It’s been more than 20 years since the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association took to the streets of Edinburgh for a protest.
The march in 2000, the same year Alex Hogg became chairman, came after MSP Mike Watson put forward a private member’s bill to ban hunting with dogs.
“It would affect our terriers, which was really important for us trying to save the curlews and the waders,” he remembers.
Since then, the Scottish Government has prodices a steady stream of policies targeting the fieldsports and rural communities and Alex has had enough. Last year, he planned a march but the coronavirus lockdown scuttled it.
This year, the SGA is going all out, online on 19 March 2021, to try to spread the message that there are a lot of unhappy voters across Scotland, tired of what they see as assaults on their lifestyles and livelihoods by a green-leaning government.
Huge grants are being dished out for supposed conservation projects, but it’s unclear what their exact aims are.
“On the north end of this [estate],” he saysm, indicating the ground which he keepers, “we’ve got two guys from Yorkshire. They planted 1.3 million trees and the curlews and lapwings are gone now. The peat’s been ploughed up. Everything has been destroyed. It’s all for grant money and we need to stop that happening on areas where we’ve got waders.”
A common complaint of keepers and landowners is policymakers ignoring generations of hands-on experience and knowledge, choosing instead to listen to think tanks or lobbyists who are fresh out of university.
Alex suggests this movement could be nipped in the bud, with better education about the countryside earlier in the lives of future civil servants and lobbyists.
“We need to get into schools. We need to get to the politicians,” he says. “It’s a broad brush that needs to get us back on side. It’s so difficult with some schools. Some teachers won’t even allow you in there. Some are brilliant… it just depends on the teachers.”
There’s an election in Scotland in May 2021. Alex is hoping that Holyrood will notice the online drive on 19 March, and some politicians and members of the public will wake up.
“I think we should be very careful where we place our vote. I think that’s the most important thing to get over to you today is, we must be careful where we vote. Otherwise the keepering world could be finished in 10 years.”
For more details about the day, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or sign the SGA’s Rural Workers’ Protest petition. The SGA is collecting names on its website that it will share with the Scottish government and politicians after its online protest on Friday 19 March 2021. instructions how to do it here.