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Lyth man supports Friday's rural protest


By David G Scott

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A forestry worker from Lyth talked of his support for this week's online Rural Workers’ Protest 2021 and how a "way of life" is under threat.

Paul Barrett is involved in deer control along with land management work in the county and believes the protest organised for Friday (March 19) by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) will help highlight the importance of rural workers towards conservation.

An official Rural Workers’ Protest banner pictured on a farm in Highland Perthshire.
An official Rural Workers’ Protest banner pictured on a farm in Highland Perthshire.

Paul said: "I feel that the rural community is quite fragile with threats to our way of life and livelihoods. I don't think city folk realise how much wildlife benefits from rural management practice.

"I have seen for myself the amount of birdlife on a well-managed estate, for example. Far more red-listed waders like curlew and lapwing as well as hen harriers, eagles, kites and more."

Land and river workers are participating this week in the first ever online rural protest, demanding a new politics which takes greater account of their contribution to Scotland.

The Rural Workers’ Protest 2021, #RWP21, replaces a physical mass gathering at Holyrood, originally timetabled for last spring which had to be postponed due to Covid-19 lockdown.

James Barrett from Lyth says that wildlife benefits from careful land management.
James Barrett from Lyth says that wildlife benefits from careful land management.

James talked of practices that are often misunderstood such as controlled muir-burns which help create "a patchwork of heather and grasses" needed by ground nesting birds. "This practice does not burn peat. It also lessens the chance of out of control wildfires as the fuel load has gone."

Friday’s protest will be a fully online event spanning 15 hours.

Gamekeepers, shepherds, fishing ghillies, deer managers, businesses, international visitors, chefs, butchers, individual farmers, equestrian interests, anglers, falconers, pest controllers, wildlife photographers and some rural MSPs have all pledged support.

Participants are frustrated at lack of proper representation in parliament which they feel poorly reflects the contribution of centuries of practical knowledge on land and river.

“There have been issues and decisions in this Parliament which have made rural workers feel marginalised by the type of politics we now have in Scotland,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg.

Gamekeeper Alex Hogg MBE, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.
Gamekeeper Alex Hogg MBE, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

“The Edinburgh Parliament feels distant from many people on the ground. Practical experience seems to hold less sway than presentations by slick lobby groups, campaign videos and emotive messages which often misrepresent important issues."

A protest pledge for change, which will be sent to Scottish Government, has been signed online over 1000 times in just a few days.

James' son is an apprentice gamekeeper near Inverness and says that rural jobs are harder to come by as "many government policies" are make it more difficult.

"If you live, work or visit the countryside then this is about you, so please support using #RWP21," he added.

For more on the protest and to show support visit www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/protest/

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