LETTERS: RSPB is ‘heavy-handed’

I WRITE with regard to the heavy-handed way the RSPB appears to wish to manipulate shooters on the area adjacent to the Crook of Baldoon reserve and eventually abolish shooting on the bay.

History shows that where there is RSPB presence, there is an erosion of local shooting practice and customs.

I wish to protest most strongly about attempts to restrict shooting in Wigtown Bay and in particular on the Crook of Baldoon, as proposed by a resolution at the most recent meeting of the Wigtown Area Committee (Community) meeting.

I understand that one of the reasons offered for an amendment to the local bye-law on shooting in the Bay is that RSPB “may” wish to erect a visitors’ centre on its land on the Crook. Is it taken as read that it will receive planning permission?

The RSPB claims that health and safety will be compromised by shooting on the Crook, should it construct a visitors’ centre, is rubbish. Shooters have been accessing and using the land for many years, in close proximity to Crook Farm, which was a working farm with associated employees and livestock, until the point that the farmer retired and sold the land in 2009.

Prior to the Wigtown Area Committee (Community) meeting, consultations had taken place and three recommendations had been proposed. These three options were distributed prior to the community meeting, but on the date of the committee meeting a revised agenda was distributed without the management committee’s preferred option on it. In the name of transparency and fairness, how can a situation like this occur?

I understand the omitted Option 3 was the one agreed by the management committee as the preferred recommendation of the committee, but not what the RSPB wanted. Shooting on the bay and at the Crook of Baldoon is part and parcel of the fabric that makes up the tradition and appeal of our beautiful shire. To lose that is to start to lose our identity, an erosion that will continue until the local populace will not have the rights and freedoms that are ours now. If no laws have been broken, if no wrongs have been done, why should we be forced to relinquish these customs and traditions at the whim of the RSPB?

Phil Matchett,

Monreith Home Farm Cottage, Monreith Estate, Port William.

YOU report (“Shooters’ feathers ruffled”, The Galloway Gazette, February 24) the proposed integration of the Crook of Baldoon into the Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve. Your report states councillors maintaining that 75% of the Crook foreshore “was never on the table” and that Councillor Graham Nicol has said that 75% was never an option.

In fact the minutes of the meeting on December 14 prove not only that 75% of the Crook foreshore was most definitely an option, but that it was an option clearly recommended by council officials.

Option 3 of the management options discussed at this meeting clearly states: “To continue wildfowling on the 10m strip from the LNR southern boundary at South Balfern to the first breakwater north of the Crook of Baldoon steading”, which surprisingly enough represents 75% of the Crook foreshore.

This is the option recommended by the report author Stewart Cameron (countryside and environment projects officer) and endorsed by his superior. The reasoning runs to almost two pages and includes the following: “If we were to stop shooting completely at the Crook of Baldoon this would potentially jeopardise businesses and employment in the area at a very slow time of the year for other tourists,” and “We are of the opinion, however, that the nature-based tourism project in relation to the LNR is not of a sufficient level at this time to compensate for losses in wildfowling spend.”

The minutes of the meeting also confirm that all three options were discussed by three separate working groups, the only negative comment on Option 3 comes from the RSPB representatives and is simply minuted as “no”.

It is difficult to reconcile this record with the statements attributed to councillors. If an option promulgated and recommended by council officials, and offered for public consultation, is not “on the table”, what does one have to do get it on the table?

It is also worth mentioning that interested parties will look in vain for any mention of health and safety concerns in the minutes of the meeting. Perhaps health and safety concerns could appropriately be deferred until we see some proposals and timings on what the RSPB actually plans to do at the Crook of Baldoon. Our informal understanding is that any visitor centre or similar development lie several years in the future. Wildfowlers and birdwatchers co-exist on many reserves throughout the UK so the concerns at the Crook seem pre-emptive.

Brian McAllister,

11 Main Street, Elrig.