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Friends of Findhorn Bay campaigner reports wildfowlers for "illegal gathering"

By Garry McCartney

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The picture Spencer Julian submitted to Police Scotland.
The picture Spencer Julian submitted to Police Scotland.

A CONCERNED member of the public has reported a group of wildfowlers for allegedly ignoring Covid-19 regulations.

Spencer Julian claims that at around 9am on Saturday, September 19 a friend took a picture of 10 wildfowlers gathered by vehicles in the south of Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve, apparently ignoring current 'rule of six' distancing rules.

He said: "They had been shooting since 6am. They have been given the privilege of being a recognised sport and are exempt from the rule of six, but only when actually out shooting. They are supposed to observe all social distancing once all shooting is finished."

The Scottish government has ruled that any organised activity taking place outdoors and organised by a business or a sporting body, is permissible. Game shooting is permitted as long as the organisers followed physical distancing and hygiene regulations.

However, since September 14, a law has limited social gatherings in Scotland to a maximum of six people from two households. The rules apply indoors and outdoors - including in homes, gardens, pubs and restaurants.

Police Scotland confirmed they were informed of the shooting party at Findhorn Bay.

A police spokesperson said: "Officers have recently been made aware of an incident where a group of individuals were allegedly seen to not be socially distancing following an event. Suitable advice has been given."

As well as to Police Scotland, Mr Julian has complained to Moray's leading politicians, Forres' Moray Councillors and and John Finnie MSP of the Green Party about the shooters who he claims include visitors from the north east of England.

He said: "Meeting up like this after a shoot is not acceptable. Most of them come from north east England which is under lockdown. I spoke to one of two guys from Lincolnshire in the bay. I do not recognise the other seven as local so I’m assuming they have travelled up here to shoot as well. I also know of three guys that are up from Durham this week.

"In my email to Richard Lochhead MSP and Douglas Ross MP, I asked: why should the good people of Moray obey Covid-19 rules when you have given the shooting fraternity such privileges that they abuse? The shooting organisations have warned shooters to stick to the rules as they know those that are against shooting sports are watching. "

A spokesman for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation confirmed shooting sports fall under the umbrella of ‘organised sport’, meaning the rule of six does not apply so long as the appropriate guidance is being followed.

He added: "Wildfowlers from different households should maintain physical distancing at all times. In addition, the framework of appropriate precautions for country sports contains specific precautions for wildfowling and should be adhered to.

"In this picture it is difficult to ascertain whether the individuals in close-proximity to one another are members of the same household or not - as such it would be unwise to make presumptions to that effect. Instead we would simply remind all wildfowlers to maintain physical distancing between households and conform to the framework of precautions for country sports."

Local councillor Claire Feaver (Conservative) warned any potential visitors to the area to follow the guidance too.

She said: "Moray has been very fortunate in having a relatively low rate of Covid transmission and we want to keep it that way. It’s imperative that visitors to our area, including wildfowlers, strictly observe the latest guidance about social distancing and household restrictions, otherwise local people could be put at risk."

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