Friday, 7 February 2020


Scottish Natural Heritage today announced the changes to the General Licences, coming in from April 1st 2020.
and scrolling down to the links entitled: General Licensing Changes Summary and General Licensing Changes for 2020 FAQs.

In response to the changes, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The changes as regards SPAs are nothing other than a cave-in to Wild Justice who are motivated by causing as much disruption and frustration to shooting as possible.
“SNH itself has admitted there is no evidence to suggest General Licences are causing adverse impacts on SPAs but that ‘potentially’ they could.
“This is not justifiable or proportionate. There are lots of things in life that could ‘potentially’ happen. That doesn’t justify licensing everything. This is a response, in our view, motivated more by fear of legal challenge than the conservation of wildlife. 
“We are forever told SNH’s licensing team is too stretched to deal with often routine licensing matters. If predators are hammering fragile species on an SPA and a land manager can’t act because SNH have staff on holiday, and can’t process a licence, then those species will take a step nearer the exit door. 
The fact black backed gulls have been removed from both licences (GL1 and GL2) will cause real concern in some areas because, in some parts, they are the single biggest predatory problem land managers have to deal with to protect wildlife and livestock. 
“In general, other than helping a bit with Greylag geese, this is all going one way. It is a General Licence of fear and makes protecting species like globally threatened waders even more difficult.
“On rivers, where salmon are struggling, the opportunity to look closer at predatory piscivorous birds has again been lost, despite predation being identified as one of the key factors imperilling this iconic species.”

The SGA has contributed to an industry wide statement from a coalition of land management organisations. See below.


Greater restrictions on the use of general licences - which allow certain birds to be controlled to prevent crop damage, predation of at-risk bird species and the protection of public health – could pose a threat to wildlife conservation efforts.

Following the announcement today of new restrictions on general licences by Scottish Natural Heritage, a joint statement was issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Association for Country Sports and Scottish Land & Estates. 

The organisations said:

“The use of general licences has long been a vital tool to help preserve wildlife and precious habitats. While SNH has recognised that they are useful, legal methods, the land management sector is very disappointed that, yet again, we are being burdened with excessive and unnecessary regulation and red tape.

“We feel particularly let down over changes that will mean land managers having to apply specifically for prior approval from SNH’s licensing team to control certain birds on Special Protection Areas. The birds customarily controlled in these areas can be vast in number and any delay in approval being granted could well have a detrimental impact on protected at-risk species. This seems counter-productive.

“It is regrettable that SNH has taken this decision while it acknowledges there is no clear evidence that the use of general licenses have an adverse impact on Special Protected Areas.

“There has been insufficient engagement and communication with land managers who will have to implement these changes and our organisations are seeking urgent reassurance from SNH and Ministers that consents will be granted quickly and easily in the face of the likely impacts on Scottish biodiversity.”


Monday, 3 February 2020


I was left shaking my head reading comments on Twitter from people objecting to Pete Wishart and John Swinney attending an end of season game dinner hosted by BASC.
I would like to show my support for both for doing so. In fact, it has never been more important for politicians of all colours to listen to the working people of our countryside.
Maybe I am wrong but when the Parliament was set up in Edinburgh, I thought it was so that the voices of all Scotland could be heard, not just the vocal people who believe their view is the only one.
Sadly, I feel we are getting further and further away from that optimism of when the Scottish Parliament came into being and what it was meant to deliver - for all the geographic locations of Scotland.
Both of these senior politicians make a living from representing the constituents in their areas and, in those areas right now there is a lot of genuine concern for their jobs and the future.
The votes of those individuals matter the same as any others and it should be remembered that it is by serving the interests of their constituents that politicians return to Westminster and Holyrood to deliver what their voters- and their parties- want.
A lot of the comments I read seemed to come from issues of class. There is a very narrow focus and it infuriates people like me.
What commentators don’t seem to understand when they jump on bandwagons is that our members represent the working people of the countryside. They have the same worries, trying to bring up families and keep roofs over heads as the factory or shift workers of Glasgow or Dundee. The difference between the rural working person and the urban working person is often very little, other than geography. A decent wage, decent conditions, good healthcare and schools for their kids. That is what most of us want.
Whether we like it or not, most people work for a wealthy man or woman somewhere down the line, whether you are working for an estate owner, working on the rigs or working for Amazon.
Like any other industry, there are good bosses and bad. Our members are thankful that, in the main, they have bosses who have continued to invest and have kept jobs on, when seasons have been wiped out by weather or other factors beyond control. That doesn’t happen in all industries and we all know folk that have lost jobs when times get hard. I don’t want to see that for our members.
Our skilled membership are delivering a lot for rural Scotland. They are a quiet folk by nature but they are growing increasingly irritated by what they see as a continuing attack on all they hold dear.
Despite being working people, they have been largely abandoned by parties who once considered themselves to represent working people. This is a real shame and something I have found difficult to understand.
There are many people in our industry that will vote different parties. We are not a political organisation. We are a broad church that represents all our members. There are members of our own committee who have been SNP supporters for decades and they, too, find some of the venom directed on these Twitter posts to be galling to say the least.
What our members are crying out for just now are politicians that will listen to their concerns, on moor, hill, forest, riverbank or wherever and will give them their voice, even if that is to disagree or to debate.
In my view, the politicians that do that are more likely to find support for their aims in their own constituencies than those who continue to ignore them. It is those who ignore, and not people who do take the time to listen to the views of all, that will fan the tension that is beginning to grow among rural working folk.

On that note, we are running a political poll for members on our website, in response to all the feedback we have been getting. There are 3 basic questions. It takes under a minute. Scroll down the website homepage and take the poll. Find it, here: