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Readers’ letters: Scotland’s grouse moors, north-east connections to slavery and First Bus Aberdeen

In today's letters, our readers discuss Scotland’s grouse moor reform issues and management, north-east connections to slavery and First Bus Aberdeen

A Red Grouse
A red grouse.

Sir, – You published an article by Max Wiszniewski on the subject of grouse moor reform ( 5/3/23) and it gave him an opportunity to deride current management practises without giving any credit to moor owners whatsoever.

Let’s be clear on one issue; he and his like would ban grouse shooting tomorrow.

In which case, why does he waste time in your columns talking about management systems he knows nothing about, and probably cares nothing for, when he could come clean and tell your readers what his group Revive, are all about ?

Let me clear up some of his grossly inaccurate comments.

Firstly, he assumes that any bird of prey found dead on moorland has to be a case of illegal persecution.

There are swathes of heather in Scotland not managed for grouse shooting and I bet he does not know the look of a managed moor from an unmanaged one.

Just because a bird is found dead why not assume that it might have died from natural causes; the bird has to die of something at some point in its life anyway.

What right has he – or any of his like – to assume gamekeepers are guilty before bringing any proof? Has he not considered that it’s perfectly possible for someone to plant a dead bird to implicate the owner of the land or their employee? Why is it that gamekeepers are always assumed to be guilty?

Where are the scales of balanced British justice that say that someone is innocent until proven otherwise?

Max Wiszniewski has it in for heather burning without a single acknowledgement of the benefits it brings to a wide range of wildlife and fauna. I am prepared to bet that he has not so much as stepped on a grouse moor, let alone witnessed heather burning at first hand.

If he had he would learn a great deal about the good it does.He gives it all away in his last paragraph when he talks about “ taking on large estates and landed interests”.

That is his true intent, not the enhancement of the countryside he says he is interested in.

If people like Max insist on criticising something I wish they would be more honest about their real intentions and try and learn a bit more about the subject before they do so.

Andrew Dingwall-Fordyce, Westhill.

We all want a thriving upland

Sir, – In response to Max Wiszniewski’s opinion piece, any legislation brought forward needs to be both effective and solution focused.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill does not satisfy those requirements. In fact, it goes further than the recommendations provided to the government through an independent review known as the Werritty Review and diminishes the tools that land managers need to protect biodiversity, such as endangered wader species, from predators.

BASC condemn all incidents of raptor persecution, and anyone who commits this crime should feel the full force of the law. Fortunately, progress is being made, and thanks in part to shooting and conservation interests, the majority of raptor species are flourishing in Scotland.

The government should work with those on the ground making a difference.

Instead, the Bill’s disproportionality risks significant collateral damage on rural communities.

The Bill proposes that a grouse shoot or muirburn licence can be revoked purely on the grounds of suspicion that a wildlife crime had taken place. Simply put, a revocation could lead to a significant loss of income, jobs and wider implications for rural shops, pubs etc.

What is important to note is we all want the same outcome, a thriving upland environment rich in wildlife and offering an array of pursuits for everyone to enjoy, from grouse shooting to hillwalking.

Fundamental to that outcome, is ensuring that the people who manage the land these activities take place on, have the best management tools at their disposal, not by eroding them further through the vehicle of this Bill.

Peter Clark, British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

At odds with reality

Sir, – Max Wiszniewski’s characterisation of Scotland’s grouse moors is completely at odds with reality (‘New wildlife management and muirburn Bill is a start – but more courage is needed’, April 5). The notion that the shooting community is “laughing” following the recent persecution of a red kite is simply not supported by the facts. Indeed, Scottish Land & Estates reiterated Police Scotland’s appeal for information to try and help identify the perpetrators, such is our commitment to tackling the illegal persecution of raptors – a crime that is, thankfully, at historically low levels.

Image: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Mr Wiszniewski also exhibits a superficial understanding of muirburn, neglecting to point out that the Scottish Government has recognised the role of muirburn in – among other things – wildfire mitigation and habitat restoration on peatland habitats.

While it might not suit the political interests of the Revive Coalition for grouse moor reform to portray grouse moor management with any accuracy, it was remiss of Mr Wiszniewski not to point out that grouse moors continue to play an integral role in sustaining the rural economy of the north-east, while simultaneously providing havens for rare wildlife (particularly threatened ground nesting birds) and maintaining a wildfire-resilient upland landscape.

Ross Ewing, Director of Moorland, Scottish Land & Estates.

Not a bad starting point for Scotland

Sir, – A plethora of letters in Friday the 7th’s P&J from supporters of the Union advising us what Scotland can and cannot do/achieve. It is, somewhat, sad to see Scottish residents running down their own country and countrymen.

Those contributors seem blissfully unaware that countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Norway and many others exist and are far more successful than the UK, which languishes bottom of the G7 nations.

Scotland is a rich nation, with an abundance of natural resources and a significant balance of payments surplus in trade. Not a bad starting point.

Ron Campbell, Aberdeen.

The needs of the many outweigh

Sir, – AGCC’s Ryan Crighton may call the loss of 350 jobs at Harbour Energy due to the windfall tax devastating but in reality, it’s the outdated oil industry failing to keep up with societal changes in an ever changing world.

The only clarity OEUK needs is that 90,000 are scheduled to disappear as well, irrespective of the equally outdated notions those in oil may think they are in charge of this city. If these people knew this was inevitable, and they did, then there’s no need to cry like babies.

Image: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, the notions Graham Stuart expressed show the same levels of disregard to the energy customer as seen in every previous UK and Scottish Energy minster’s position essentially telling whatever lies they think the public will swallow. Claims about paying for energy bills this winter are equally disingenuous given Ofgem and the UK Government’s part in removing the energy price cap.

Lest everyone forget the UK House of Commons library has details proving the contrary claims made by numerous politicians, especially the Tories involving the words “Russian” and “gas” and “Ukraine”. As far as the future of energy and the earth are concerned the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Ian Beattie, Aberdeen.

Hand over the keys of the coffers

Sir, – If the first minister wants to show, as he frequently choruses that he wants to work with all of the people of Scotland, let him start by handing over the keys of the coffers holding Scotland’s finances, and, at the same time now he’s short of auditors to pass over the keys of the SNP petty cash box… if they still have that.

First Minister Humza Yousaf. Image: PA

These should be handed over to the auditor general so that he can give a true and honest picture of Scotland’s finances.

I suppose, as usual, the day that this happens we will see “blue sna”.

Alexander Sutherland, Aberdeen.

Passing the buck over ferries

Sir, – Ken Watmough’s recent letter focusing yet again on the subject of the shambles that is the West Coast ferries situation says it all.

Incompetence and crass indifference personified. The Scottish Government carries entire responsibility. There should be no hiding place. How many transport ministers have passed the buck on this thorny issue without resolution?

Angus MacCuish, Aberdeen.

Not afraid to be a Scottish national

Sir, – Mr Ian Lakin wanted me to take a long hard look in the mirror. Well, Mr Lakin I have done that and here is what I saw:-

A child born into a farm servant family in 1945. On my birth certificate, it states that I was born in the parish of Auchterless in rural Aberdeenshire. Which of course is in a nation called Scotland and if that makes me a Scottish National then that is exactly what I am and not afraid of it!

Left without a father at the age of seven when my father died young. We were virtually penniless and our future was very uncertain. However, having a Diamond Scottish Mother she struggled on and brought me up giving up things for herself so that we could live.

Leaving school at 15 was necessary just to ease the burden off my mother.

In a couple of years, I was very lucky to be employed by a very loyal Scottish family by the name of Tait.

Working for the next 45 years with the same company. I retired in rather a more fortunate position than when I started working thanks to that loyal Scottish company.

As for straw men argument, ruffled feathers, unwarranted anti-democratic behaviour, they are not on our side. I am always open to debate but not dictatorship or lack of substance.

You also asked for figures to counter your statements. I suggest that you take a look into what Barnett said about his formula for the figures he made.

Scotland is home and I’m proud to live there.

I wonder what you would see if you looked in the mirror, Mr Lakin?

Hugh Morrice, Inverurie.

Bus service is load of rubbish

Sir, – Isn’t it time to admit that the service provided by First Bus is rubbish.

Access to routes have been greatly reduced and judging by the letters sent in we are not the only people finding the buses are either late or don’t turn up at all.

Many of us are too old to stand around for 50 minutes or more, especially in the cold, dark days of winter.

Image: Kenny Elrick

The real problem is that First have no competition up here.

They feel that they can do as they please to their passengers who have no other bus companies available to use as other cities have.

Phone them to complain and you are answered by someone down south who is unable or unwilling to help.

First would never treat their passengers in Glasgow and Edinburgh so nonchalantly.


Swimming pools need easy access for all users

Sir, – Closing down the only pool in Aberdeen with easy access discriminates against the young, old and disabled, and the council clearly is not listening.

So will screaming about people’s civil rights do any good – every pool in the country should provide access?

How long will that take to go through parliament.

The simple answer is to install safely designed steps in at least one local pool funded from the Common Good Fund.

Brian Rattray.

Leave the past behind

Jamaica Street in Aberdeen is a name linked with slavery. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Sir, – I was born at 33 Jamaica Street in the ‘50s and lived there until I was nine years old.

At no time was I or my pals aware that the street had any connection to the slave trade. (Evening Express, March 29).

The only reference was when you said you lived in “the street where bananas grow on the lampposts”.

We should be looking at the past as the past, learning from it and concentrating on modern-day slavery.

I will be visiting the exhibition and taking my grandchildren there for them to learn how bad slavery was.

T Shirron, Davidson Drive, Aberdeen.

Don’t blame the drivers

First Bus Service X27 on North Anderson Drive, Aberdeen. Image: Darrell Benns

Sir, – I have been in different parts of Scotland in the past two weeks using public transport (buses) in Edinburgh, Elgin and Inverness.

They are like Aberdeen, blighted by buses fleeing past and displaying a “sorry not in service” sign.

But please don’t give your driver grief.

It’s not his or her fault that others have not managed to get drivers into seats.

The blame lies fairly and squarely on management.

Having witnessed many bus travellers giving the driver verbal abuse, little wonder so few want to be in the job.

Little kids in the past dreamt of being a bus driver but that time is long past.

How do you attract people to the business?

I will have to pass on that.

Michael North, Lang Stracht, Aberdeen.