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Rural workers stage mass online demonstration calls on Scottish Government to involve them in policy-making

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland MSPs have thrown their weight behind an online protest staged by furious rural workers who claim the Scottish Government has sidelined them completely.

Thousands across the traditional rural working sectors such as gamekeeping, hill farming and fishing are taking part a 15-hour virtual protest.

The demonstration, organised by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), could prove significant by bringing together normally isolated workers.

Among the protesters' concerns is that rural policy is being driven by mostly urban environmental and animal rights groups.

“There is a growing disquiet on river and land. People have been pushed far enough. They want a type of politics which reflects the rich role they play in Scottish life."

They are calling for that to change and for the government to recognise their first-hand experience of land management and their contribution to conservation.

Their Rural Workers’ Protest is the first fully online rural demonstration of its kind with organisers seeking five key actions from Scottish Government:

  • a level playing field when it comes to rural policy making and to establish a cross-party group to hear their concerns first-hand
  • a commitment that indigenous or local knowledge be given equal weight
  • more robust auditing scheme for tax-payer funded conservation
  • measures to match access rights with responsibilities
  • accelerated action on two reviews into salmon farming

That has already won the support of a number of Highland MSPs, including Edward Mountain:

And Liberal Democrat candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross Molly Nolan:

Ms Nolan said: “The gulf between this central belt-focused government and rural communities in Scotland has never been greater.

“The vast majority of rural workers want to engage constructively with the government to get policies right and protect the environment, but instead they are being faced with short-term solutions.

“Scotland’s top-down, centralised governance isn’t working. My biggest worry is that the ever-widening gap between policymaking and rural reality is causing harm to efforts to restore biodiversity and halt climate change.”

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Rural workers have the knowledge and the skills to deliver on so many governmental targets, from helping to rebuild the post-Covid economy, to climate mitigations and ensuring food security.

"Yet the government appears dismissive of centuries of practical experience and knowledge. People deserve better, and they deserve respect.

“In reacting to this protest, Scottish Government said there would be opportunities for rural workers to secure green, clean and new jobs in their plan for green recovery.

“What about their own jobs? It sounds like centuries of cultural heritage is just getting in the way.”

Lianne MacLennan, coordinator of Scotland’s regional moorland groups, said: “There is a growing disquiet on river and land. People have been pushed far enough. They want a type of politics which reflects the rich role they play in Scottish life."

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