Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, may have irritated the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and quangos with his comments on mountain access (your report, 8 April), but he has raised an issue which merits serious consideration.
We live in a country that does not have real, indeed “normal”, national parks and where we do not have the strategic land and wildlife management agencies equivalent to those of the United States, Canada, Fennoscandia or continental Europe.
We live in a country whose rural hinterland is dominated by a concentrated section of landed, vested interests running it as an indulgence for themselves as if still in the Victorian-Edwardian era.
It is an indulgence to which the political class (including Labour and the SNP) has acquiesced, even though it enjoys large amounts of public subsidy. The continuation of this indulgence also causes the non-landowning residents to be more divorced from their resource base than anywhere else in Europe.
We cannot have our “eco-cake” and eat it, nor the unjust desserts of sporting indulgence. It is time, indeed, long past that time, to consider a new long-term strategy for our rural hinterland.
A core part of that strategy would be to set up a National Wildlife Refugium (or Refugia), publicly owned and managed to a national agenda. The current indulgences of the landowners, and those of the NGOs and quangos, will have no place in this concept.
Gamekeeper Alex Hogg wants to shut down the hills. He has a supporter in this area. For more than 30 years our family had a favourite walk in a valley near Peebles.
My late father especially enjoyed its peace and beauty, and after his death, and when my daughter was ill, it was somewhere I went regularly, often just to sit quietly by the burn and look down the valley or up at the hills. I have always had a dog – but a well-trained, obedient one.
However, more recently, as pensioners with a new dog in training and on a lead, we were turned away and called liars by an aggressive wee man on a quad bike, who said he would make sure we were “chased off” if we ever came back, and continued to call me a liar when I tried to explain.
After getting home very upset, I wondered why two pensioners could be perceived as a threat, as we were hardly going to be “wild camping” or organising a rave.
After many years of little or no activity (there had been various traps around years ago), we had noticed signs that “keepering” was in evidence again, so we could not help but think that was why we were being “chased”, but why so much aggression?