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Shooters urge political parties to establish gamekeeping taskforce to protect the Highland profession

By Louise Glen

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Ross Ewing, Public Affairs Manager (Scotland) for The British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
Ross Ewing, Public Affairs Manager (Scotland) for The British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

The UK’s largest shooting organisation is calling for the creation of a Scottish gamekeeping taskforce in the next parliament, amid concerns the profession is becoming increasingly marginalised.

In a manifesto published today, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said a multilateral taskforce was required to address ‘worrying trends’ outlined in recent research undertaken by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The research, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, reported that almost two thirds of surveyed gamekeepers had experienced abuse, while around 80 per cent of respondents said that they felt less optimistic about their future.

Targeted anti-shooting campaigns, a lack of government support and the negative portrayal of the shooting sector in the public domain were referenced as possible drivers.

The research also showed that over half of surveyed gamekeepers had been impacted by rural crime, which included hare coursing and deer poaching.

BASC argues that this is grounds for the inclusion of organisations representing gamekeepers in the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) – a coalition of rural stakeholders responsible for developing Scotland’s rural crime strategy.

The various revelations outlined in the research affirmed what many in the profession had been feeling for some time, and prompted the chairman of BASC Scotland’s gamekeeping working group, Mike Holliday – himself a gamekeeper in upland Perthshire – to write a heartfelt plea to the First Minister asking her to intervene.

A response came via the Scottish Government’s minister for rural affairs and the natural environment, Ben Macpherson, in which he said he was “appalled to hear of the experiences” reported by Scotland’s gamekeepers.

Mr Macpherson added that he “would work to ensure that no credence is given to any vexatious or malicious claims of malpractice”, amid concern that the establishment of a licensing scheme for grouse moor management could be exploited by malevolent accusations from anti-shooting campaigners intent on seeing grouse shooting banned.

BASC Scotland’s public affairs manager, Ross Ewing, said: “While the Scottish Government’s recent condemnation of abusive behaviour towards gamekeepers was welcome, it is abundantly clear that much more has to be done to support and protect the profession going forward.

“The government commissioned SRUC research has clearly identified worrying trends with respect to abuse and crime, and it is unsurprising that a negative outlook is currently griping the profession. The strength of feeling at last month’s rural workers’ protest was palpable.

“The establishment of a Scottish gamekeeping taskforce will help to give gamekeepers the representation they deserve, and will place them at the heart of formulating strategies to make things better for a diversity of rural workers the length and breadth of the country.

“Gamekeepers have a unique set of skills to help tackle biodiversity loss and climate change, and it will be incumbent on the next Scottish Government to act in support of the gamekeeping profession if it intends to harness this considerable potential. We will continue to urge all of Scotland’s political parties to support the establishment of this taskforce without delay.”

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