque is on offer for the winner, plus coverage in Scottish Gamekeeper magazine.What the judges are looking for is: • A Demonstrable passion for gamekeeping. • Adherence to/appreciation of, the law and best practice. • Strong work ethic/willingness to learn. • Good understanding of why gamekeeping is important in Scotland’s countryside. Please send your entries to: The Editor, Scottish Gamekeeper on by the closing date of August 9th, 2013.
Candidates will be short-listed by the SGA Committee and the overall winner will be announced in September, following a round of short, informal interviews.

Friday 5 July 2013


Gamekeepers, Deer welfare advisers and deer managers will use this weekend’s Scottish Game Fair to raise awareness of a disease affecting large numbers of deer in USA and Canada. The British Deer Society (BDS) and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) will exhibit information sheets on their stands outlining the nature and impacts of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a highly infectious disease which has killed every known deer infected with it in the USA and Canada, where it is currently confined. To date there are no effective vaccines to treat the disease which is caused by a prion transmitted in deer fluids and body parts. There are concerns that if steps are not put in place to halt its spread, it could lead to loss of large numbers of wild deer across the world and restrict sales of venison. It could also spread into Europe, with potential repercussions for country sport tourism which generates significant sums annually. The group of diseases CWD belongs to are known as ‘TSE’, short for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. A leaflet, produced by the British Deer Society, gamekeepers, deer groups, vets and Scottish government will be launched officially in August. However, with sporting agents and countryside groups bound for the Game Fair at Scone, BDS and SGA , who have driven the project, feel it is an opportune moment to raise awareness of how the disease could be prevented from spreading. John Bruce Director in Scotland of BDS said: “Our intention in raising awareness of CWD is not to raise alarm. No threat to humans, for example, has been found. “On the other hand, it is vital people are aware of it and can start taking preventative measures now to stop it moving across borders. “The prion, transmitted in deer urine, faeces, saliva and meat can remain infectious for up to ten years when bound to soil and defies normal farm disinfection processes. “Infected deer may take 18-24 months to exhibit clinical signs and will become more infectious to other deer during this time. “CWD has infected both wild and farmed deer in USA and Canada, with red deer also susceptible. “Efforts to control CWD is USA and Canada would seem to have failed.” A possible route of transmission into the UK could be through countryside users bringing in contaminated clothing and equipment. A specific risk group which has been identified is individuals who have been deer stalking in North America where CWD is present. George Macdonald, Development, Education and Training Manager at the SGA said: “If the disease became established stopping its spread might be extremely challenging or practically impossible. “By raising awareness, sporting agents can make prospective clients from USA or Canada aware of the issues. “They can tell them in advance to check all their kit for cleanliness or advise them, if possible, to buy their sporting equipment in this country upon arrival rather than bring it with them.” “If people are bringing clothing or equipment to the UK from USA or Canada they should make sure it is clean of all potential contamination. “This would significantly reduce the risk of introducing CWD into this country, although it will not eliminate the risk. “It is also important stalkers do not bring trophies back into the UK from USA or Canada.”

Thursday 4 July 2013


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association believes working with responsible game managers can help government aid golden eagle conservation in Scotland. Grouse managers are often blamed for loss through illegal persecution, with the SGA acknowledging persecution, coupled with land use change, has been a constraining factor.Recently the organisation expelled 4 members for wildlife offences, including raptor persecution, and advocates legal solutions to conflicts.The SGA, however, believes it would be wrong for government agencies to overlook the contribution responsible gamekeepers make to eagle conservation.The organisation has completed a survey of members in the keepered grouse areas of East and Central Scotland which has identified at least 55 active eagle nests (see map).The nests have remained since the last census in 2003.A recent FOI request also revealed the majority of the 66 Scottish eagles chicks translocated for the Irish reintroduction programme, started in 2001, were from keepered uplands.On the west, where there is little grouse interest, eagle productivity is being constrained by lack of small prey, reduced deer numbers and extensive forestry, proven to shrink their range. There are fears the government’s onshore wind policy and its target of having 25 per cent of Scotland under forestry by 2050 could also compromise linkage of eagle territories.Against this backdrop, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg believes responsible game managers, as well as conservationists, have the knowledge to benefit golden eagles.“The conservation work done by many of our members in this area is forgotten because of the actions of a few. As an organisation we, along with the other members of PAW continue to address this issue.“As well as educating, we have expelled members found to commit wrong-doing and where conflicts arise, as they will, we advocate lawful solutions.“That said, many responsible game managers have had eagles on their land for many, many years now. They are willing to assist wider eagle conservation and have skills to be an asset.“Management for grouse provides the abundant small prey eagles need to feed chicks, even if many moors don’t have the crags or trees eagles prefer for nesting.“Legal heather burning produces a rich food source for red grouse and hares which eagles eat and, despite the ever increasing chance of unintentional disturbance from recreational access, there are still a significant proportion of Scotland’s eagles in grouse areas. This is all paid for through private investment by landowners.”Conservationists can take elements of the game management model, for example, to assist in the west where increased forestry plantations and windfarms could cause problems for eagle conservation going forward. They key constraint which has been identified in the west is the lack of small prey.”In deer stalking areas, gamekeepers leave the grallochs of culled deer on the hills, away from public access, to help sustain eagles.Studies have acknowledged this availability of carrion has aided eagle survival, particularly during winter although conservation policies are reducing deer numbers.The SGA believes government agencies, working in collaboration with game managers can produce a positive net benefit for Scotland’s eagles.“For the sake of the golden eagle, all countryside stakeholders can work together to address the many issues affecting eagles.“In Sweden it has been proven that eagle success is dependent on prey abundance so the loss of heather, for example, has a significant impact. Gross changes of habitat- especially in heavily forested areas of South Scotland- have altered the way eagles use the landscape. No up to date science has been done on the impacts of access despite one Scottish study accepting eagle sites with easier access are more likely to fail.“A 1995 study flagged up problems eagles could have with displacement due to windfarm spread but, again, no further research has been done.“There are many threats- and new ones- such as desertion of nest sites due to disturbance though nest visits, likely to affect Scotland’s eagles and those with an interest have a responsibility to look at all constraining aspects.”Scotland’s golden eagle population has recovered from historic lows of 190 pairs in the early 1950s and 300 pairs in 1968 to 442 pairs in the summer of 2003. This makes the Scottish eagle population one of the largest in the world per land mass.The population has been stable for 20 years although targets to define ‘favourble status’ were set at 450-500 breeding pairs in 2008. There are virtually no golden eagles left in England, making Scotland’s population ecologically important.

Wednesday 19 June 2013


A team of 8 exhausted Inverness-shire gamekeepers have raised almost £8000 for soliders, youth and community projects in Scotland by walking 52 miles in 24 hours.The team ‘Highland Keepers’, comprising game and wildlife managers from around the Loch Ness area, completed the Cateran Yomp- a 52 mile non-stop hike- at the weekend.Yesterday they were counting their blisters and pledges, with the sums raised going towards ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, The Prince’s Trust and The Alliance Trust Staff Foundation.The group came together for the stomp through the Perthshire and Angus glens following a request by the boss of Culachy Estate, Fort Augustus.Culachy sponsors community youth projects like Shinty and keepers Scott Bremner and Raymond Robertson responded to the call, gathering together like-minded ‘yompers’.Culachy Estate paid for the team’s accommodation and travel and the group leaders were happy to see the finish line at 4.20am on Sunday morning.“We got a group of willing keepers together from the Strath, totally underestimated the challenge, and went for it,” smiled Scott Bremner (36), a committee member of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who finished in 21 hrs, 26 minutes.“Most of the guys are fit because of their jobs with deer stalking and grouse but, to do 52 miles in a day is a different story.“On some days we might cover 10 to 15 miles but with stops for spying deer and suchlike. But with this we never stopped at all, other than for a cup of tea.“The hardest part was probably walking through the darkness with the packs on, especially because most of that section was in woodland and you are carrying a lot of stuff.“When you see some of the injured soldiers that come back injured from Afghanistan, though, we certainly have no cause to grumble over a few blisters and sore feet.“We are really glad to have done it and to have raised the amount we have.”Scott, Raymond and their fellow yompers, Norman Stoddart, Andrew Reid, Derek Brown, Malcolm Downie, Jonathan Carslaw and Allan MacDiarmid would like to thank all donors who helped them.The fund was swelled by a donation of £250 from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

Tuesday 18 June 2013


SGA Statement: Gamekeeper Peter Finley Bell fined £4450 for poisoning a buzzard and possessing illegal pesticides. A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said: “The SGA and its 5300 members condemn illegal poisoning. The SGA works with PAW partners, and will continue to do so, to eradicate this activity. “The SGA advocates those facing problems with predation of livestock by protected predators should only look to the legal routes and options open to them rather than taking the law into their own hands.”

Friday 14 June 2013


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has urged government to stop procrastinating over tail docking, with a leading vet claiming the ban on docking of working dogs’ tails should end. TV vet Neil McIntosh had never witnessed spaniel tail injuries in his west coast practice until tail docking was outlawed in Scotland in 2006. Now he believes the law should be overturned, solely for working dogs, because of the distress adult animals endure when their tails must be amputated due to damage. Although tail docking is now illegal across the UK, Scotland is the only country which did not draft exemptions for working dogs. Breeds such as spaniels, retrievers and terriers work instinctively in dense cover and are susceptible to tail damage. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has campaigned that failing to exempt these dogs seriously compromises animal welfare. Despite being given assurances by government last November that science to review the ban would be available ‘in weeks’, nothing has been done. “From a pro-Veterinary point of view, I would rather dock 100 working puppies’ tails at three days old than 1 adult working dog,” said Veterinary Surgeon Neil McIntosh. “Since the ban came into place, I’ve seen a large number of Spaniels, including Police dogs, requiring tail amputations. Prior to the ban, I didn’t see any.” Before 2006, many working dogs had their tails legally shortened at three days’ old, a minor operation which protected them against injury in adult life. That can still be done in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not Scotland. “Done properly at 3 days’ old, it is literally a quick snip,” said McIntosh. “For an adult working dog, it is different. It requires anaesthesia, incision, ligation of bleeding vessels and suturing. You have to bandage the tail repeatedly for a week then remove the suture in the knowledge that breakdown of the wound is possible again. It is very distressing.” Fiona Humphries, Small Animal Clinical Director at Fair City Vet Group, has undertaken tail amputations of adult dogs for medical reasons as part of her work. She also has a seven year old Sprocker called Potter- not a working dog- who has required many courses of antibiotics and painkillers for an injury to the tip of his tail. Her experience, both as a Vet and pet owner, has given Fiona a rounded understanding of the issue. Regardless of the breed, she knows the docking of the tail of a pup by a vet at 3 days’ old is much less distressing than the surgery to remove part of the tail of an adult dog. “When the ban first took effect, I welcomed it. In the light of experience, I now have a slightly different opinion. “It is not a black and white issue. A percentage of the dogs we have seen with tail injuries have not been solely working dogs. Dogs, for example, that are ‘waggy tailed’ dogs, and not necessarily working dogs, will get tail injuries. “However, I think the wording of the legislation in England is sensible and I think it is positive that people have a choice. “When there is no choice, people are made to feel like criminals and it can be the same with vets. It puts vets in an awkward position because, if taking a tail off is the right thing to do, other people can still be very opinionated about it.” Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg says it is now time the Scottish Government acted. “We were told seven months ago by the government that peer-reviewed science on this would be ready in weeks. As this process stutters to a halt working dogs across Scotland are suffering excruciatingly painful injuries. “People are angry. In Northern Ireland, England and Wales they obviously had evidence to exempt working dogs. What is different about Scottish dogs?”

Thursday 6 June 2013


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association promotes best practice for all of its members. Please find here the 2013 General Licences. As has been mentioned before on the website and in Scottish Gamekeeper, please take the time to acquaint yourself with all aspects of the licences. The SGA has also included, in our Best Practice section under Education and Training, the sections which will be particularly relevant to all members involved in game and wildlife management. It should be noted that these sections should not be read in isolation from the General Licences 2013 in their entirety. It is recommended, therefore, that members familiarize themselves with all aspects of the new licences.


The working pony is a treasured tradition on many of Scotland’s sporting estates and deer forests, and it’s fitting that the 25th Anniversary GWCT Scottish Game Fair hosts the first staging of a ‘concourse d’elegance’ for working ponies in memory of the late Fred Taylor, Head Stalker on Invermark Estate who died last year. Entry for the competition is now open, and estates and deer forests with working ponies are encouraged to take part. The event takes place on Sunday 7 July. All ponies entered should be accompanied by a stalker/ghillie in estate or sporting wear, and ponies should be turned out in appropriate tack for the hill, either to carry a stag, or panniers, or other hill work. Every pony entered must be working or have worked on an estate or deer forest during the stalking/shooting season. A preliminary judging will be followed on Sunday afternoon by a parade in the main ring, final judging and awards of rosettes and prizes. The main award is the Fred Taylor Trophy, sponsored by the Earl of Dalhousie, and a set of photographs of the winning pony at work by acclaimed sporting photographer Glyn Satterley. The event is organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust in conjunction with the Association of Deer Management Groups. Application forms and other entry details can be obtained from: Dick PlayfairThe Association of Deer Management GroupsTel: 0131 445 5570E


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association promotes best practice within its membership. We have downloaded the list of Spring Traps which are legal for use under The Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Order 2011. Members should only ever use approved traps and the document acts as a legal guide in all such matters. We have made the Order available as a download under the Best Practice section of our website under Education and Training.