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Heather Routes Christmas 2015

Heather Routes: Christmas 2015
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Heather Routes

Welcome to Heather Routes brought to you by the Scottish Countryside Alliance 

In keeping with the best traditions, this is the time of year to be reflective and what a lot we have to reflect on! 

I have said many times before that the Scottish Government seemed in a hurry to make legislation and 2015 has been a year like no other, if not in volume certainly in impact… Despite the highest level of engagement, we endured the pageantry that was the “debate” on the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) bill, the introduction of a “radical' Scottish land reform plan and the SNP Westminster MPs confusion over the difference between animal welfare and a constitutional question!  

Despite, or is that in spite of, the rhetoric surrounding the potential impact from land reform, Scotland’s land owners and managers have shown a willingness to work in partnership with the Scottish Government, NGO’s and wildlife charities to achieve common conservation goals; demonstrably, facing up to the threats to wild salmon and sea trout stocks and proposals to translocate golden eagles to former and new ranges. However confrontation is never far away. 

Notwithstanding the fact that recorded wildlife crime dropped, the debate over raptor persecution raged on, followed by the primary use of both Vicarious Liability and restrictions on the application of the General Licence augmented with calls to licence grouse moors. Ironically in the same timeframe as waders and other ground nesting species continue to decline.  

We face further research on issues involving sea eagle impacts on livestock, questions on the conservation status of mountain hares and the control of free living beavers; and a proposed review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 fuelled by disingenuous information from animal welfare extremists, and the implementation of land reform, however radical. 

The competitive demands for the use of the land is not something new, land use controls has played a major part of Western civilisation since the Roman Empire. Our challenge is not simply the understanding and resolution of land use conflict, but to have politicians and legislators work in an open and honest manner, starting from a point of neutrality. 

As game and wildlife managers we have helped shape and enhance our landscapes for generations, and that management is now involved in some two thirds of the rural land mass of the UK. Nearly two million hectares are actively managed for conservation, which is more than 10 times the total area of all national and local nature reserves, and, as a result, all wildlife thrives where land is properly managed for shooting.  

Our greatest challenge must be the public acceptance, and dare I say it the recognition and embracement of our work; in all its diversity.

Together, I believe that we can make a difference. 

Thank you for your support in 2015

I wish you all a very merry and sporting festive season and look forward to see you all in 2016. 

Jamie Stewart, Director - Scottish Countryside Alliance

Contents in this issue:

Tail Docking
Sporting Rates
Fox Control
Scottish Rural Awards 




Tail Docking Consultation

We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement that it will consult on a tail docking exemption for working dogs.
The news broke as the Richard Lochhead answered a parliamentary question from Alex Johnstone MSP. 
Mr Johnstone asked: whether, in the light of reported evidence of injury to working dogs, it will revoke the ban on tail docking in breeds that have traditionally been docked for their own protection and safety.
The Cabinet Secretary responded by stating that he had recently written to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee explaining that the case has been made to the Government that it could be possible to introduce a tightly defined exemption regime in Scotland that would allow vets to exercise their professional judgment to dock specific breeds.
The change in the cabinet secretary’s thoughts comes after the publication of the Glasgow University supporting the experiences of working dog owners, that tail injuries in working dogs are a significant problem that could be prevented by a simple change in legislation; and the concerted efforts of those representing members and others experiencing animal welfare problems. We look forward to the wording of the consultation and will circulate for your response.



Sporting Rates

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) committee has reflected oral and written evidence in relation to the proposed reintroduction of sporting rates in its Stage One Report on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Shoots and deer forests in Scotland were exempted from non-domestic business rates in 1995 largely due to collection costs outweighing revenue. However, there are now proposals to reintroduce the tax amid claims it will raise £4 million per year.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance responded to the threat of the controversial levy being reintroduced by raising its concerns with the RACCE committee.

We are delighted that the committee has taken on board much of the evidence that we, and others, presented. We highlighted the unfair nature of any additional taxation on businesses operating within or supporting the sector, of which 88% either break-even or run at a loss.  Ironically this comes at a time when the Scottish Government advocate a repopulation of remote area this proposal could affect rural employment, local economies and communities, as well as biodiversity.

The committee has asked government to set out a clear evidence-based rationale for taxing shoots while continuing to exempt other rural businesses, such as farming, forestry and aquaculture.

The report can be read here
RACCE Stage One Report

Scottish public is happy with hunting legislation, polling shows
Scots believe that farmers need to be able to control foxes on their land and do not want the law changed to stop them doing so – new polling for the Scottish Countryside Alliance has shown.
It is also clear from the polling that fox hunting is not an issue that will affect votes in the coming Scottish Parliament Elections.
In polling carried out for the Scottish Countryside Alliance earlier this month [1] a large majority, 64%, said they thought it was acceptable for farmers to shoot foxes to protect their livestock, whilst just 27% were opposed. The largest group, 40%, thought the current law on hunting, which allows the use of any number of dogs to flush and shoot foxes, should be left as it is. A further 9% believed all restrictions on hunting should be removed. Together those two groups represent a clear majority of those who expressed a view. Only 37% wanted the law changed to ban flushing with dogs and shooting.
Meanwhile, not a single one of the 1,041 people surveyed spontaneously raised hunting as the most influential issue which will affect the way they vote. When hunting was compared to 16 other issues which might affect peoples' votes it was the least influential with just 2% saying hunting would have the decisive impact on their vote in May’s elections.
Jamie Stewart, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: “The suggestion  that there is a groundswell of concern about this issue or support for the law on hunting in Scotland to be changed is clearly nonsense. Animal rights groups have celebrated the 'success' of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 over the past 13 years whilst effective fox control using packs of dogs has been able to continue. This polling buries the myth that  there is concern from the public about the current hunting legislation in Scotland and a desire for change.
"The research shows that Scottish people support the right of farmers to cull foxes, and believe that the current legislation represents a sensible compromise which protects both animal welfare and the ability to manage wildlife."
"Police Scotland investigations and the most recent Scottish Government wildlife crime report provide robust evidence that this is not an area for concern for law enforcement. This input, together with the clear statement of public opinion contained within our polling, provides all the evidence the Scottish Government needs reject calls for pointless and divisive new legislation. Politicians who raise this issue as a priority in the run up to the election will only make themselves look totally out of touch with the electorate.”
For more information, contact the Scottish Countryside Alliance on 01890 818554 or

email [email protected]

Note for editors
[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,041 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 21st December 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).



    The Scottish Rural Awards season culminates in a stunning dinner and awards ceremony, which will next be held on Thursday 31st March 2016.

    Due to the incredible response from 2015’s event, we are expecting over 400 attendees at the 2016 Gala Dinner – all celebrating the hard work, ingenuity, dedication, innovation and determination to succeed in rural Scotland.

    If you are interested in buying tickets for the gala dinner

    (on sale from Jan 12th) and in our early bird offer please 
    click here


    ‘The most amazing atmosphere, unlike any I have seen before; friendly, exciting, engaging. We all felt we were actually part of the awards, not just observers.’

    ‘The place was packed, buzzing with excitement and anticipation. It felt like being at the Oscars.’

    ‘To see all those amazing people from all across rural Scotland in one place all celebrating theirs and everyone else’s achievements – it was magical.’

    ‘Inspiring, heartwarming and a sense of real achievement… Can’t wait for next time… Who knows!’

    Scottish Rural Awards Website 

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