I LEARNT this week that I apparently belong in the Victorian era. Judging by the history books that chronicle the opulence that existed at the time, I wish it were so.
Sadly, although I’m getting on a bit, my whole life has been spent living under one Queen. And it isn’t Victoria.
But according to Green MSP Andy Wightman, I must be on account that I have participated in grouse shooting. Now, I have never fired a gun in my life and nor do I intend to. I’m a carnivore but I couldn’t kill an animal unless I desperately had to.
Instead my participation in the ‘Victorian blood sport’ came when I spent a great summer beating on an estate in Aberdeenshire.
Most of us were locals, many employed full-time, and students drafted in to make up the numbers. We were very well looked after and given three meals a day, free accommodation and a decent wage at the end of the week.
We contributed money to the local economy, mainly beer admittedly, but in a remote rural village it helped boost takings.
My son has done the same over the last few summers and he loves it too. During my stint, I was fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been so at a time of an obesity crisis the more youngsters we can get on the hills the better surely?
I personally have no opinion on the morality of game shooting but I know it sustains a lot of jobs in fragile economic communities. Most estates are very sensible and actually, according to them, help boost other threatened species through conservation.
But there are rogue employees who do persecute grouse predators in the name of profit. When an eagle or hen harrier is found dead close to a driven grouse moor, campaigners always blame shooting for the death and demand that it is banned.
The law on wildlife crimes is rightly going to be toughened and that will be a matter for the police. No punishment is too strong.
However, banning shooting entirely serves only to punish the innocent majority. Hundreds of eagles, hen harriers and other birds of prey routinely fly over grouse every day and do not come to any harm. According to Mr Wightman: “The Scottish Government should call time on this Victorian blood sport, end the circle of killing and make sure Scotland’s land is for the benefit of all the creatures who live here.”
But is rural Scotland really just for the ‘creatures’ that live there? Perceiving shooting to be nothing more than toffs enjoying themselves is not a valid argument. It is a class war, run mainly from the cities. The countryside cannot be turned into a vast wilderness, devoid of people , because the urban political elites sometimes don’t like what goes on there.