Scotland’s Gamekeepers will heed Coronavirus guidance as they prepare to stage a major protest at
Holyrood over what they call Scottish Government’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’.
Gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies plan to gather outside Parliament on March 25th in a defence of
their jobs organised by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).
The body’s 5300 members say Government has abandoned them on key rural issues, placing increasing
strain on members and heightening fears over job losses in remote areas.
Concurrent reviews on grouse and deer management, inaction on falling salmon numbers and imminent
curbs on the ability to control foxes have stoked rising anger.
An announcement by the First Minister that Scottish Govt may move to early licensing of the grouse
sector following publication of Professor Werritty’s review inflamed tensions further following
successive poor grouse years.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said they notified Edinburgh City Council of their intention to demonstrate on
February 27th, before the first Scottish case of Coronavirus was recorded.
However, he says they will take full heed of public health advice, as they prepare to
“We will heed all the advice. Obviously we take our responsibilities very seriously. We organised
this before the outbreak because the message to us was clear: our members want action and to be heard
because they feel Government is no longer listening.
“What we are witnessing is a death by a thousand cuts. We have a lot of members who have shown
support for the Government’s stance on rural policy but the well is running dry.
“They want Government to realise that our livelihoods matter; that they are not something that can be
traded to buy political support for other objectives in Edinburgh.
“They have had enough of being treated as low hanging fruit. They want working people of the land to
be heard again.”
Mr Hogg said that, despite SGA members managing over 1 million deer in the last decade, their
contribution to Scotland’s environment has been completely ignored.
A recent Government-commissioned review announced recommendations to erode remaining legal
protections afforded to deer, through ending or increasing seasons, and to introduce night shooting with
controversial night scopes.
“Some of our members have told us they would rather go to jail than take part in some
government-sponsored slaughter of an iconic species.
“Where is the respect? People will be asked to shoot females with viable calves and potentially face
fines if they don’t. Would a politician or an ‘environmental’ campaigner want to do that? No. It is
sickening how far Scotland has fallen. It is like the activists are running the countryside and the
working folk are kicked at every turn.”
In the grouse sector, two very poor shooting years have seen revenues plummet.
The potential for government licensing is eroding confidence and causing uncertainty over continuing
On rivers, bookings are down placing increasing strain on fisheries and ghillies.
“On grouse moors, more and more science is showing these moors are providing an overspill of rare
species like Curlew, helping to keep these amazing birds alive.
“Yet the sector is about to be strangled by a blanket licensing system and told they can no longer
use dogs to clear foxes from forestry blocks. It’s lunacy. Where will it end?”
“On the rivers, our ghillies are a credit to the country but they see two Parliamentary Committees
identifying the problems of fish farming, and the proven impacts this has on wild salmon numbers, and
see no action."
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association requested a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon but were
not granted a hearing.
NB: Members and supporters wishing to attend the Protest should make arrangements to assemble outside
the Scottish Parliament building at 1pm on March 25th 2020. Should public health advice change, the SGA
will act accordingly and will alert everyone through usual communications channels.