New campaign to reform grouse moors aims to change the face of Scotland


The Revive Coalition will mark its launch with a flagship report recommending the illegal persecution of raptors be classified as a “serious crime”

A NEW CAMPAIGN aiming to effect radical change on Scotland’s grouse moors will launch in Edinburgh today [6 October], accompanied by the publication of a flagship report recommending measures to challenge the intensive land management of Scottish uplands.

In the hope of reforming the present state of grouse moors – which take up almost one fifth of Scotland’s entire land mass – the Revive Coalition has brought together a number of charities and groups working across social, environmental and animal welfare sectors, as well as Scottish politics. Member organisations include Common Weal, OneKind, Friends of the Earth Scotland, League Against Cruel Sports and Raptor Persecution UK.

Since the Victorian era, Scotland’s grouse moors have been intensively managed in order to create a habitat suitable for one wild species, the red grouse, which is effectively farmed in order to be shot for entertainment.

In order to support this commercial practice, techniques used to ensure that estates yield large numbers of grouse include heather burning, rigorous predator control, mountain hare persecution and unnecessary construction of roads and tracks, all of which have aroused political controversy in Scotland in recent years.

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

The Revive Coalition’s first commissioned report, ‘The Case for Reforming Scotland’s Driven Grouse Moors’, authored by Dr Ruth Tingay and Green MSP and land reform advocate Andy Wightman, analyses and offers recommendations on a number of issues relating to grouse moor management in Scotland, including its environmentally damaging infrastructure and the “ widespread and systematic” illegal persecution of raptors, a crime which the report argues could be elevated in seriousness.

Noting that the Scottish Raptor Study group published a report in 1998 which prompted then Secretary of State Donald Dewar to describe the killing of illegal birds of prey in Scotland as a “a national digrace”, the Revive report argues that while the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament have taken “some steps” to address these crimes, they have not taken “all possible steps”, as was promised by Dewar.

Observing that the European Parliament voted in 2016 to upgrade illegal wildlife trafficking to the category of ‘serious and organised crime’, the same category as terrorism, human trafficking and arms smuggling, the report states “it has been argued that the widespread and systematic persecution of raptors on many driven grouse moors should also be similarly classified” and that “this would encourage a greater sense of political urgency and attract the increased resources necessary to tackle these crimes effectively.”

Revive’s senior campaigner Max Wiszniewski said ahead of the launch: “The aim of the Revive coalition is simple – we want significant reform of Scotland’s grouse moors to benefit our environment, our communities and our wildlife.

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

“However, in reality this ask is anything but simple which is why we are excited to be working with a number of partners across a spectrum of issues to tackle the problems associated with intensive management of this land.

“We are under no illusion that this will be a short campaign, but we have laid the foundations to take the first steps towards reform and we relish the challenges ahead. This is the first time organisations have come together in this way and our partners did so with no hesitation. It’s time we took back ownership of Scotland’s uplands and make our vision of reform a reality.”

The naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, who will speak at the launch of the campaign in Edinburgh, also commented: “The times when the wholesale mismanagement of Scotland’s grouse moors were out of the public’s sight and mind are long gone. The desire for urgent reform, fuelled by a horrible cascade of outrageous revelations in the media, grows daily.

“It is now beyond any question that the management of land for intensive driven grouse shooting is unsustainable and has profound negative impacts on the environment. It is time for a fundamental shift.” Green MSP Andy Wightman

“There is no doubt that we all deserve, need better uplands, a prosperous place for wildlife and people – and that is far from impossible. But making that turn will need a suite of skills and energies and that’s why I am keen to help inaugurate this partnership. Dead, burned and barren has to go – Scotland’s hills should be alive.”

Andy Wightman added: “It is now beyond any question that the management of land for intensive driven grouse shooting is unsustainable and has profound negative impacts on the environment. It is time for a fundamental shift away from this damaging land use to more sustainable alternatives.

“I am particularly disappointed by the Scottish Government’s ongoing refusal to strengthen planning controls on hilltracks as reflected in my recent amendment to the Planning (Scotland) Bill that was defeated in Committee by Conservative and SNP members.”

A Scottish Government commission on sustainable grouse moor management is currently underway. The commission was set up following research which found almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances and that the majority of cases were where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting (previously reported on by CommonSpace here). The commission is expected to report in Spring, 2019.

Picture courtesy of Bob Hall