Friday, 9 April 2021

RURAL WORKERS' PROTEST, #RWP21: Support and the next steps

On behalf of the organisers of #RWP21 (ourselves and Scotland’s regional moorland groups) the SGA office was delighted today to receive the latest response to the Rural Workers’ Protest, this time from Finlay Carson, Scottish Conservatives.


Mr Carson praised the success of the Protest in highlighting the thousands of rural workers whose concerns are often overlooked. He expressed support for accelerated research into salmon decline and also for one of the key asks of #RWP21 - that the Scottish Outdoor Access Code should become part of the Scottish school curriculum. See the 5 ASKS of #RWP21, here: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2021/03/rwp21-5-asks.html



This proposal has also received supportive comments and suggestions from Kate Forbes and Graeme Dey of SNP whilst further positive messages regarding #RWP21 have been received from Fergus Ewing, Alexander Burnett, Edward Mountain, Liz Smith, Murdo Fraser and Oliver Mundell. 


We are grateful to all of them for their responses.


On top of messages of support for the objectives of #RWP21 from 17 political figures across 4 different parties, it seems the Protest, conducted in an honest and constructive manner, reached out beyond party political lines, highlighting some real issues which are of genuine concern to rural workers on river and land.


It has also been encouraging to see the Scottish media and diverse stakeholders from across the countryside expressing an interest in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code being formally taught in schools.



If you agree that the Code should become part of the schools curriculum, take the poll on the home page of the SGA website. It takes 2 seconds and can be found at www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk
Want to find out how to take the poll? Watch the film below. 



Organisers note that the election manifesto of Alliance for Unity, announced this week, references the need for a policy forum for rural workers at Holyrood. See their manifesto, here: https://www.alliance4unity.uk/manifesto/ This was one of the key asks of the Protest and it is encouraging to see parties developing these themes. We hope others follow suit as we try to make Holyrood a place where the practical knowledge of rural workers, hewn from years of experience on water and land, is given greater credence than at present.


On behalf of the thousands who took part in the Protest, the organisers are determined to ensure that the 5 ASKS are taken forward after the Election by the elected politicians and that the spirit of the Protest results in tangible change and progress.


Following a review by organisers, some initial data has emerged from #RWP21 which we want to share for the benefit of all those who gave up working time to take part, whether they were ghillie-ing for fishing guests, taking bookings for the 2021 seasons, serving customers, prepping for lambing, feeding hungry birds or using the weather window to undertake some planned muirburn.


The Media reach of #RWP21 was 2.24 million people (print, online, broadcast)

Social media reach was over 1.8 million people

5213 people added #RWP21 frames/Twibbons to profile pages

Over 3100 people posted individual posts using the #RWP21 hashtag

Over 8000 people referenced #RWP21 as part of posts

The 5 key ASKS were delivered to all Scottish politicians along with the ‘Grow the Protest’ statement, which was signed by 2172 people in a matter of days.

#RWP21 responses and endorsements have been received, so far, from 26 politicians.  





SGA PAYS RESPECTS AT PASSING OF DUKE OF EDINBURGH

A statement from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association on the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh today, aged 99.

Everyone at The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) wishes to pass on respects and condolences to the Royal family following the sad passing of the Duke of Edinburgh.

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg, MBE, said: “The Duke was a fine man and a lover of country sports. He spent happy times in Scotland and showed nothing but respect for the skills and knowledge of people in our industry whom he enjoyed spending time with. We send on our wishes to the Royal family and to all his friends at this sad time.”


Thursday, 8 April 2021

MAY ELECTION: SNP/GREEN PACT: The consequences for rural workers

 SGA members have made us aware they would like to know more about the Election on May 6th and candidates they can vote for. 


We will be providing overview information on several seats prior to the Election. 

Please note: The SGA is not affiliated to any political party. The information is intended only as a helpful guide, offered from the perspective of members' interests, as requested.


People should vote according to personal choice. However, we will give advice for circumstances in which people would wish to vote solely for the purposes of protecting their profession.




SNP/Green pact: the consequences for rural workers.


In looking at seats, we have provided an analysis based on what candidates have done for rural workers in Holyrood or, if not yet elected, looked at their standpoints on issues to gauge where they might stand in relation to workers on river and land.


See our overviews of Perthshire South and Kinross-shire: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2021/04/may-election-perthshire-south-and.html

and Aberdeenshire West: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2021/04/may-election-aberdeenshire-west-overview.html


The introduction of new regional list parties, this time, introduces fresh dynamics but one particular potential alliance which rural workers should be wary of, if voting for professional reasons, is the potential for a deeper relationship between a dominant SNP and the Green Party. 


Following the 2016 Holyrood election, the SNP chose to form an alliance with the Greens in order to build a ‘majority’ which would enable them to pass budgets as Scotland’s Government. The Greens, too, are pro-independence. The partnership, therefore, was understandable. This alliance gave Scottish Government the numbers required to progress its priorities, with the Greens supporting budgets and even providing the balance to help tip crucial no confidence votes at the end of the term. 


In turn, however, the Scottish Government also had to accommodate the Green agenda when it came to bills, priorities and commitments. The urban-focused Greens wielded this influence punitively against sections of the land management community in the last Parliament, despite its vote share being 0.6% of the constituency vote and 6.6% of the regional vote in Scotland. (See: Greens in the last Parliament, below).


The perception from rural workers, which came to the fore in #RWP21, the Rural Workers’ Protest (and hence this article) was that this alliance had damaged trust in Scottish Government in issues affecting the countryside.


Rural workers who had supported SNP as a rural party or because they personally aspired to independence, had turned to other parties or had become disillusioned or torn because their hopes for their jobs and homes were at odds with their personal beliefs. If pushed, they felt they now had to speak up for their jobs, first. The adoption of Green priorities was cited as the principle cause of this change. 


Recent messaging and polling would suggest there may be little comfort for the voter falling into this category. 


Present polls suggest the Greens may move from the 6 seats won in 2016 to 10 or 11 seats. Should the SNP gain an outright majority, the need to partner with the Greens, on the face of it, has less urgency. 


However, if they fall short of a majority, the Greens’ will gain further ground as SNP’s partners in Edinburgh. Naturally, they will demand more in return. 


Recent stories have emerged which seem to suggest the prospect of a deeper alliance between the Greens and SNP are real, potentially regardless of whether that majority is secured or not. The reason for this would appear to be that this would strengthen the SNP’s hand to demand an independence referendum from Westminster. A report in the Daily Record quoted Green co-leader Lorna Slater as saying she would accept a Ministerial role.


See: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/scottish-green-party-co-leader-23872431


https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/snp-on-green-alert-for-holyrood-election-as-hopes-of-majority-recede-and-coalition-seems-likely-npv87xsw7


If members intend to vote purely to benefit their employment as a rural worker, we felt it was important to make this information available. There may be other candidates or parties who have shown a willingness to work with, or listen to, rural workers. You should make yourself aware of these before heading to the polling booth.


Here is a handy full candidate list for the May 6th Election, published by the Daily Record. Punch in your postcode to find the full list of candidates for where you stay, and their parties: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/scottish-election-2021-find-candidates-23835321

 

Also, as mentioned in our other election overview articles, there are other pro-independence options on the ballot paper in the regional list other than the Greens (if independence is your prime motivation when voting). One obvious example is Alex Salmond’s recently created Alba Party.




Greens in the last Parliament:


The Scottish Green Party have inflicted damage to sections of the rural workforce and are outward when it comes to advocating policies that will harm existing rural employment. 

Vociferously opposed to the shooting community, they want to end grouse shooting and ban the use of hounds for fox management, see: https://greens.scot/news/scottish-greens-vow-to-end-fox-hunting-for-good They want to further restrict muirburn. 


Green MSP Alison Johnstone was the architect of the move to place mountain hares on Schedule 5, an ill-advised policy attached to a passing bill at Stage 3 during a pandemic which had no Parliamentary debate and no scrutiny by the Bill’s lead Committee. Mountain hares will now be killed under flexible licences for tree planting schemes, which the Greens favour. Other Green amendments were added to the Animals and Wildlife Bill at late stages such as reintroducing the ban on tail shortening of working dogs and restricting the ability to manage beavers, which would have adversely impacted farmers and some river workers. Andy Wightman, when working as a Green MSP, drove the suspension of muirburn during lockdown, in contrary to advice given to SGA members from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and NatureScot.

The Scottish Greens have acted as an unofficial Parliamentary delivery arm of the group, Revive, who want to end grouse shooting and place families on the dole. The Greens have been parroting false factsfrom Revive on 2021 election material. See: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2021/03/sga-complain-to-electoral-commission.html  The Scottish Greens want new Green jobs but are blind to the fact that those who will have to deliver climate mitigations, on the ground, are the very people they are trying to make unemployed.





Wednesday, 7 April 2021

MAY ELECTION: Aberdeenshire West overview

SGA members have made us aware they would like to know more about the Election on May 6th and candidates they can vote for. 


We will be providing information on several seats prior to the Election. 

Please note: The SGA is not affiliated to any political party. The information is intended only as a helpful guide, offered from the perspective of members' interests, as requested.

People should vote according to personal choice. However, we will give advice for circumstances in which people would wish to vote solely for the purposes of protecting their profession.


Overview: Aberdeenshire West


Choices on the ballot paper: 


On May 6th, voters will get the opportunity to vote for which person they want as their Constituency MSP. This person will be an individual representing a party or will be independent.

Voters will also get the opportunity to vote for a Party in the Regional List.


For the Constituency vote, the person with the highest number of votes becomes the Constituency MSP. In the regional list, a total of 7 MSPs are selected. This is allocated around the share of the vote. If a party has already won a Constituency seat, they will win less regional list seats. The system is designed this way to avoid any one party dominating.



One of the key seats in this election will be Aberdeenshire West - one of the most marginal seats in Scotland and a 2 horse race between the Conservatives and SNP when it comes to the constituency vote.


The constituency seat is currently held by Alexander Burnett, Conservative, who held a 900 vote majority over SNP’s Dennis Robertson after the 2016 Holyrood election.


This time, the SNP candidate is Aberdonian Fergus Mutch, a former SNP Communications Director. Mutch, in his early 30s, ran for the Westminster seat, losing narrowly to Andrew Bowie (Conservative) and led the SNP’s ‘rejoin the EU’ campaign.


The SNP will have targeted this seat as a priority to win back while the Conservatives will want to hold the seat in a region they have recently done well in (also holding 4 regional list seats).


Alexander Burnett, again the Conservative candidate in the constituency seat, operates an estate in the area, with interests in farming, sporting and forestry. During his time at Holyrood, he has campaigned on tick-borne Lyme Disease and has spoken up for rural workers in his constituency in debates and bill readings and during his time on the ECCLR Committee. He recently endorsed the aims of the Rural Workers’ Protest, #RWP21 (see Twitter post below).



The extent of Fergus Mutch’s backing (SNP) of rural workers’ concerns is, presently, unknown given that he has no current record in Holyrood. This, of course, may change if he wins the seat.

He supported a motion at SNP conference for replanting of the Caledonian pine forest and wants to make Scotland a ‘prosperous nation through independence.’


Votes for other parties in the constituency vote are unlikely to impact the final outcome in this particular seat with all other contenders some distance behind (see 2016 election results, above). The Lib Dems, however, enjoy seeds of support in the area and will want to maintain a presence.


The regional list is different. (see regional vote share, 2016)



Voters will have a bigger choice of parties on the regional list including some new parties which could have a significant bearing on the final election result eg: Alex Salmond is running for his new pro-independence Alba party on the regional list in this region. The anti-independence, pro-Union party, Alliance for Unity, will also run candidates.


With this seat being such a close contest, it is likely that those wanting to maximise their vote could opt for both votes going to their main candidate/party choice - in constituency AND regional list- in order to hedge their bets and get the representation they want.


For example, pro Conservative or even pro-Union supporters may vote for Alexander Burnett and may also vote Conservative in the regional list in case Fergus Mutch should claim the constituency seat back for SNP.

Similarly, pro SNP supporters may vote for Fergus Mutch in the Constituency vote and SNP in the regional list, in case the constituency seat remains with the Conservatives.


If voting purely to benefit your employment as a rural worker, rather than voting along personal conscience lines, a rule of thumb is that people should be wary of any vote for the Green Party on the regional list, in any area, even if it was a decision taken to potentially boost a pro-independence aspiration (there are other pro-independence options on the ballot paper, chiefly Alex Salmond’s Alba Party).


The Scottish Green Party have inflicted damage to sections of the rural workforce and are outward when it comes to advocating policies that will harm rural employment. 

Vociferously opposed to the shooting community, they want to end grouse shooting and ban the use of hounds for fox management, see: https://greens.scot/news/scottish-greens-vow-to-end-fox-hunting-for-good They want to further restrict muirburn. 


Green MSP Alison Johnstone was the architect of the move to place mountain hares on Schedule 5, an ill-advised policy attached to a passing bill at Stage 3 during a pandemic which had no Parliamentary debate and no scrutiny by the Bill’s lead Committee. Andy Wightman, when working as a Green MSP, was behind the suspension of muirburn during lockdown, in contrary to advice given to SGA from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and NatureScot.

The Scottish Greens have acted as an unofficial Parliamentary delivery arm of the group, Revive, who want to end grouse shooting and place families on the dole; even to the point of parroting false factsfrom Revive on election material. See: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2021/03/sga-complain-to-electoral-commission.html  The Scottish Greens want new Green jobs but are blind to the fact that those who will have to deliver climate mitigations, on the ground, are the very people they are trying to make unemployed.



How do I find the polling station?: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/elections/scottish-parliament-election/

Monday, 5 April 2021

MAY ELECTION: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire overview

SGA members have made us aware they would like to know more about the Election on May 6th and candidates they can vote for. 

We will be providing information on several seats prior to the Election. 
Please note: The SGA is not affiliated to any political party. The information is intended as a helpful guide, from the perspective of members' interests.
People should vote according to personal choice. However, we will give advice for circumstances in which people would wish to vote solely for the purposes of protecting their profession.


Overview: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire.

On May 6th, voters will get the opportunity to vote for which person they want to be their Constituency MSP. This person will be an individual representing a party or will be independent.

Voters will also get the opportunity to vote for a Party in the Regional List.


For the Constituency vote, the person with the highest number of votes becomes the Constituency MSP. In the regional list, a total of 7 MSPs are selected. This is allocated around the share of the vote. If a party has already won a Constituency seat, they will win less regional list seats. The system is designed this way to avoid any one party dominating.


One of the key seats in this election will be Perthshire South and Kinross-shire - a 2 horse race between SNP and the Conservatives when it comes to the constituency vote.


The constituency seat has been held for SNP by former Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, who is not running in this election.

Her place, as a candidate, has been taken by Jim Fairlie.

At the last election in 2016, Roseanna Cunningham’s majority was cut as Liz Smith made headway for the Conservatives. 

The final winning margin was 1422 votes. Both SNP and Conservatives will make winning this seat a high priority.


Liz Smith visiting SGA Chairman Alex Hogg and rural workers in the Scottish Borders, 2020.


Jim Fairlie, SNP, has not been an MSP before so it is difficult to analyse his record of support for rural workers. However, as a former hill farmer of 13 years and founder of Perth Farmers’ Market, he has an understanding of rural issues and has shown a willingness to meet local land workers. https://www.facebook.com/JimFairlieSNP/


SNP candidate Jim Fairlie


Liz Smith, Conservatives, was very supportive of rural workers in the last Parliament, most recently expressing admiration of the work of local gamekeepers, ghillies and farmers in the constituency through a video supporting the Rural Workers’ Protest #RWP21 See: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=802302387307514

She has spoken up during debates on rural issues at Holyrood and has also tabled Parliamentary questions on issues such as September deer culls in state forests- a major SGA concern.


Votes for other parties in the constituency vote are unlikely to impact the final outcome in this particular seat with all other contenders some distance behind (see 2016 election results, above)


The regional list is different. 


Voters will have a bigger choice of parties on the regional list including some new parties which could have a bearing on the final election result eg: Alex Salmond’s pro-independence Alba party and the anti-independence, pro-Union party, Alliance for Unity, led by Jamie Blackett and George Galloway, who also expressed support for #RWP21 See: https://twitter.com/ScotGamekeepers/status/1372890573703643138?s=20


With this seat being such a close contest, it is likely that those wanting to maximise their vote could opt for both votes going to their main candidate/party choice - in constituency and regional list- in order to hedge bets.


For example, pro SNP supporters may vote for Jim Fairlie in the Constituency vote and SNP in the regional list, in case the constituency seat goes to the Conservatives.

Similarly, pro Conservative or even pro-Union supporters may vote for Liz Smith and may also vote Conservative in the regional list in case SNP hold the constituency.


If voting purely to benefit your employment as a rural worker, rather than voting along personal conscience lines, a rule of thumb is that people should be wary of any vote for the Green Party on the regional list, in any area, even if it was a decision taken to potentially boost a pro-independence aspiration (there are other pro-independence options on the ballot paper such as Alba).


The Scottish Green Party, who will have Mark Ruskell as a candidate on the regional list in this seat, have inflicted damage to sections of the rural workforce and are outward when it comes to advocating policies that will harm rural employment. 

Vociferously opposed to the shooting community, they want to end grouse shooting, ban the use of hounds for fox management and further restrict muirburn. Green MSP Alison Johnstone was the architect of the move to place mountain hares on Schedule 5, an ill-advised policy which was attached to a passing bill at Stage 3 and had no Parliamentary debate and minimal scrutiny. Andy Wightman, when working as a Green MSP, was behind the suspension of muirburn during lockdown, against the advice of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and NatureScot. The Scottish Greens have acted as an unofficial Parliamentary delivery arm of the group, Revive, who want to end grouse shooting and place families on the dole; even to the point of parroting false ‘facts’ from Revive on election material. See: https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/2021/03/sga-complain-to-electoral-commission.html  The Scottish Greens want new Green jobs but are blind to the fact that those who will have to deliver climate mitigations on the ground are the very people they are trying to make unemployed.