Shots from the shires

Shooting Gazette - - Shoot Briefing - by John Walker

For as long as this col­umn has been record­ing the po­lit­i­cal scene, change has been a given be­cause that is the na­ture of gov­ern­ment. It takes a bright politi­cian to come over the para­pet with a plan or de­ci­sion, a brave one to ad­mit that change might im­prove it.

To mark Ar­mistice Day in this the most evoca­tive of years, the Royal British Le­gion has opted for a grit­tier and more widely de­ployed de­pic­tion in life­sized sil­hou­ette of a First World War Tommy hold­ing a ri­fle, chris­tened ‘the silent sol­dier’. A poignant re­minder of a time that we should all re­mem­ber. En­ter the lo­cal coun­cil­lors of the New For­est vil­lage of Brock­en­hurst, who de­cided that the sight of a sol­dier or, more par­tic­u­larly, his ri­fle might alarm or of­fend vil­lagers. Their master­plan was to tie pop­pies to lamp­posts in­stead. A 1,000-sig­na­ture on­line pe­ti­tion per­haps re­minded them of the next lo­cal elec­tion and those guardians of vil­lage sen­si­bil­i­ties wisely changed their minds.

Then there are those politi­cos who, see­ing the way in which the wind is waft­ing, try to ob­fus­cate their ini­tial er­ror of judg­ment or prej­u­dice by of­fload­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity onto oth­ers. Thus did Labour’s En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter in the Welsh As­sem­bly, Han­nah Blythyn, mak­ing suc­ces­sive de­ci­sions of such vari­ance as to beg­gar be­lief.

Ini­tially, she chose to ig­nore a de­tailed, ev­i­dence-based nar­ra­tive re­view by Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales (NRW) on the use of firearms, pre­dom­i­nantly for game shoot­ing, on pub­lic land. It ad­vised main­te­nance of the sta­tus quo on the ba­sis of demon­stra­ble sus­tain­abil­ity and ad­di­tional rev­enue gen­er­a­tion.

Blythyn wrote to the NRW and re­quested it ig­nore the con­clu­sions of its re­port be­cause, “the Welsh Gov­ern­ment does not sup­port com­mer­cial pheas­ant shoot­ing”, which came as a sur­prise even to her Labour ad­min­is­tra­tion. Then, when the NRW board voted to ig­nore the re­port’s find­ings and the chilly breeze of pub­lic ad­mo­ni­tion be­gan to blow, she told the NRW that her first let­ter did not bind them to ac­cept or fol­low the po­si­tion she had first sug­gested and that it was all their fault. Welsh tax­pay­ers are left pon­der­ing the value of the £50,000 re­port they funded and, more per­ti­nently, of their En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter.

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