Grouse Shooting, Land and Power

Revive – a radical new campaign which brings together social, environmental and animal welfare charities to reform Scotland’s grouse moors, is launching in Edinburgh tonight.

This is a groundbreaking initiative created to challenge the intensive management of land across vast swathes of Scotland’s uplands.

It promises to bring together the emergent issues of landed power and the distorting impact it has on the ecology and economics of rural Scotland.

Almost a fifth of Scotland’s entire land mass is a grouse moor, and despite popular perception these moors are not natural. The land is intensively managed to create a habitat suitable for one wild species, the red grouse, which is effectively farmed to be shot for entertainment.

A new report commissioned and published by the Revive Coalition, The Case for Reforming Scotland’s Driven Grouse Moors, will be released at the launch.  Authored by Dr Ruth Tingay and Andy Wightman, it provides an in depth analysis of the issues relating to grouse moor management in Scotland.

Ruth Tingay has said:

“The killing of predators on driven grouse moors is a relentless, year-round slaughter. The number of animals killed is unknown, as there is no statutory requirement for reporting, but the annual toll on predators must number in the hundreds of thousands, at least. Mountain hares are killed to such an extent (almost 38,000 reported in 2017 alone) that this protected species has suffered a catastrophic decline on grouse moors in the Eastern Highlands, including inside the Cairngorms National Park.

In addition to legal predator control, birds of prey continue to be illegally persecuted on some driven grouse moors, to such an extent it is causing population-level effects on iconic species such as golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and peregrines.”

The coalition includes Common Weal, OneKind, Friends of the Earth Scotland, League Against Cruel Sports and Raptor Persecution UK. Revive’s senior campaigner Max Wiszniewski said:

“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. 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.”

In order to support sport shooting in Scotland, intensive land management techniques are employed to ensure estates yield large numbers of grouse to increase bag sizes at commercial shoots. This includes heather burning, rigorous predator control, mountain hare persecution and unnecessary construction of roads and tracks, among others, all of which have wider negative social, environmental and welfare impacts.

Advisor to the Revive Coalition and Green politician, Andy Wightman said:

“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.”

Questions remain – such as whether other environmental and wildlife bodies who are perhaps closer to the Scottish Government will also join the coalition and lend their hand to effect change.

Comments (30)

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  1. Kathleen Jamie says:

    YES! All power to ‘Revive’. RSPB announces today 4 more satellite -tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ over Scottish grouse death moors. Utterly sick of this slaughter and ScotGov’s craven attitude to landed estates.

  2. Angus Jack says:

    100% support for this initiative. Disgusted at the SNP blocking controls on hill tracks.

  3. Hugh Chalmers says:

    Wonderful examples now exist at Glenfeshie and Mar Lodge to show how the ecology of the Cairngorms can be restored.

  4. Squigglypen says:

    It’s time Scotland’s land was wrested out of the claws of a few individuals who happened to be on the winning side of a battle eons ago. Open up the Land Registry and see who actually manages our land – does Scotland benefit from their management? We have a beautiful country that should belong to the Scottish nation..not a half empty entertainment park for a few folk and their demented friends who massacre the wildlife as a pleasure.I understand about culling and vermin control but not cruel sports. Only a few weeks ago we had a female American presenter hunting sheep and a deer for a ‘fun shoot’. Why was this halfwit allowed to come here ..kill..and then boast and post her nice wee pics on Facebook? What does the rest of the world looking at that think of us I wonder. What legislation do other nations put in place to stop foreigners grabbing their land for investment or using it for ‘fun’.
    Very disappointed to hear about the SNP vote as I am a member of the party.Illuminating article By Dr Ruth Tingay and Andy Wightman.
    I remember a friend from South of the border told me she loved visiting Scotland.. ’cause the roads were so empty’…..

    1. Rob Ross says:

      Sheep hunting in rural Scotland, eh, Squigg? Joking aside, I must say I agree wi’ ye. And the article really just touches the tip of the iceberg of Scottish rural life, I reckon, in loads o’ other aspects. Good, though

  5. DialMforMurdo says:

    As much as I appreciate and applaud the campaign aims, I’m struggling to think of the number of grouse moors in Edinburgh, I mean I’m sure there must be, some of those gardens in Morningside are awfy big. One suggestion might be to host your next meeting in say Dumfries, Perth or Inverness, you know places near actual grouse moors…otherwise to those outside the metropolis, it looks like city dwellers telling those in the rural what’s best for them and the land around them. If you’re committed to change don’t opt for the easy option of a stroll in the city to a venue, get on your bike or a bus and take the debate to the target.

    1. Squigglypen says:

      No such thing as ‘city dwellers..or’ rural folk’..we’re all Scots and support each other…divided we fall.

    2. BSA says:

      ‘Townies’ v ‘Countryfolk’. That’s the landowner smokescreen. They’d like the rest of us to believe that a rural postcode confers special knowledge and special rights. How did you manage to swallow that nonsense ?

      1. DialMforMurdo says:

        By living in an area with 2.3 people per square mile some 6 hours driving north of Edinburgh…

    3. TomC says:

      If you live in Edinburgh then you don’t have to look far. Just to the South lies the Pentlands a Regional Park, where not long ago a satellite tagged golden eagle mysterious ‘dissappeared’ and then turned up in the North Sea.

    4. Roy Turnbull says:

      DialMforMurdo: Are you serious? Have you heard of the Scottish Parliament? That is in Edinburgh also, and that is where the power resides to change things, so it is entirely appropriate that the meeting should be held there. There were people from all over Scotland present – for example, I travelled down from the Cairngorms National Park with two colleagues. Your objection is absurd.

  6. Wullie says:

    Making no excuses for the carnage or the harriers in particular but Scots do have the right to go where we like unimpeded, they have no such right in England. Hill tracks are essential for forestry extraction for example & not exactly a hot topic for discussion in my local pub, concern at impending job-losses in Dundee certainly is. The problem of the lairds won’t be properly attended to until after independence & the phoney outrage of opportunistic Green MSP’s on hill tracks, for Gods sake. is nothing compared with the outrage at them for taking every opportunity to vote with the Tories.

  7. Jamie Purves says:

    Why is a government that was elected for Scotland pussy-footing around this issue!

  8. Mathew says:

    I totally support the drive to reform Scotland’s grouse moors but worldwide it’s not the accomodation of red grouse that’s the threat to biodiversity but the accomodation of human beings.
    For instance the population of Beijing was 6 million in 1988 but by 2013 it was 21 million. In 1988 it covered nearly 100,000 hectares, by 2013 it covered over 455,000 hectares. For comparison the area of Greater Glasgow is about 37,000 hectares.
    Over population = habitat loss. Habitat loss + climate change = sixth mass extinction.

  9. David Drury says:

    If this initiative is to succeed it must also address the issue of the deliberate obstruction of investigation of raptor persecution and environmental crime by the owners and managers of DGS businesses; as well as the obfuscation of due process of those under investigation by persons sympathetic to, or associated with the industry

  10. w.b. robertson says:

    So once we have ended grouse shooting and reclaimed the moors and got rid of the toffs and we all are feeling good about it……just what do we then plan to do with what are miles and miles of fuck all? I think we should be told.!

  11. Graham Ennis says:

    I am sickened by this. I left the SNP because of its relentless drive to the right of Scottish politics. Its policies on land, after some earlier attempts to do some reform, has essentially collapsed and reverted to support of the land-owners. I did a technical and scientific study some while back, showing that the damage done by large landowners was costing the Scottish economy about 35 billion a year in lost forests, forest eco-system services, forest products, and lost agricultural output. About 15 billion of this would have been tax. The Scots government knows this, as I told them so. Total lack of interest. The people have been betrayed. The SNP project has ground to a halt, on land, ecology. and green issues. The land laws need to have teeth, with a land tax, banning of all commercial hunting, and heavy penalties for land owners that do not maintain and improve their lands. Also a total ban on foreign ownership of Scottish land, and heavy fines for eco-system damage. What we actually have, is a banana Republic system of Feudal land ownership and control. Goodbye SNP. You are now part of the problem.

  12. w.b. robertson says:

    land reform does not seem to be near the top of Holyrood`s priorities. however after we have saved the poor wee grouse and driven off the toffs and saved the land for the people , I am curious to know just what we plan to do with what, in effect, are miles and miles of f— all. h

    1. Mark Bevis says:

      “I am curious to know just what we plan to do with what, in effect, are miles and miles of f— all. h”

      Rewild it naturally, which takes about 15 years, then reintroduce sustainable farming practices such that the land feeds all the Scots and the many climate refugees you’ll have by then. Twenty-five years from now you’ll probably be growing grapes in the foothills of Ben Nevis. Well, those that are left will be.

      Okay, this is Sussex, but shows what can be done:
      https://theecologist.org/2018/nov/02/tree-planting-no-way-seed-forest
      https://theecologist.org/2018/oct/19/second-nature-adventure-rewilding

  13. chic kirk says:

    it is time the scottish goverment changed the laws to bring to an end the use of our country for the blood sports of the rich mostly english landowners whose ancestors stole most of this land from the farmers and crofters to which the land belonged ,this land is rightfully the property of the scottish people and should be used for the benefit of the scottish people not a few rich gentry families ,there should be a maximum piece of land owned by any person or company

  14. Bob says:

    Making money, call it whatever you like, will always win over the environment and changing elitist attitudes is not worth the effort. The big question is why so much of Scotland is in private pockets. It is time to get it into public hands and management for the good of the many and not the few. Good luck with that though because power and money and hard to pry out of the tenacious grip of the privileged few. Can you imagine people, let’s call them tourists and city folk, wanting to see a truly natural Scotland spending money on accommodation, food, stuff that benefits the many and not the few. I can and Scotland would be better off too. You have my support Revive.

    1. Wullie says:

      We can do nothing without independence & only the SNP will get us independence, unpalatable as that fact might be to the cranks. Lesley Riddoch’s ” huts for all” as in Norway would be the way to go.

  15. Robert says:

    If for “reform” read “letting the Caledonian Forest return” then I’m all for it. “Reform” could mean almost anything, or nothing, and probably will

  16. SleepingDog says:

    Having just watched Peter Watkins’ 1971 movie Punishment Park, which sees rebellious youths pursued over deserted countryside by gun-toting tools of the USAmerican Establishment as their violent, polarized society crumbles, I wonder if the grouse are just there for practice.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punishment_Park

    1. SleepingDog says:

      What is the layout of a typical Scottish grouse-shooting estate? Something like this, with a central stone building boasting “uninterrupted views” perhaps:
      http://www.goldsmith-estates.com/properties/piece-wilderness-scottish-highlands/

      Not all billionaires or landed nepocrats want (or will have enough onboard jet fuel) to slope off to the Pacific-moated New Zealand come doomsday, but it occurs to me that the classic stronghold design simply scorches and flattens all land about to deny cover to, say, crowds of torch-and-pitchfork-carrying peasants. They’ll want clear lines of sight for their pop-up automated sentry guns and laser defence grid, while their fleets of drones scour the barren countryside. It’s not like the woods themselves are going to up sticks and march on the besieged tyrants to enact their bloody revenges.

  17. John Taylor says:

    There needs be a maximum heritable area of Scottish land which relates to the population not the already wealthy. Owners would pay an annual rent to the state for their land holdings. Some form of nationalisation will be arranged with the current “owners”. Their original claim to ownership is at best shady when modern ethics are shone on their land deeds.

  18. Ruth says:

    Why are wild hares being killed? Do they eat grouse?!? Don’t think so. As usual and for centuries, the rich take over the land and use it as a playground. Rewild for the good of the planet. Wolves, trees, wildlife, beavers and no shooting.

    1. Roy Turnbull says:

      Mountains hares are killed on grouse moors because they carry ticks that can transmit a disease called Louping-ill in red grouse. However, studies into the effects of killing hares have concluded, “There is no compelling evidence base to suggest culling mountain hares might increase red grouse densities” (Harrison et al, 2010). Moreover, mountain hares, as well as being part of our natural heritage are an important prey species for eagles.

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