Friday 27 March 2020


As the nation takes unprecedented measures to limit the spread of Coronavirus, we are understandably receiving a high number of calls and other correspondence regarding what members are able or unable to do in their work.

As stated before, SNH has advised that deer stalking/deer management is non-essential activity and should not be undertaken in instances where those carrying it out need to travel to do so.

Earlier this week, we advised members who live and work on their own ground and whose work takes place in isolated situations to carry out essential work, in line with Government Guidance and in observance of social distancing measures.

The checking of snares and some traps every 24 hours is a legal requirement in Scotland so all members should continue to do this or they will be breaking the law.

We have had more specific member requests regarding pest/predator control on and around farms.

We have sought specific guidance on these issues and await further response. However, if any member has specific queries relating to pest/predator control for farms, please contact our office on 01738 587 515 and we will do what we can to help you.

*Please note that we have one staff member manning office calls at present due to home working guidance and members are more likely than normal to experience some delays. All our staff are highly dedicated to serving our community and we are proud of them. Please be patient and they will return your calls as soon as possible. Normal work hours apply. You can also email using the usual email addresses.

Thursday 26 March 2020


For the attention of members: Polite Notice.

Members have been dealing with a higher than usual number of people taking exercise on the grounds on which they work, including people traveling to the countryside in cars.

Government guidance is clear: People have a right to exercise once a day, close to home and should avoid unnecessary travel.

While it is evident that many people are heeding this advice, some others are not, understandably attracted to the allure of Scotland's well managed landscapes for the limited amount of exercise they are now getting due to restrictions. Members should use caution when approaching individuals and should follow social distancing rules.

The SGA office has been made aware of members receiving verbal abuse when asking people to return to cars and follow Government guidance.
While members are accustomed to dealing with the public at normal times (these are not normal times), they should apply the same polite approach but it is not the job of our members to police the lockdown, even if it is clear that breaches are occurring.
That responsibility lies with the Police, who have the powers to deal with those deemed to be in infringement of guidance.

Stay safe. Observe guidance.

The SGA stands in unity with all men and women keeping the country going at this time.

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Marsden Game Crop , Game Feed and Dog Feed COVID-19 Update

Dear SGA Members,

I hope your all keeping well.

Could you assist me please and forward this onto our Scottish Game Keepers please, sadly due to COVID19, I am unable to travel and visit Scottish Gamekeepers in the coming weeks and months until the climate changes.

I supply Marsdens Game Crops, Game Feed, Dog Feed and Cairngorm Deer Feeds.

Click the LINK to review Marsdens Game Feeds brochure.pdf

Keepers can email or call me ASAP for any products that you’re interested in, volumes required etc.

I am very proud to support and supply the Scottish Game Keepers.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Kind Regards
Tommy Davidson

Marsdens Game Feeds   

Mobile: 07802 173 277
T +44 1576 30 09 10 • F +44 870 050 11 93 •

ForFarmers UK Ltd

New Park • Brydekirk • Annan • Dumfriesshire • DG12 5LP


Firearms Licensing in Scotland

A joint statement 25th March 2020

Police Scotland, like all police services in the United Kingdom, are facing unprecedented demands at a time of national crisis in dealing with the effects of the Covid – 19 pandemic.

We, the principal membership shooting organisations of the Scottish Firearms Licensing Practitioners Group, recognise the difficulties faced by Police Scotland and their staff and fully understand that it cannot be business as usual given the unique circumstances we are all facing.  We do not live in normal times.

Police Scotland have made us aware of the interim arrangements that will be operating as they seek to deal with the demands of an emergency service of the current situation, hampered by diminishing resources as staff either fall ill or self-isolate.

Police Scotland are suspending the processing of most applications for grants of either firearm, shotgun or air weapon certificates and applications for variations or visitor permits.  We are aware that at this time applications for visitor permits have reduced dramatically in view of travel restrictions and given the current operating restrictions in non-essential retail premises, it is likely that demand for variations will also be small so the impact of this on these services should be minimal.

The processing of certificate renewals will still take place and those seeking to renew will be contacted by Police Scotland in due course.  Applications will be taken in context of applicant activity prior to this pandemic and will not be viewed negatively due to the current social restrictions in place.  In view of the latest Government messaging for the management of Covid-19, renewals will take place remotely, without the need for home visits. Police Scotland are acutely aware of the demands on General Practitioners at this time and will adopt a pragmatic approach with respect to the requirement for General Practitioner involvement in firearms licensing.  Police Scotland are keen to reinforce that as each case will be judged on its merits it is unable to provide definitive guidance for every scenario.  This is understandable.

If an application is to grant or renew a certificate for employment purposes (e.g. gamekeeping, professional pest control or working in the oil industry) Police Scotland have said that they will do their utmost to process these applications as best they can, and we support this prioritisation.

Police Scotland have also taken the decision to return centralised decision making back to the processing centres during this time to allow the policing divisions to deal with their pressing demands.  This will allow for decisions to be made quickly and consistently and will hopefully ensure Police Scotland do not need to rely on the eight-week extension or the issue of temporary Section 7 permits currently available to them, which operationally can cause problems.

To be clear, we collectively understand that these are critical times for the country.  It is not business as usual and this must be fully understood.  We do hope that, when the country returns to a more even keel, the commercial, personal and sporting needs of Scottish communities are recognised and that visitor permits and variations are dealt with quickly to allow businesses and the shooting communities to pick themselves up and move forwards to enjoy the wider rewards that an active target shooting, game shooting and deer stalking community provides.

During these uncertain times, we understand that pressures can increase in respect of employment concerns and also anxiety in relation to health.  The members of the Scottish Firearms Licensing Practitioners Group, including Police Scotland and Scottish Government, have been working on a leaflet explaining why it’s important to say if you’re not okay, recognising the challenges of poor mental health and provide some advice about what help is available to certificate holders (as well as their friends and families) should they have concerns.  It also explains the police position in respect of such matters.  Due to the current crisis, it has been decided to publish this material now, ahead of formal publication, to get this key message out that support is available.  It is important for the whole shooting community, including friends and families, to make themselves aware of this advice and where they can turn to for support.  This advice will be published on the respective websites.

These are unprecedented times and key workers are being asked to perform important roles while no doubt worrying about the future, the welfare of their families, loved ones and themselves.  We ask the shooting community to be pragmatic and understanding. Please respect the latest Government and medical messaging and limit contact with the firearms licensing departments unless it is a matter of urgency.

By working as one Scottish shooting community, we can limit the impact this virus can have to ensure life can return to normal as soon as possible.  We thank you for your support.

British Association for Shooting and Conservation (Scotland)

Gun Trade Association

Scottish Association for Country Sports

Scottish Countryside Alliance

Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Scottish Target Shooting

Firearms and Mental Health. 
EVERYONE’S mental health is important and at some point, in all our lives the majority of us will be affected by circumstances or feelings that can impact negatively on us. It is important that members of the shooting community, as well as their family, friends and colleagues, understand that it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok
For some,a gun may be a vital part of their work and livelihood. For others, it may be the method by which they engage in sporting activities and interact with people at their local clubs or events. In Scotland, we recognise that there are many good reasons for legally possessing a gun; whatever your reason, possessing and using guns will be meaningful to you. 
This leaflet is to help explain the support available and will provide details of who you can contact, what steps may be taken and some of the possible outcomes. This cannot be an exhaustive list as every case is different and will be treated as such, but it will help demonstrate that there are different ways concerns may be handled and managed and in a supportive, understanding and proportionate way. 
So, if you have concerns about your own mental health, or the mental health of a family member, friend or a shooting companion, don’t be afraid to talk with us because we’re here to help. Remember, it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok - it is the right thing to do. 
It’s more common than you think 
Experiencing low mood or suffering poor mental health or distress is common and affects around 1 in 4 of the population at any given time and quite likely many of us at some point in our lives. 
Research tells us that asking for help is the most important step in dealing with mental ill health. Talking openly about mental health is vital in challenging the confusion that still surrounds this common health condition. 
Promoting Positive Mental Health 
Shooting, be it involved in work or as a pastime, can also play an important role in supporting and promoting positive mental health. 
Whether it be from the focus and achievement gained from the sporting side, sense of satisfaction gained from working or benefiting the environment, or the social element from being around people with a shared interest, all these play a vital role in promoting and maintaining positive mental health. 
The role of Police Scotland 
The priority of Police Scotland is to ensure public safety and protect the communities across the country. Shooting organisations are key partners of the police who manage the licensing of nearly 75,000 firearm certificate holders currently. 
The police have a duty to manage risk on a daily basis but also work alongside us in seeking not to disadvantage certificate holders and deal with each situation presented in a 
sympathetic and proportionate manner. This applies to those experiencing mental or other health matters too. 
The role of shooting bodies in Scotland 
A collective of Scottish bodies involved in shooting, whether from a sporting, conservation, or vocational interest, work together with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government on the Scottish Firearms Practitioners Group (please see back page for a full list of bodies involved in developing this leaflet). With 1 in 4 people in the UK admitting to experiencing poor mental health at some point, it is inevitable that those in the shooting community will have experienced concerns, either about themselves or those around them. 
We all recognise the challenges faced by Police Scotland but also the reservations of certificate holders speaking out about poor mental health. All of the partners have come together to deliver the joint message that it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok. This joint work aims to help to dispel concerns about how such matters will be handled, whilst always ensuring public safety, including the safety of the certificate holder, is prioritised. 
What role can I play? 
Whether you are a certificate holder or a family member, friend or work colleague of a certificate holder, it is important that you know what you can do, and who you can speak to, if you have concerns about your own mental health or the mental health of someone close to you. Thankfully in the UK instances of certificate holders taking their own lives or the lives of others with legally held guns are extremely rare, and we want to keep it that way. The best way of doing this is looking to provide people close to us with the best support possible and we can all play a role in doing this. 
What can the Police do? 
Guns can be an essential part of a working life, especially in the gamekeeping or deer stalking world. That is widely recognised by everyone involved in firearms licensing, be that certificate holders, shooting organisations and the police. If the police have any concerns regarding a certificate holder, they will treat each case on its own merits. 
There may be times when an initial move to secure an individual’s guns for safety is the most appropriate option. This allows the police to establish whether there is any genuine risk to the certificate holder, the people around them and the wider public. This does not mean that the certificates themselves will necessarily always be revoked, it just allows the police to have temporary control of the guns until such time as the situation can be fully reviewed and the police can ensure the certificate holder can safely possess guns at that time. 
The police will gather all relevant information to help assess the risk and this may include, speaking with family and/or friends and if necessary, employers to establish their views in respect of the persons suitability to possess guns. The police may write or speak to the person’s GP to confirm any medical diagnosis, how any illness impacts on their life and how they are coping so that the police can make an informed decision on their suitability at that time. 
For this, and many other reasons, it is essential that members of the shooting community have a positive, open and frank relationship with their GP. 
Once the police have established the facts and concluded their assessment, they may decide to: 

  •  Return the guns to the certificate holder if appropriate to do so;
  •  Come to arrangement where the guns are stored remotely;
  •  Suggest that the certificate holder surrenders their certificates and then reapply when
  • their health has improved;
  •  Revoke the certificates, only if appropriate to do so, considering what they have
  • learned.
  • It is important to remember that the police will always prioritise public safety, which includes the wellbeing of the certificate holder.
  • Where can I turn to for help?
  • Remember, it’s ok to tell us you’re not ok and there are a number of organisations who you can turn to for help and advice and support in relation to mental health, be it about yourself, a family member, friend or colleague.
  • Below are the contact details for organisations able to help or signpost you in the right direction. Other organisations, the details of which can easily be obtained online, can help.
Samaritans 116 123, text 07725 90 90 90
Support in Mind Scotland 0131 662 4359
Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) 0141 530 1000
Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution
0300 111 4166

Breathing Space  0800 838 587                                                                                                        NHS 24: 111                                                                                                                             Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust 0300 123 3088
Police Scotland 
Firearms Licensing North 01463 720484
Firearms Licensing East  01592 418424
Firearms Licensing West 01786 895580
Other sources of information in Scotland 
Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) 01350 724 228                                         Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) 0131 344 4640
Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) 01738 587515                                                       Scottish Target Shooting 0131 467 2489
National Rural Mental Health Forum
Scottish Land and Estates 0131 653 5400 

BASC Scotland 01350 723226

Mental ill health can and does affect anyone. It is important to talk this through and importantly, together we can help people get the help they need. It really is OK to tell us you’re not OK. 


Photo by Neil McIntyre.
Guidance from SNH for deer stalkers/managers has been issued via the Association of Deer Management today (March 25th). Thank you to ADMG for clarifying this helpful advice and sharing it.

The critical tests SNH is applying for deer managers are non-essential travel and whether the activity may place more strain on frontline services.

The advice is clear in that deer managers should not be travelling to undertake deer stalking, when the Govt advice is to Stay At Home for the next 3 weeks, after which time the Government will review.

SNH is classifying deer stalking/deer management, in this period, as a non-essential activity which also carries a risk of accident, which could place pressure on frontline services.

Therefore, SNH’s advice is that, if you travel to undertake deer management, this should now stop for 3 weeks until Government re-assesses the national situation.

Carcass collection from larders could be affected although Government has stated that businesses involved in food supply can remain open providing they practice safe social distancing measures and the necessary health and safety requirements. 

Anyone with venison in larders should call their game dealer in advance, to understand if and how normal processes may be impacted.

As everyone who has been reading the news will know, this is an unprecedented time and receiving definitive guidance for every sector of our industry is extremely difficult. Many members carry out diverse and nuanced tasks in the countryside- and for different purposes- and clarifying one-size-fits-all rules is problematic and may not always be possible.

Many of our members, for example, will be carrying out activities to protect essential farm crops and food supply, such as fox control at lambing and deer/pest control to protect growing crops. 

We will endeavour to get as much information for members as we can, and will share it with you as soon as we can. 

In the meantime, exercise additional caution and, if in any doubt as to the advice given above regarding essential travel and non-essential activity, stay at home until further Government guidance is given.

The guidance is there to save lives.

Yesterday, the SGA released 2 videos on Facebook to clarify some of the activities members undertake and how Coronavirus guidance impacts upon them. We also discussed shoot planning for the months ahead at a time of great uncertainty for all.

It is a legal requirement for members to check snares and some traps every 24 hours so this should continue otherwise members will be breaking the law.

Members working on their home ground and not traveling, in socially isolated settings, can continue essential activities such as the above and, for all other activity, should continue to heed Government guidance. 

Where members of the public may share that ground for exercising, maintain safe social distancing to limit potential spread of the virus, clean equipment and wash hands regularly.

We also released information on the new trap legislation coming in on April 1st and the General Licences. Please take heed of this and ensure you have registered with SNH before April 1st if you intend to use traps.

If you did not see the videos, follow the Scottish Gamekeepers Association on Facebook and you will find them on our page.

As this is a moving picture, we will be publishing updates, as we receive them, on our website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.

The SGA cannot accept liability for all advice given. What we will do is endeavour to provide our members with the best advice which we can source from Government and other trusted agencies and get it to you as effectively and quickly as we can. 

Our office is working from home and receiving a lot of inquiries. Please bear with us as we try to get the information you need.

Monday 23 March 2020


From a person who is working in the countryside it was very encouraging to hear Kate Forbes MSP telling everybody that people live and work in these places and it is not some wilderness where everybody could disappear to during the Coronavirus social distancing. She has to be congratulated on taking a very strong stance.

I know from this weekend that our estate was like Blackpool beach, people showing up in the strangest of places, dogs raking everywhere and sheep scattering to the four winds, not to say anything of the hundred people who touched all our gates with gay abandon not giving a damn about spreading any virus. 

It really makes me angry when they treat our place of work like Disney World!

ALEX HOGG, March 23rd 2020. 

Wednesday 18 March 2020


Designed by New Zealand's Conservation dept, the Doc 150 traps are the ones which have been delayed in Chinese ports due to Coronavirus security measures.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has written to DEFRA Secretary George Eustice seeking a delay on the enforcement of new EU regulations on the trapping of stoats.
New laws are due to come into force on April 1st which will make some traps, previously used to manage stoat populations, illegal across the EU.

However, shipments of new, legally compliant, traps from New Zealand have been blocked in Chinese ports following the Coronavirus lockdown.

Gamekeepers who have paid for consignments of new Doc 150 model traps will now not have them in time and the SGA has written to DEFRA seeking a grace period.

Despite trap users being aware of the upcoming change, attempts to stagger orders to avoid overwhelming the manufacturers have been beset by external problems.

A bulk order last year of 10, 000 Doc 150 traps by the £7m Orkney Native Wildlife Project, run by Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB, meant a mounting backlog of orders for individual users.

The project is deploying tens of thousands of traps across the island to eradicate stoats and the combination of large demand, the new laws and Coronavirus-related delays have left other trap users without legally compliant tools.

Stoat trapping is critical for predation control efforts at this time of year as ground nesting game and conservation-listed bird species are preparing to nest.

“We have written to George Eustice MP to explain that many of our members will not have compliant traps for April 1st,” said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.

“This obviously compromises users because there is a need to comply by the law but, at the same time, there is also a need to limit predation of nests at breeding time.

“The whole issue could not have been unforeseen. What we have asked for is a short delay or a grace period until these shipments come through. No one can fully say exactly when this will be but a period of 3 months should see the backlog cleared.”

Richard McGill, who owns a business in Selkirk specialising in equipment for the game sector, says trap shipments are now requiring double the time to reach Britain.

He wrote to DEFRA in February to warn of the emerging situation and believes a short delay is reasonable.

“Estates in Scotland have staged their orders over the last 18 months, to comply with the new law and to avoid undue pressure on manufacturers all at once. I, myself, have been limiting single orders of several hundreds at a time to, maybe 100, to make sure everyone has some, but there have been a number of unforeseen consequences.”

The problems come at a time when the SGA is also seeking clarity on the new rules.

While old Mk4 Fenn traps will become illegal for stoats from April 1st they can still be used to trap some pest species such as rats and weasels.

However, should a stoat enter the trap as a non-target species, the law is unclear as to whether this would be classified as a crime.

The SGA has sought answers from Scottish Natural Heritage, to avoid gamekeepers unwittingly breaking the law, but have had no response to queries.

“It needs to be nailed down so everyone can be assured they are operating legally,” said Chairman Alex Hogg.

NB: The SGA has also contacted Scottish Natural Heritage today regarding the trap delays, to see what cross-border action could be taken.

Friday 13 March 2020


Scotland’s Gamekeepers have postponed their planned Holyrood protest against Scottish Government’s ‘death by a thousands cuts’ but have promised to re-arrange when safe to do so.
The demonstration, organised by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), was due to take place on 25th March outside the Scottish Parliament. 
SGA members say Government has abandoned them on key rural issues, placing increasing strain on workers and their families and heightening fears over job losses in remote areas.

However, the organisation moved to cancel their ‘defence of our jobs’ protest yesterday (Fri) as major events such as sporting fixtures and other gatherings were halted by Coronavirus response plans.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said a new date will be announced in future so gamekeeper, stalker and ghillie members can get the opportunity to make their views known to Scottish Government.
“Although we notified Edinburgh City Council that our protest would not require any additional frontline service attendance, it is the right thing to do to postpone at this time.
“When it is appropriate to do so, we will take advice on another suitable date but, for the time being, public health and safety are paramount.
“Additionally, people were organising buses to travel to Edinburgh, from the Highlands to the Borders, and it is only right they can now make alternative arrangements with their employers and with travel companies.
“What our industry is witnessing is a death by a thousand cuts. We have a lot of members who have shown support for the Government’s stance on rural policy but, as said, that well is running dry.
“They want their voices to be heard loud and clear and we- as their representatives- will be ensuring that this will happen, hopefully when the country emerges from the situation it finds itself in.”


Thursday 12 March 2020


Scotland’s Gamekeepers will heed Coronavirus guidance as they prepare to stage a major protest at Holyrood over what they call Scottish Government’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

Gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies plan to gather outside Parliament on March 25th in a defence of their jobs organised by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).

The body’s 5300 members say Government has abandoned them on key rural issues,  placing increasing strain on members and heightening fears over job losses in remote areas.
Concurrent reviews on grouse and deer management, inaction on falling salmon numbers and imminent curbs on the ability to control foxes have stoked rising anger.
An announcement by the First Minister that Scottish Govt may move to early licensing of the grouse sector following publication of Professor Werritty’s review inflamed tensions further following successive poor grouse years.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said they notified Edinburgh City Council of their intention to demonstrate on February 27th, before the first Scottish case of Coronavirus was recorded.
However, he says they will take full heed of public health advice, as they prepare to protest.
“We will heed all the advice. Obviously we take our responsibilities very seriously. We organised this before the outbreak because the message to us was clear: our members want action and to be heard because they feel Government is no longer listening.
“What we are witnessing is a death by a thousand cuts. We have a lot of members who have shown support for the Government’s stance on rural policy but the well is running dry.
“They want Government to realise that our livelihoods matter; that they are not something that can be traded to buy political support for other objectives in Edinburgh.
“They have had enough of being treated as low hanging fruit. They want working people of the land to be heard again.”
Mr Hogg said that, despite SGA members managing over 1 million deer in the last decade, their contribution to Scotland’s environment has been completely ignored.
A recent Government-commissioned review announced recommendations to erode remaining legal protections afforded to deer, through ending or increasing seasons, and to introduce night shooting with controversial night scopes.
“Some of our members have told us they would rather go to jail than take part in some government-sponsored slaughter of an iconic species.
“Where is the respect? People will be asked to shoot females with viable calves and potentially face fines if they don’t. Would a politician or an ‘environmental’ campaigner want to do that? No. It is sickening how far Scotland has fallen. It is like the activists are running the countryside and the working folk are kicked at every turn.”
In the grouse sector, two very poor shooting years have seen revenues plummet.
The potential for government licensing is eroding confidence and causing uncertainty over continuing gamekeeper employment.
On rivers, bookings are down placing increasing strain on fisheries and ghillies.
“On grouse moors, more and more science is showing these moors are providing an overspill of rare species like Curlew, helping to keep these amazing birds alive.
“Yet the sector is about to be strangled by a blanket licensing system and told they can no longer use dogs to clear foxes from forestry blocks. It’s lunacy. Where will it end?”
“On the rivers, our ghillies are a credit to the country but they see two Parliamentary Committees identifying the problems of fish farming, and the proven impacts this has on wild salmon numbers, and see no action."
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association requested a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon but were not granted a hearing.

NB: Members and supporters wishing to attend the Protest should make arrangements to assemble outside the Scottish Parliament building at 1pm on March 25th 2020. Should public health advice change, the SGA will act accordingly and will alert everyone through usual communications channels.

Thursday 5 March 2020


Dear SGA member, after meeting with SNH, the finalised General Licences have now been published for 2020.
There is a lot to get your head around and you need to be ready for 1st April 2020 (only 3.5 weeks away).
This means reading all the information and, crucially, making sure you comply with the new rules.

Unlike previous years, when members would check whether there had been changes to species which could be managed under the licences, there is a lot more to consider this year.
One of the key changes is to register your traps with SNH and NOT POLICE SCOTLAND as was previously the case.
This will have to be done ahead of April 1st if you are to be compliant and this briefing points you in the right direction so you can find all the information you need.
There are also changes to General Licence use on designated sites.
Again, you need to assess whether you comply with SNH's new 'standing conditions' in order to be able to use General Licences on select designated areas.
If you don't, you will have to contact SNH to discuss what you plan to do. If you do not do this, you will be in breach of General Licensing regulation.
So, please ACT NOW.
By clicking, here, you will find all the information about the changes and what you need to do next.