Thousands of people across traditional rural working sectors will unite in a 15-hour virtual protest today to seek a ‘new politics’ which acknowledges their contribution to Scotland.
The Rural Workers’ Protest, #RWP21, is the first fully online rural demonstration of its kind, with organisers seeking five key actions from Scottish Government.
Gamekeepers, shepherds, fishing ghillies, deer managers, anglers, falconers, equestrian interests, individual farmers, foresters and rural vets have all pledged support, along with rural businesses. Participation is also coming from diverse interests in the UK and internationally.
The day of action replaces a mass rally at Holyrood which was planned for last Spring but fell foul of Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings during lockdown.
Workers in traditional rural employment such as gamekeeping, hill farming and fishing are angry at the lack of Scottish Government support, given what they deliver for food, conservation and jobs.
They feel urban animal rights groups, wealthy environmental charities and populist campaigns are now driving Government’s rural policy, from a centralised Parliament in Edinburgh.
Rural workers feel isolated from decisions affecting their jobs and have grown dismayed at a Holyrood political system which poorly reflects practical knowledge.
The virtual demonstration has been organised by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and Scotland’s seven regional moorland groups.
SGA chairman Alex Hogg said: ‘Rural workers have the knowledge and the skills to deliver on so many Governmental targets, from helping to rebuild the post-Covid economy, to climate mitigations and ensuring food security yet Government appears dismissive of centuries of practical experience and knowledge. People deserve better, and they deserve respect.
‘In reacting to this protest, Scottish Government said there would be opportunities for rural workers to secure green, clean and new jobs in their plan for green recovery.
‘What about their own jobs? The ones that keep roofs over heads, that keep scattered communities together and maintain a countryside which people want to visit? What about their families? Scottish Government has said that no-one is to be left behind in their climate drive. It doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like centuries of cultural heritage is just getting in the way.’
Protestors want a level playing field when it comes to rural policy and will ask Scottish Government for a cross-party group to be established to hear their concerns first-hand.
They want a commitment for indigenous or local knowledge to be given equal weight in Bills, as per Scottish Government’s own ‘Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity’ blueprint.
Other asks will be for a more robust auditing scheme for tax-payer funded conservation, measures to match access rights with responsibilities and accelerated action on two reviews into salmon farming.
Lianne MacLennan, co-ordinator of co-hosts, Scotland’s regional moorland groups, added: ‘We have been really impressed with the level of support pledges across various sectors.
‘There is a growing disquiet on river and land. People have been pushed far enough. They want a type of politics which reflects the rich role they play in Scottish life.’
Protestors will participate with images, film and written messages, with a signed ‘Growing Protest’ petition document to be presented to Scottish Government in the coming days.