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COVID-19 UPDATE FOR SACS MEMBERS – 22 MAY 2020

Public health matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are devolved and thus each operates their own Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines. Due to variables like population density, demographics etc, the rate of transmission varies across the UK and national responses necessarily vary. We provide an update on each nation's restrictions below.

COVID-19 UPDATE FOR SACS MEMBERS – 22 MAY 2020

Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to understand and follow Covid-19 related laws, restrictions and guidelines in whichever area of the UK you reside.

Pest control, game management and other essential rural work

SACS was clear from the initial lockdown that essential pest control – bird and mammal - should be able to continue to limit property or other damage and increase food productivity. We drafted a generic letter for essential pest control helpers and helped many members with queries.

The important principle was and remains that the landowner, farmer or manager should ideally provide a letter supporting essential worker activity, which may help to justify limited and necessary travel as well as the control activity itself. On the whole, the police have been pragmatic in their response to these essential activities and we thank them for that approach.

On the basis that Governments accepted that not everyone could work from home, SACS was also clear that essential rural work including animal husbandry activities, especially with a legal welfare consideration, should continue, whether farming or game management related. That remains the case.

Deer management

Our valued friends at the British Deer Society (BDS) have published a helpful summary of the current position for deer managers, which can be found HERE. As a deer science and advisory charity, please consider supporting them and their work for deer education and research.

General best practice points

  • If you shoot or fish on someone else’s land, remember to check with them that they are comfortable with you being there. Many households and farms have vulnerable persons and many are single handed operations. Please, for everyones sake, ask before going onto the land.
  • Please follow Government guidance local to you and your own common-sense instincts.
  • As certificate holders we all need to be extra careful. Given minimal service at many firearms licensing departments, this is not a time to push boundaries and have guns removed. Even if the allegation or concern is unfounded, it may be a considerable length of time before you get your guns back.
  • Please bear in mind that some police forces are interpreting the guidance in different ways – some are being stricter than others. Again, this is not a time to test the law or country sports community and police relations – follow the guidance, be mindful of local restrictions, apply common sense and act reasonably and responsibly at all times. In some areas, if you are going shooting, it may be good practice to phone the local police and tell them who you are, where you will be shooting etc., which may save unnecessary hassle later.

DETAILED Guidance drafting

After lengthy discussions with our insurers and within the management committee we are absolutely clear that no-one other than Government and Government agancies should be drafting principal Covid-19 guidance. This current situation demands a mature, non-organisational competitive and Government-led approach. We are making it quite clear that whilst country sports specific guidance is essential and organisations should work together, any detailed guidance needs to be absolutely correct, appropriate, consistent, defensible and published via Government, albeit with commuity representative body input.

The main country sports risk areas would appear to be under four headings:

  1. Solo actvities
  2. Group activities
  3. Travel
  4. Hospitality (incl. accommodation)

As we go forward from here we hope to be in a position to share more detailed Government guidance on country sports relevant to members across the UK as well as visitors from abroad.

ENGLAND UPDATE

UK Government has this week published its COVID-19 Recovery Strategy for ENGLAND. The full document can be downloaded and read HERE.

Members in England should pay particular attention to:

- Page 27 Public Spaces

- Annex A: Staying safe outside your home

General UK Government guidance and information can be found HERE

In the limited easing of restrictions in England, it is expected that as well as deer management and pest control (most of which may have been allowable in any case – landowners and managers being willing), other legally permitted quarry shooting activities may be able to continue together with angling.

Whilst there are now no travelling distance restrictions in England, we would firmly advise only local travel where possible. It is permitted to meet one person from outwith your household as long as you both follow the existing social distancing guidelines i.e. 2 metres. Please continue to follow other Government guidance for England as linked above. Do not share hides, high seats or other equipment with anyone from outwith your household.

If you have shooting or other country sports leases or permissions in Scotland, Wales or NI, then bear in mind that the current more progressive restrictions easing is in England only. Other nations are still in a tighter lockdown and you should not travel to them for recreational outdoor activities.

SCOTLAND UPDATE

Scottish Government main Covid-19 page

Scottish Government Covid-19 guidance

Scottish Government Phased Approach

The principle guidance in Scotland continues to be to stay at home as much as possible. However, on 21st May Scottish Government announced a phased approach to reopening from the lockdown, with stage one due to begin on or around 28th May.

Phase 1 – likely from 28th May – will permit non-contact outdoor activities in your local area.
A summary relevant to the rural sector and country sports is as follows:

  • Permitting people to use public outdoor spaces for recreational purposes.
  • Planning for one household to meet up with another household outdoors, in small numbers, including in gardens, but with physical distancing required.
  • No public gatherings except for meetings of two households and only outdoors and with physical distancing.
  • Permitting people to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise within a short distance of your local community (defined as “broadly within 5 miles”).
  • Planning for outdoor workplaces to resume with physical distancing measures in place once guidance is agreed.
  • Planning to allow unrestricted outdoors exercise adhering to distancing measures and non-contact outdoor activities in the local area (broadly 5 miles) – such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling – consistent with the wider rules and guidance applicable to any activity in this phase.
  • No public gatherings except for meetings of two households and then only outdoors and with physical distancing.

IMPORTANT:
** The First Minister has earlier today clarified that the 5-mile local limit will not be rigidly enforced and the police will not be stopping folk for that purpose. They are however recommending persons stay as close to home as possible. Common sense would appear to apply.

SACS is scheduled to speak with Scottish Government next week and will seek to clarify this travel restriction point and report back to members. As long as shooting and country sports are conducted away from other persons we cannot see any reason to unnecessarily restrict an already largely socially distant activity. **

As we have consistently stated from the start, essential pest control, including shooting and stalking, were not prohibited and could be undertaken as long as there was a landowner/manager request that you do so and Government guidance could be followed.

Now, for Scotland, in addition to the existing position for pest control, what phase one permits is recreational-based outdoor activities “broadly within 5 miles of your community”. So recreational shooting, angling and stalking activities should be able to go ahead as long as you are local i.e. within circa 5 miles.

Realistically, in Scotland we appear to still be some weeks away from being able to travel further afield for outdoor recreational activities. If your non-essential shooting, angling or other country sports activity is further than 5 miles away from your community, then phase one will not permit that to happen and you should therefore remain at home.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to shooting, stalking or fishing near to home, then please check with the landowner, farmer or manager that they are happy to have you on their land - not all will be. Please respect their decision.

WALES UPDATE

Welsh Government main Covid-19 page

Welsh Government Covid-19 guidance

The principle guidance in Wales continues to be to stay at home. There has been some confusion in Wales over whether angling would be able to go ahead. The First Minister has stated that it can indeed go ahead as long as it is done locally. Please check with whoever owns or manages your local fishing location.

NORTHERN IRELAND UPDATE

NI Government main Covid-19 page

NI Government Covid-19 guidance

NI Government Covid-19 regulations

The principle guidance in Northern Ireland continues to be to stay at home. On angling, NI Government allows angling and has reopened public fishing areas. Anglers are requested to remain local to their community.

SUMMARY

Follow the guidance where you live, be mindful of relevant laws, apply common sense and act reasonably and responsibly at all times.

Call or email us if you need to. Always happy to help.

SACS Committee
22 May 2020

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info@sacs.org.uk