An uneasy truce in a long-running wildfowling dispute in Moray has been shattered.
Rows between shooting groups and wildlife campaigners have ensued at Findhorn Bay for several years.
Just days after the season began in September, Moray Council refused to get involved in the dispute after exhausting a mediation process that cost taxpayers nearly £9,000 – instead urging parties to find a compromise themselves.
Hopes were raised that a solution may have been found after SACS UK, formerly the Scottish Association for Country Sports, urged its members to abide by a set of voluntary rules.
However, now the body has said the regulations are dead – blaming “harassment and intimidation” from anti-shooting groups for the move amid claims shooters have been “surrounded” by protestors.
Yesterday SACS director Alex Stoddart explained that attempts from shooters to find an agreement had extended to litter picks and an offer to fund monitors to regulate those breaking the rules.
He said: “We deal with about 100 wildfowlers, we reached out personally to all of them about the challenging position we were in and the vast majority agreed to abide by the voluntary rules, they didn’t want what has gone before to continue.
“There were about six or seven who weren’t on-message but we’ve dealt with that and they’ve said they’re finished with Findhorn Bay.
“We’ve made many genuine attempts towards a compromise but after what has gone there is now absolutely no way negotiations can continue.”
Ahead of the season, SACS UK described trust between the rival groups as “tenuous” but had hopes a peaceful season would lead to common ground.
Voluntary rules drawn up for the bay by shooters restricted times and locations for shoots, the size of shots and told wildfowlers littering would not be tolerated.
Anti-wildfowling campaigners had called on Moray Council to introduce a ban on shooting in the area – a move ruled out by the authority as too costly.
Ahead of the season Lisa Mead, who led a petition submitted to councillors, feared that locals angry about the shooting continuing may “take matters into their own hands”.
At the time, Kinloss resident Spencer Julian called for action to be taken against wildfowlers.
He said: “Over the last three years, more than 3,500 plastic shooting wads and cartridges have been collected by local residents.
“The shooters are consistently breaking littering laws, so why is the Council not addressing this blatant breach of the law? There is supposed to be an £80 fine for each littering offence.”