by Ed Rowlandson

It has become increasingly rare for the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP to side with each other, however, on 18 November they did. The Scottish Greens had asked Parliament to declare a ‘Nature Emergency.’ The motion however made it clear that the debate was not about improving Scotland’s biodiversity but in effect banning driven grouse shooting and associated land management practices. 

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said that ‘a cynical person might assume that the motion has been designed to fail.’ And fail it did. For this motion was an attempt by the Scottish Greens once again to use animal rights as a means to gain votes from the SNP in advance of the Scottish Parliament elections in May. As this debate made clear, it is also the case for Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Lothian MSP, Alison Johnstone, made it clear that her election focus was on the banning of driven grouse. She claimed the grouse shooting industry is responsible for monocultures and raptor persecution. Ms Johnstone once again refused to recognise the socio-economic importance of grouse shooting, despite a report commissioned by the Scottish Government, and published only last week, which highlighted the importance of grouse in socio-economic terms. 

Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, refuted the Scottish Green’s assertions, pointing out that muirburn contributed to biodiversity. Vitally important in her contribution was the call that all policy be underpinned by the ‘facts rather than by hyperbole’. We hope too that the Scottish Government recognise the findings of their own recent report in that respect. 

Despite the SNP siding with the Scottish Conservatives it remains unclear what path they will go down in the future. Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, did not acknowledge the positives of muirburn despite being prompted to. The Minster said the Government’s position on various issues related to rural affairs would come soon, until that time we remain unclear in which direction the Scottish Government will go. 

With the election in May looming, the SNP might be forced to reveal their hand. If this debate is anything to go by the alliance between the Scottish Greens and the SNP is now broken. The Scottish Greens are leading the way on the animal rights agenda with Labour and the Liberal Democrats in tow. The wait remains to see whether the SNP will join them or instead listen to their own research and promote genuine animal welfare with evidence-based policies. 

The full debate can be read here.

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