Writing: Max Hunter
The Rattlecap sat down with Max Wiszniewski, the press officer for Revive- a coalition of groups campaigning for the reform of Scotland's grouse moors, which currently take up about a fifth of Scotland's land.
What is Revive?
Revive is a coalition of like minded organisations working for transformational and radical reform of Scotland’s grouse moors. Grouse shooting is an activity that takes up much more land than its economic contribution can justify; damaging the environment and killing off wildlife. We are a campaign for radical overhaul. But also for a sensible overhaul, we are arguing for necessary change during an era of climate crisis.
Do you think your model of coalition building could/should be adopted by other activist groups?
It could be. Our coalition could be far bigger than it is. It’s an area that huge numbers of people are concerned with, small and flexible collaborative working is really useful when you’re all on the same page. That way other members won’t slow things down or compromise your goals. If you’re all on the same page, then it can work. I’ve worked with other coalitions before, and I’ve learned that you need to all to be heading in the same direction - which I think we are.
What are the victories you’re most proud of?
Our main victory is going from a campaign to becoming a movement of thousands of people across Scotland, demanding the change that we’re looking to see. We’re still waiting for systemic political change. We’re only 1 year old. Our biggest success is bringing so many people from across Scotland on board. We are a cross-party campaign, with large support from the memberships of political parties. We’re a winning campaign, and our campaign goals are still to come.
Why do you think the issue of land use is so important in Scotland?
The climate crisis has put a spotlight on the issue of land ownership. It’s important that we don’t forget: often who owns the land dictates the land use. If we reform land ownership, problematic uses of land could be regulated or disincentivised. Land ownership is really important to consider, and it’s something we’ll be looking at a lot more.
It’s land use that makes land ownership significant. Grouse moors are a damaging way to use the land, but if land is used properly it can be used for the benefit of people and the environment. This is the basis of what we call our three tenets (our unofficial tagline): people, wildlife and environment. We prefer to look at this issue holistically, with evidence and science, rather than from one point of view. That’s where our coalition gets its strength from. We have groups campaigning for wildlife protection (such as Raptor Persecution UK) as well as broader environmental goals (like Friends of the Earth) and Common Weal provides our social justice element. We’re working together to provide a better future for our uplands.
Do you feel optimistic about your goals?
I do, I really do. I think it’s a winning campaign. Particularly as Scotland gets more of the facts and realises that the use of land for intensive grouse shooting is untenable and unsustainable. In fact it’s one of the most unsustainable land uses around- and one of the least economically productive. I’m confident we can create a movement for this necessary systemic change, through a broad cross section of society. The next few years are crucial for Scotland and we’re going to part of that conversation.
I’m interested in your self-description as a cross party group- what does that look like? Do you think there are certain parties you get more support from than others?
A circle of destruction surrounds grouse moors in Scotland- and this brings in a broad coalition. Tens of thousands of snares and traps littering Scotland’s countryside kill untold numbers of animals. This attracts people from every party with concern for these issues. Muirburn is particularly damaging to peat lands. These things damage the environment intensely. Our whole package is probably less attractive to those with a ‘small-c conservative’ view. Some will be more sympathetic to the whole package than others.
Do you think the issue of grouse moors has a symbolic significance in terms of the wider inequalities in Scottish society?
I do. Particularly in terms of land reform issues. Grouse moors are a metaphor for Scotland’s land struggle in many ways. They represent a huge area of land, over which very few people traditionally have had a huge amount of power. Less than 500 people own roughly half of Scotland’s land- and grouse moors are a part of that inequality.
It’s not the only metaphor, but it’s a very powerful one.
If the Scottish government can genuinely tackle these problematic issues- the circle of destruction of grouse shooting- then Scotland can be much more confident that we’ll tackle the climate crisis on our own terms whilst protecting our wildlife. By tackling this issue properly and shifting into a better use of land, we can show how the land can be put to the benefit of our people as well.
Find out more about Revive and the issue of grouse moors:
Image: via Flickr