Rural protesters issue demands to Scottish Government
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Organisers of the first Rural Workers’ Protest are set to deliver five key demands to Scottish Government after thousands went online to voice grave concerns over rural policy.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) organised the virtual day of action on Friday after a planned Holyrood demonstration last spring was postponed due to lockdown.
They and co-organisers Scotland’s regional moorland groups asked people to post their support of #RWP21 and a better politics for rural workers of land and river, on social media.
That generated over 7000 posts and films on multiple platforms with gamekeepers, shepherds, river ghillies, country vets, tradespeople, falconers, farmers, foresters and families all posting. Several Scottish MSPs and prospective candidates from three parties also sent supportive films, with organisers demanding change on key decisions, access, funded conservation and fish farming.
They want a forum established at Holyrood for rural workers and want the next government to meet targets on giving equal weight to practitioner knowledge in law making.
They say Scottish Government’s rural policy has been allowed to be dominated by lobby groups and well-financed nature NGOs with disregard for the people delivering on the ground.
Funded conservation projects, they believe, must meet key targets or the money is returned to Scotland’s tax payers.
They want the Countryside Code to be assimilated into the Scottish school curriculum with farms, crofts and land suffering theft, vandalism, fly-tipping and wildfire due to access abuse.
They are also demanding the next Scottish Government acts on two separate Holyrood inquiries into aquaculture which have lain un-delivered for three years.
“We wanted to show Scottish Government and politicians in general the connectedness of rural Scotland,” said SGA chairman, Alex Hogg, who has been in forestry and gamekeeping for over 40 years.
“People took part in great number. It was wonderful to hear the multiplicity and breadth of voices. They voiced their concerns with honesty and dignity and we hope now that Scottish Government will take forward their asks and act upon them."
Lianne MacLennan of co-organisers Scotland’s regional moorland groups said Friday had been an exhausting day as a small protest team posted films, photos and messages for 15 hours.
However, she believes it gave politicians a flavour of a growing dissatisfaction at the direction of rural policy amongst people and families employed in traditional rural industries.
“These are people with vast skills and their own knowledge, often built up over many years on river and land and passed down in generations," she said.
“Holyrood should be for them, too, and not only for people with letters after their name and lobbyists who won’t have to deal with the consequences of what they persistently demand from government.”
Thousands of people also signed an online Growing Protest page, which will be presented to Scottish Government by the organisers, along with the key demands.