Wednesday 30 November 2016


We would like to make members aware that due to staff illness, the office may be unmanned over the next two days. Messages can be left on the office answer machine and will be actioned as soon as possible, thereafter. We apologise for this temporary inconvenience.

Friday 25 November 2016


Following the statutory consultation period, the final classifications for Scotland's rivers in 2017 have been announced, in line with salmon conservation regulations.
Data used has shown Category 1 rivers to have a conservation status which does not require mandatory catch and release.
Category 2 rivers do not require mandatory catch and release but are under regular review.
Category 3 rivers show populations which are not sustainable and catch and release is in place in order to conserve stocks.

Of 168 assessed rivers, there are 47 Grade one and 48 grade two. Seventy three are classed as grade 3.

You can see the final classifications here: and

Monday 21 November 2016


Research on plots in Sutherland by Stroud et al showed wading birds, particularly Plover and Dunlin, were barely seen within 400m of forest plantations. Inability to control foxes in and around forest plantations will worsen 'edge effects' for endangered wading birds.  

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Our members require to be able to use foot packs in order to control foxes in areas of dense and often impenetrable forestry. This helps to prevent predation of ground-nesting species.
“We feel that Lord Bonomy’s report is a balanced attempt to provide greater accountability and clarity around the law and we have no problems with increasing transparency.
“From an operational perspective, however, we would hope Scottish Government do not apply vicarious liability to a landholder who permits such activities on her/his land.
“It is often essential to have access to fringe or neighbouring land to get to an area where foxes are numerous. Due to the lack of predator control now on Forestry Commission land, where much of the predation problems stem, fear of prosecution may prohibit Forestry Commission from allowing fox control on their land. This could have a serious impact on ground nesting species which are currently under heavy predation pressure.
“There is a considerable body of scientific evidence showing high nest predation or nest failure of wading birds at the edge of forestry plantations and any moves which would act to discourage predator control in these areas will have significant conservation impacts beyond what is intended by this recommendation. We would hope that Scottish Government consider this aspect carefully when assessing the report.”

See Lord Bonomy's report and recommendations, here:

Friday 18 November 2016


SGA members have been receiving valuation forms to complete for assessors in the last week.
This is as a result of the removal of the exemption from rates for shoots and deer forests, ushered in by changes to the Land Reform Act last year.
This has caused a fair degree of confusion amongst members as well as some concern.
If you need advice about completing the forms or wish to discuss this issue, please contact the SGA office on 01738 587 515 or email

Wednesday 16 November 2016


A new film released today by Grampian Moorland Group, in conjunction with Pace Productions UK, is sure to be of interest to members and non members alike.
The short film, The Untold Story: Mountain Hares speaks to those at the front line of mountain hare conservation and management in Scotland.
It explores why mountain hares thrive on moorland with gamekeepers but also explains why their populations require management in order to restore fragile habitats.

You can watch the film by clicking on this link:

Friday 11 November 2016


No out of season mountain hare culls have been authorised for grouse management since the WANE Act introduced  a closed season to protect them during vulnerable times of the year.
Growing numbers of mountain hares are being culled outside of the agreed seasons in Scotland to prevent them causing serious damage to new trees.
The findings were revealed via a Freedom Of Information request to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).
In 2011, The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act introduced for the first time in Scotland a closed season to protect the mountain or ‘blue’ hare at vulnerable times of the year.
The Act made it unlawful to kill the species between March 1st and July 31st, unless under special licenses granted in ‘exceptional circumstances’ from SNH.
Conditions under which licences could be granted were to mitigate against disease and damage and only if the cull would not affect the hare’s conservation status.
Since the Act came into force in 2012, it has been revealed that all licences, enabling mountain hares to be culled year round in Scotland, have been signed off to prevent hares causing serious damage to young trees.
In the past three years, the number culled out of season for this purpose has also risen.
On top of the numbers culled to prevent grazing and browsing damage during the open season, applications for an additional 575 hares to be culled in the close season were approved in 2014 with a further 700 in 2015.
Up to the end of March 2016, SNH had already granted licences for 838 hares to be controlled outside of the legal seasons on 5 sites in order to protect new saplings.
“Mountain hares are a fascinating species, largely because they change their coats to camouflage themselves against the winter snow. As with other herbivores, however, large numbers at one site are a proven threat to the establishment of young woodland,” said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.
“Grants for new forestry are given on the basis that new stock must be protected from damage and we know mountain hare numbers in some areas of new woodland are having to be kept right down, all year round.
“In the past 25 years in the Cairngorms National Park, there has been approximately a quarter of a million acres given over to land use change to enable afforestation. With further ambitious targets for new tree planting schemes in Scotland, the use of out of season licences to suppress the numbers to enable tree establishment is likely to become the norm.”
The culling of mountain hares has become a hot subject, with animal rights groups blaming grouse estates for heavy culls to prevent disease and to minimise the spread of tick.
Of the 26 applications made to SNH for out of season licences up to March 2016, only two were related to aspects of grouse moor management, specifically heather damage and tick control.
Both of these licenses were refused by SNH.
Animal rights activists are calling for a ban on the killing of mountain hares and are set to protest outside Holyrood next week.
SGA Committee Member Ronnie Kippen, a gamekeeper in Perthshire for 45 years, believes activists should be mindful of the consequences of their wishes.
“In the 80s, before mechanised snow vehicles, there were 2 consecutive years where we couldn’t control the hare numbers because of heavy snow. In the spring of year 3, they died in their thousands, all over the hill, from intestinal parasites and it took 5 or 6 years for their numbers to come back again.
“If you don’t manage the population each year, you are looking at serious damage to habitats and dead hares lying everywhere rather than going back into the food chain. People might have good intentions but that is what will happen.”