Wednesday 3 July 2019


The SGA office was yesterday inundated with individuals angered by the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show where RSPB Vice President Chris Packham was given privileged air time to espouse views on grouse moors. This blog, entitled: Evidence: Does anyone care any more? is a response to them and an acknowledgement of the depth of their feeling.
The RSPB Vice President unsuccessfully petitioned the Westminster Parliament for grouse shooting to be banned in England.
He actively lobbies Scottish Ministers to try to force legislation against the sector in Scotland.
Whilst campaigning is a legitimate right in a democratic society, which deserves to be preserved, there is a need to be aware of the tools being deployed at a time when Scottish Government’s independent review of grouse shooting, authored by Professor Werritty, is due to be published. Everyone who this review will affect, directly or indirectly, is aware that this is a highly sensitive time, politically.
On Monday, the SGA questioned why two publicity videos featuring the RSPB Vice President, regarding Fred the Golden Eagle ( a satellite tagged bird which disappeared from the Pentlands last year) appeared to be shot on the same day, during a live Police investigation. The films insinuated that the disappearance of the bird was down to a grouse moor.
A Freedom of Information request to the Police by the SGA revealed that Police Scotland investigators had not received all the vital evidence from the bird’s satellite tag, from Chris Packham and Dr Ruth Tingay, at the time those publicity films appear to have been made.
There are mixtures of emotions for everyone at news of unexplained disappearances of any bird. This is understandable. However, these apparent anomalies during investigations- which could potentially lead to criminal proceedings- are deserving of scrutiny at government level. Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham herself was drawn into the filming process and was interviewed in the first film, perhaps rightly seeing it as an opportunity to condemn raptor persecution in Scotland in general.
Whether she knew the full picture about all the tag data, at that point of agreeing to the interview, is not known. Police Scotland is yet to establish criminality in that case.
Yesterday, Mr Packham used radio airtime to make statements which many SGA members found lacked substantiation. There is now a real concern, amongst a whole sector and community who feel condemned without evidence, that the shaping of public opinion on the basis of misrepresentation will be used as vehicle to drive political change, regardless of the research presented to Scottish Government in their commissioned review.

Some of the comments which most angered members was the RSPB Vice President’s allegation that the only species you see on a grouse moor is grouse and that all predators are ‘exterminated’ (amounting to a serious allegation that everything which predates grouse is killed either legally, under license, or through illegality).

One member who listened to the programme, sent on the following information from a driven grouse moor in Inverness-shire. It came from BTO and showed the sampling of two random sq km plots, chosen by BTO, on the estate he manages. The plots were analysed as part of the Spring 2019 Breeding Bird Survey.

Feedback on Breeding Bird Survey
Map of transects provided by BTO.  Outbound transect (1-5) slightly altered to follow quad track / swipes to reduce disturbance to any grouse broods on second visit.
Number of each species recorded (in alphabetical order)

This perhaps illustrates the point better than anything else. These are the facts and, in making his comments yesterday on the Jeremy Vine programme that grouse moors are only for grouse, Chris Packham lied. He also knowingly lied in an attempt to swing public opinion. 
Chris Packham may be a respected wildlife presenter. Good luck to him in that. He is also calculated in his attempts to manipulate public opinion. On behalf of all SGA members who were angered at his comments and his continued attack on their professional integrity and honesty, we hope Scottish politicians will consider evidence in policy making, whenever the Werritty Report is published, and will leave campaigns at the door.