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Rural gamekeepers declare war on Green plan for ‘coalition’ Scottish Government

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has been told to expect thousands of job cuts and angry protests from rural workers over plans to work closely with Greens in government.

The First Minister revealed early discussions are under way which could lead to prominent figures including co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater in ministerial positions alongside the SNP at Holyrood.

In a furious response, Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg claimed more than 13,000 rural jobs could be put at risk if stated Green policy is adopted by Ms Sturgeon.

He said: “Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie’s clinical cull of jobs, using emotive labelling, is not about biodiversity and climate, it is a misguided class war that will actually sacrifice over 13,000 rural workers and their families.

“Putting a significant part of Scotland’s land and river working community on the dole, rather than engaging them, is a massive climate mistake and we hope, in the first 100 days of government, that the First Minister is not about to throw Scotland’s rural workforce under a bus.”

‘Greens have always worked constructively’

Ms Sturgeon announced the discussions during a statement on May 26 about her government’s plans for the first 100 days in office since the election.

In parliament, she said: “As we embark on this process, we are setting no limits on our ambition. So in that vein let me be clear that while this is not a guaranteed or a pre-agreed outcome, it is not inconceivable that a co-operation agreement could lead in future to a Green minister or ministers being part of this government.”

Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens.

Ms Slater said she hopes the talks with the SNP on a formal co-operation agreement will allow them to “deliver real change”.

She said: “The Scottish Greens have always worked constructively with other parties, delivering meaningful change like free bus travel for young people, and earlier this month the public returned the largest ever Green group to Parliament to take that work further and faster.”

‘Nonsensical’

Reacting on Thursday, Mr Hogg laid into Green policies on deer management, blood sports and land management which he claims will affect the interests of his members.

He said: “Scottish Gamekeepers Association members have managed a million deer in the last decade, more than anyone else. Yet if you take out a client while doing so, manage the deer properly, create a permanent community job, bring in tourist income and help Scotland become a Good Food Nation, that is a blood sport in the Greens’ eyes.

“Yet both will save trees and protected habitat. It’s nonsensical labelling.”

He added: “The Greens will laud conservationists spending over £7million of tax payers’ money to eradicate stoats on Orkney to conserve other wildlife. Yet when a gamekeeper uses the same traps, in a more skilled way, to manage stoats on the mainland, protecting all ground nesting species – some red listed – that is labelled a blood sport.”

“We look forward to working with forward-thinking land managers.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell

The backlash could also extend to the North Sea oil and gas industry, another vital part of the economy in the north-east and wider Scotland.

After the announcement on Wednesday, North East Tory MSP Liam Kerr said: “A more formal SNP-Greens coalition is a nightmare scenario for the 100,000 workers in Scotland’s oil and gas industry, who will be concerned that their jobs are at immediate risk.”

Asked to respond to the gamekeepers’ concerns, Scottish Greens environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said: “The Scottish Greens manifesto committed to creating thousands of rural jobs through the restoration of nature and by strengthening and expanding our national parks.

“We look forward to working with forward-thinking land managers and communities to deliver solutions to the climate and nature emergencies.”

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