In the past two weeks, over 9000 emails have been sent to MSPs across Scotland asking them to do everything in their power to stop the slaughter of mountain hares. If you haven’t already, you can take the action here. Here’s the lowdown on which MSPs have responded so far and what parties support an end to the mass culling of mountain hares in Scotland.
Health warning – this is based on the replies that OneKind supporters have forwarded to us (thank you all!). If you’re aware of a response not mentioned here, get in touch with me at email@example.com. The parties are listed below in order of size of MSP representation in the Scottish Parliament.
Updated – 16th May 2018
12 out of 62 MSPs have responded so far – Angus MacDonald MSP, Kevin Stewart MSP, Graeme Dey MSP, Jeane Freeman MSP, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Maureen Watt MSP, Willie Coffey MSP, Christine Grahame MSP, Gillian Martin MSP, Kate Forbes MSP, Michael Russell MSP, James Dornan MSP
Despite the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP saying last month that “Large-scale culling of mountain hares could put the conservation status at risk and that is clearly unacceptable” there has been little response from SNP MSPs so far.
Kevin Stewart MSP provided a short response which said he is awaiting a response from Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham on the matter.
The other MSPs stated that “the Scottish Government takes animal welfare very seriously” and that it “recognises the concerns that have been expressed about the level of exploitation of mountain hares in some areas and has put in place research to gather data on population levels.”
The most interesting response from SNP came from Graeme Dey MSP, convener of the ECCLR Committee. He stated that:
“Contrary to what is claimed by some, there are circumstances in which managing hare numbers is appropriate. I have visited estates and seen abundant numbers of hares for myself so the idea that the species is being obliterated is wrong. But I also recognise the concerns amongst the wider public around the scale of some of the culls and the lack of scientific regulation of them.”
He went onto say that he hopes a licencing system can be introduced for landowners who want to reduce mountain hare numbers, but he also stated that he would not support the moratorium being called for right now.
Since my last update, we’ve heard from a further 7 SNP MSPs who mostly just provided the standard responses we’d seen before. However, Christine Grahame MSP gave the most supportive comment so far of all her colleagues in which she said:
“I do not agree or support the culling of wild mountain hares. While I am confident that the Scottish Government takes its responsibilities in this regard seriously and I am pleased to see that it is taking the views of all interested parties into account my position remains firm. I oppose a cull.”
17 out of 31 MSPs have responded so far – Annie Wells MSP, Brian Whittle MSP, Alexander Stewart MSP, Gordon Lindhurst MSP, Oliver Mundell MSP, Peter Chapman MSP, Tom Mason MSP, Murdo Fraser MSP, Rachael Hamilton MSP, Finlay Carson MSP, Alexander Burnett MSP, Miles Briggs MSP, Liam Kerr MSP, Graham Simpson MSP, Bill Bowman MSP, Jeremy Balfour MSP, Donald Cameron MSP
All but two Scottish Conservative MSPs who have replied so far have done so with a standard email. The Scottish Conservatives have said that they do support culls through the following statement:
“Mountain hare populations fluctuate, and periodic culling is required when numbers are high. Grouse moors are often the best habitats for mountain hares anywhere in the country. We therefore appreciate that they need to be proactively managed in order to combat overgrazing and disease problems, when populations fluctuate.”
What’s interesting about this point is that most of the hunting lobby have stopped using disease control as an excuse to kill mountain hares, so maybe the Conservative didn’t get the memo that it’s no longer seen as a credible excuse.
However, Miles Briggs MSP has taken a different approach. Instead of just using the same email as the rest of his party, he says that “it is no longer possible for my staff to process individually the many thousands of identical or computer generated ’round-robins’ I receive each month” and advises you to visit his website where you are likely to find a response to your issue. Luckily there is a response to our mountain hare campaign, but it’s just a copy of the email text being used by every other Conservative MSP. Since updating this blog, we’ve seen a similar email from Graham Simpson MSP directing constituents to a page on his website to read the same email text.
16 out of 23 MSPs have responded so far – Alex Rowley MSP, Richard Leonard MSP, Johann Lamont MSP, Daniel Johnson MSP, Colin Smyth MSP, Elaine Smith MSP, Anas Sarwar MSP, Jenny Marra MSP, Neil Findlay MSP, Claire Baker MSP, Kezia Dugdale MSP, Claudia Beamish MSP, Rhoda Grant MSP, David Stewart MSP, Neil Bibby MSP, Monica Lennon MSP
We’re delighted to see that the Scottish Labour Party are opposed to the mass killing of mountain hares and state in their response to our campaign that they will “do everything possible to make sure that the unnecessary killing of hares does not take place in Scotland.”
The email reply given from the majority of MSPs stated that:
“Mountain hares are a vital part of our heritage of the Highlands, and it is a tragedy that so many are needlessly killed each year. We agree that there has been no evidence to support the rationale for a cull, and we support an audit of hare numbers in Scotland.”
Both Alex Rowley MSP and Colin Smyth MSP gave more personalised responses – Alex Rowley stated that he was “horrified by the terrible pictures we saw of mass killings” and Colin Smyth MSP said “ongoing killing of mountain hares is extremely worrying” and that he was “deeply concerned that the Cabinet Secretary does not appear to recognise the need to better protect mountain hares.”
It was also pointed out that Claudia Blemish MSP has submitted a Mountain Hares in Scotland Motion that notes that “mountain hares are a vital part of the heritage of the Highlands, and that it is a tragedy that so many are needlessly killed each year”
5 out of 6 MSPs have responded so far – John Finnie MSP, Mark Ruskell MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP, Andy Wightman MSP, Ross Greer MSP
The Scottish Greens have been very outspoken on mountain hare culls with Alison Johnstone MSP not only being the species champion for the hare in the Scottish Parliament, but she also raised our video directly with the First Minister during FMQs.
Like Labour, The Scottish Greens have a standardised response which states:
“I fully support OneKind’s calls for the closed season to be extended year-round and for in-depth research on local hare populations to take place and applaud the organisation for taking the lead on this issue.”
Their response is the most detailed of all the parities as it contains several links to the work Scottish Green MSPs have done on the issue including links to questions lodged in the Parliament and press coverage.
John Finnie MSP gave a different email in which he stated that he supports the First Ministers view that the slaughter of mountain hares is unacceptable. And he also included a piece he wrote for the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald on the subject.
Ross Greer MSP also personalised his email stating that he was a supporter of OneKind and he included a link to a photo of himself attending OneKind’s mountain hare rally in 2016.
Scottish Liberal Democrats
2 MSP out of 5 have responded so far – Mike Rumbles MSP, Liam McArthur MSP
Mike Rumbles MSP and Liam McArthur are the only Lib Dems to respond so far and their emails said, “I agree we must protect our mountain hare population” and while he recognises that grouse shooting is important to the economy, “land management must be undertaken in a sustainable way that protects all our species including the mountain hare population.”
Both MSPs also pointed out that the Scottish Liberal Democrats worked closely with OneKind during the passage of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill (now Act) back in 2009/10.
Liam McArthur MSP also stated that he believes “there should be a moratorium of mountain hare culls until such time as there is enough evidence on hare populations” and points to the fact he has raised this issue previously with Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.