There is a lot of anger, bitterness and disappointment among members today, mixed with
disbelief. Everyone at the SGA shares that and is stung by yesterday’s events in Parliament.
The SGA would like to thank all of those, firstly, whose management over decades has sustained the
only viable populations of mountain hares left in Scotland.
We can take some solace in that and, at least in our own eyes, that counts for something.
Away from our moors, the hare will continue its precipitous demise, largely unnoticed and unstudied
by SNH- who have done nothing to push the counting methodology they helped to formulate out to the
places which were formerly hare strongholds but are no longer.
In the South West, when the grouse moors went, so did the hares. Where were the campaigners then with
their fluffy bunny suits, campaign leaflets and petitions? Where was Chris Packham, ready to make
another of his amazing videos? Nowhere. The mountain hare suffered a silent, unobserved demise because
there weren’t any grouse moors left to campaign about.
The SGA would like to thank all those who wrote to their MSPs to make their case; a principled one.
Scotland’s regional moorland groups are a credit to the industry and they worked hard to get people to
see sense. Their efforts, in a less frosty political environment, would have succeeded.
The hardest thing to accept, this morning, is that the centuries of land management or practitioner
knowledge, which has left Scotland today with mountain hares up to 35 times more abundant on grouse
moors than other moors, was ignored. So, too, was the science in 3 published, peer reviewed papers. The
truth, it seems, will not out.
In the latter years, when gamekeepers in Grampian saw Adam Watson trying to monitor hares from the
roadside with a pair of binoculars, little did they know that this piece of work would be accepted as
the work that would trumph all the years of knowledge they had, gleaned from working their patch every
day from dawn til dusk. That report has since been so debunked by some scientists specifically working
in this field that some have refused to use it in any subsequent work on mountain hares. The world is a
funny place. Then again, land managers were walking into a situation where politics would win, nothing
The SGA would like to thank the free-thinking MSPs who spoke up yesterday and those who knew the
subject well and were willing to back what land managers have been telling them because they have been
onto the moors and seen it for themselves.
We would also like to acknowledge the pain and stress of the people who were covertly filmed carrying
out legal and legitimate land management activity during this activist campaign and whose children were
abused at school after the film was aired on BBC. This film formed a key part of the campaign which
Alison Johnstone was commended for so highly by so many MSPs yesterday in the house. The illegal filming
took place after Roseanna Cunningham told activists outside Parliament to ‘gather evidence’.
This day is not yet done.
From today, all moorland gamekeepers have a duty to monitor the impacts of this Bill amendment on the
hares themselves, the health of the hares, the condition of fragile and protected environments, the
health of other moorland species, tick burdens and any woodland sites.
If they get any letters from SNH telling them their protected site is in poor condition because of
hare damage, only for SNH to scurry for cover and later say they never actually advised doing anything
about it, remember this and make sure you have the evidence to prove it.
All members must continue, as they have done for 2 years, to count their hares using the new
methodology and retain that data safely, with GWCT, and your own records, so it can be presented to the
Because practitioner knowledge will get brushed aside as ‘anecdotal’ or ‘gamekeeper speak’ and
because peer reviewed science will also be ignored, land managers should chart as much of the
environmental, tick and disease evidence as possible using photo and video and note the timelines of
change in this way.
As soon as public health advice allows, the SGA will re-organise the planned protest at Parliament.
Similarly, picking up on some of the many recent conversations on this issue, the SGA will seek further
discussions with stakeholders regarding the possibility, in future, of candidates being fielded in
Holyrood elections which can make the case for the land working countryside and rural communities.
Despite media commentary this morning, this is not an ‘SGA political party’. The idea has been
kicking around for some time for a political group, free of allegiance, to campaign only on the ticket
of getting the best deal for the people in our fragile remote places, issue by issue. We are simply
interested in this and will explore all opportunities further in order to try to get a better deal for
our members and their networks, as is our aims.
For the interest of those who watched the debate yesterday, the 19 votes in favour of rejecting
Alison Johnstone's amendment came from
All the Conservative MSPs and Mike Rumbles, Liberal Democrats.
You may wish to send them a letter or email of gratitude.
Alex Hogg, June 18th, 2020.