In an attempt to bite the bullet and make the best of a bad situation, I rang the police this morning to get an ID number for my snares to comply with the new W&NE Act (Scotland 2011). This is the first day that the tags have been available for snare users, and while I knew that it was going to be an irritating necessity, I consoled myself with the fact that it would probably be a pain in the arse for the police too.
There are two police stations in Dumfries, so I rang ahead to find out which one was the right one to submit my form to. The woman on the telephone had never heard of snaring ID numbers, and promised to call me back as soon as she could find out. An hour later, the phone rang, but rather than tell me where to go, the woman told me that Dumfries & Galloway police force is not issuing the numbers until a dispute is settled as to who is responsible for them. She told me that it was not as simple as just getting an ID tag – I would have to apply for one and include a cheque for £20 in my application. Beyond that, she was clueless. She advised me to ring back in a month.
I don’t want to be cynical about this new legislation, but it has been a wholesale cock-up from beginning to end. Holyrood likes making new laws, but it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the machinery required to back up legislation is incredibly slow. The police didn’t give a damn, and the only thing that they could tell me about the new law is that I am required to put my hand in my pocket to subsidise their bureaucracy. I had to wonder where the money from my council tax goes if not into funding police bureaucracy, but then I remembered with gratitude that the sickly orange glow of council streetlights over Dumfries at night isn’t free.
I paid £40 to take a snaring course and now I have to pay £20 to get a number to put on my tags and about £10 for a couple of dozen tags. This is because the Scottish people want to be able to keep tabs on how I’m controlling vermin as part of a conservation project. I just can’t be persuaded to believe that this maddening half-way house between keeping snares and banning them is satisfactory to anyone at all.
Some people say that we should be grateful that we still have snares at all, and I have to agree with them. There’s no point being pessimistic, and it’s worth noticing that we are being deliberately forced into a corner which (our opponents hope) will eventually try our patience so much that we’ll say “bugger it” and stop snaring altogether. Then snaring can be made illegal altogether, either because people ignore the legislation and go on as they always have, making the situation seem as though tighter regulations are called for, or because people stop using snares because they can’t face the forms, cheques and passport photographs involved. You can’t argue that snares are important if the people who use them are put off by a bit of simple paperwork.
We are all being punished for the silliness of a few people who’ve caught dogs and badgers, and it’s patently obvious that blanket regulations restricting the use of snares for everyone is just a cack-handed, lazy attempt to fix a problem by people who can’t really be bothered to put any thought into it. If there’s any justice in the world, that gross, misshapen bloater Alex Salmond will lose the independence referendum and then be tossed into the Forth along with everyone who creams off a wage at the taxpayer’s expense and passes their days mooching around Holyrood making adjustments to the central heating and worrying about whether to wear their ID badge lanyard under their collar or over it.
I’ll be snaring until the law puts a stop to it altogether – I’m prepared to jump through all the hoops and deal with all the policemen because I know that predator control is vital to the sort of conservation work that I do, and that without snares, my difficult job becomes a tremendous amount more difficult. That day is probably coming soon, but there will be plenty more dead foxes between now and then. As far as black grouse go, I’ll keep fighting even though one hand will be tied behind my back.