A group of birdwatchers has been accused of antagonising shooting parties as the row over wildfowling at Findhorn Bay intensifies.
Earlier this week, it emerged that police had visited the Moray beauty spot and confiscated guns from hunters following reports that they were shooting from restricted land.
The Moray Council land had been designated off limits in an effort to strike a compromise between the shooters and protesters who are embroiled in a longstanding disupte about wildfowling at the bay.
But Martin Gauld, who launched the Support Findhorn Bay Wildfowlers campaign, has now called into question the peaceful nature of the protesters who are fighting to bring an end to hunting at the nature reserve.
He believes that the nature enthusiasts are cynically attempting to make life so unpleasant for visiting hunters that they choose never to come back.
Mr Gauld said: “There is a group whose sole purpose is to antagonise and disrupt the shooting parties.
“They discuss where to place themselves to cause maximum disruption.
“They are nothing more than antagonistic people whose sole intention is to cause disruption and to smear the shooting fraternity as bad people.
“This group will stop at nothing to get the outcome they desire, while we are trying to make a compromise work.
“It is about getting guys to stop coming up here, and when the wildfowler numbers dwindle then it will help their cause.”
Mr Gauld claims to have come into possession of images from a secret internet group run by the Friends of Findhorn Bay anti-shooting collective, which show that deliberate efforts are being made to disrupt hunting.
But last night, a wildlife campaigner dismissed Mr Gauld’s claims.
Claudia Dehio-Matheson said that protesters would be “shooting themselves in the foot” by going out of their way to annoy the shooters.
She added: “Most people I know deliberately time their visits to the bay for times when we know that shooting won’t be going on.
“Our internet group is just to alert people as to what is going on at the bay.”
Police were called to the beauty spot last October amid claims that wildfowlers had “intimidated” Mrs Matheson while she was birdwatching.
She said firearms were discharged over her head in such a way that pellets rained down on her.
Wildfowlers later hit back, saying that she had not been targeted and had overreacted to an accidental act.