Ban driven grouse-shooting, Green MSP argues after Visit Scotland remove ‘devastated’ Cairngorms photo


Following criticism of a now-deleted Visit Scotland social media post, Wightman highlighted environmental concerns by the Cairngorms National Park

GREEN MSP Andy Wightman has reiterated his party’s call for a ban on driven grouse-shooting and “a completely new way of managing land” like the Cairngorms mountain range, following criticism of a now-deleted post by Visit Scotland.

On the afternoon of 24 September, the national tourism agency Visit Scotland published a post on Twitter advertising “90 miles of @VisitCairngrms BEAUTY” and “the #Cairngorms Snow Roads Scenic Route”, commenting: “Your winter #roadtrip plans: sorted.” The post was accompanied by a photograph of the landscape in question.

Prior to its deletion, Wightman retweeted the post with the comment: “A devastated, blasted, deforested, burnt & over-grazed terrain. Come and visit the ecological devastation wrought over the centuries.”

The Visit Scotland post was subsequently deleted on the evening of Tuesday 25 September.



Speaking to CommonSpace, a spokesperson for Visit Scotland said: “Our social media team deleted a tweet that went out at 4pm on the 24th September promoting the Snow Roads Scenic Route blog due to the comments no longer being within our Terms & Conditions. The whole post was removed because Twitter does not allow individual comments to be deleted.”

CommonSpace understands that, in addition to Wightman’s remarks, numerous other comments were elicited by the original post on Twitter, many of them critical and political in nature.

According to Visit Scotland’s terms and conditions, comments which are “campaigning, political or in any other way inappropriate” will be deleted.

Speaking to CommonSpace, Wightman did not comment on Visit Scotland’s decision to delete the post, but elaborated further on his initial criticism, highlighting previously stated concerns from the Cairngorms National Park and the need for land reform and a ban on driven grouse-shooting in Scotland.

“What we need is a completely new way of managing land like this, so the presumption is that we want to enhance its biodiversity and restore its ecological health.” Green MSP Andy Wightman

Wightman said: “I’ve got two reasons why I’m uncomfortable with that kind of message. One is that it’s basically encouraging people to drive on roads in winter in Scotland, which doesn’t seem to me to be a terribly sensible idea.

“The second, more substantive one is that they used the word ‘beauty’, in capital letters; I think that public agencies responsible for promoting Scotland should be a little bit more careful about the subjective opinions they make about whether something is beautiful when the images they use raise very significant questions about the landscape.”

Describing the picture which accompanied Visit Scotland’s initial post on Twitter, Wightman said: “It’s looking over an area which is exclusively and extensively managed for intensive driven grouse-shooting – lots and lots of strips of heather burnt. The Cairngorms National Park themselves have expressed concerns about intensive management of moorland for grouse, they’ve expressed concerns about deforestation and the loss of the natural tree-line, which is virtually non-existent the Cairngorms National Park, they’ve concerns about the need for ecological restoration and more sensitive management of the uplands.

“So you have one public authority, the national park, who have been increasingly vocal – in measured and proportionate terms – about this kind of land management. And then you’ve got another public authority, Visit Scotland, who are saying: ‘This is beauty’.

“All I was doing was trying to draw attention to the fact that I don’t regard this as beauty, and that there are things we need to talk about in the images used by our national tourism agency.”

Asked whether he felt areas such as the Cairngorms need further protection, Wightman said: “This landscape in the photograph is probably a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – it’s very possibly a Special Protection Area. The protection mechanisms that we [already] have tend to be quite species- or landform-specific; so you have an SSSI because of a braided river system, or juniper, or the proliferation of a particularly rare or vulnerable species. But the rest of the landscape can be a metaphorical blasted heath.

READ MORE: Analysis: Disastrous hare-culling shows big landowners are irresponsible custodians of Scotland

“Do we need more protections of that nature? No, I don’t think we do at all. What we need is a completely new way of managing land like this, so the presumption is that we want to enhance its biodiversity and restore its ecological health.

“Now, how you do that is not through designations, but first of all I would say by banning driven grouse-shooting, and its attendant damaging activities. Indeed, I’ll be party to launching a campaign on that in a couple of months’ time.”

In the 2015 report ‘The Intensification of Grouse Moor Management’, Wightman, a vocal proponent of land reform, noted that driven grouse-shooting has been linked to a number of environmental issues, including “carbon emissions, erosion, road building, lead accumulation, fencing, impacts on other wildlife populations and on the landscape.

“This has led to growing concern about the negative impacts of a land use that is subject to minimal oversight and regulation.”

Pressure on the Scottish Government to further reform driven grouse-shooting in Scotland has mounted, following reports of mass hare-culling by grouse moor managers, which some conservationists and animal welfare groups have warned could lead to local extinction of Scottish mountain hares.

Picture courtesy of andrewrendell