Nicola Sturgeon: Grouse shooting exemption to rule of six 'does not exist'
The First Minister was challenged on the fact grouse shooting parties do not have to abide by the ‘rule of six’ by the Scottish Greens.
Nicola Sturgeon has said there is no exemption to the so-called ‘rule of six’ gathering rules for grouse shooting or other hunting sports in Scotland.
Social media reacted with shock after it was revealed the latest health protection regulations – published by the UK Government earlier this week – provided a exemption for hunting and shooting.
There were also reports an internal government row had taken place about whether bloodsports such as grouse shooting should be included which allegedly delayed the release of the regulations.
Within the regulations, a mention of shooting is accompanied with a footnote which states that the exemption covers “hunting and paintball that requires a shotgun or firearms certificate licence” and links to the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, the Guardian reported.
The First Minister, responding to a question from the Scottish Green’s health spokesperson Alison Johnstone during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, said there was no “specific exemption” for shooting in Scotland and that she had held no meetings with anyone about the subject during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Johnstone said the exemption in England was a “shock” considering the sacrifices many families have had to make over the last few months and at the moment with the new rules.
She said: “It is really vital that the public have complete confidence in the system and public buy-in is key to suppressing the virus.
"That’s why there was shock across the UK earlier this week when it emerged that the Tory government had convened an emergency meeting of senior cabinet ministers to exempt hunting and shooting from coronavirus restrictions.
"For months now, people across the country have made great personal sacrifices to play their part in reducing the spread of this virus.
"Does the First Minister believe it’s fair that a time when children can’t play with all their friends and when families can’t visit loved ones in care homes, that shooting parties are permitted to load up their shotguns and head to the hills?”
Ms Sturgeon replied that the rules were constantly being kept under review, not only on what they cover but also the extent of their unintended consequences, with a “balance” needing to be struck with the restrictions.
The First Minister said: “Let me be very clear, I have had no meetings in the past week or two weeks or any part of Covid to discuss shooting exemptions.
"There is no specific exemption under the Scottish regulations for shooting.
"What there is is the ability to allow outdoor and sporting activities to be permitted if they meet criteria laid out in legislation, if they follow all the guidance and adhere with physical distancing requirements.
"That is not a specific exemption. We continue to consider the balance of this because I acutely recognise that there are always unintended consequences in the kind of regulations that we’re having to put in place right now.”
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