Do you know who your political allies really are? GTN takes a look at what the major political parties have said about shooting as we approach the election.
Seats won in 2010 election: 306 (since reduced to 302)
Campaign highlights: In five years of power, promised a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, but ultimately couldn’t manage even a small relaxation of the rules on hunting with dogs, owing to either a lack of parliamentary time or lack of support. Stuck to its support for the badger culls despite political pressure to the contrary.
What they said about shooting: “I am a great supporter of the countryside and a strong supporter of country sports. I can assure you that I recognise the importance of shooting to our economy and acknowledge the significant environmental contribution that shooting makes, with two million hectares of land actively managed for conservation as a result of it.
“Like you, we are committed to evidence-based policy making and the principles of better regulation. We are determined to see fewer, more effective regulations. We want to ensure that the UK’s very high welfare, environmental and food quality standards are upheld, while removing unnecessary burdens on businesses and individuals.” – David Cameron, prime minister
Seats won in 2010 election: 258 (since reduced to 256)
Campaign highlights: Said the future of shooting and angling were “assured” under Labour, and praised the lobbying work of BASC and the Angling Trust. But went some way to undoing this bridge-building by pushing for a ‘full cost recovery’ model for firearms and shotgun licences, which could have seen them rise as high as £200 for the average shooter. As a result, shooting organisations flocked to accept the relatively shallow increase to £79.50 (SGC) and £88 (FAC).
What they said about shooting: “The hunting ban is a testament to the progress made since the days of bear baiting and other such barbaric blood sports. Only Labour can protect the Hunting Act because Labour is the only major political party committed to defending it.
“Birds of prey are intensively persecuted, and iconic birds such as the hen harrier are in danger of being lost as a breeding species in England. More needs to be done to protect these birds of prey on shooting estates.” – policy statement
Seats won in 2010 election: 57 (since reduced to 56)
Campaign highlights: The ‘little brother’ to the Tories in the coalition, their actions have reflected the same overall policy narrative. Despite a reputation for u-turns in the wider political world, they have stuck to a broadly pro-shooting line and praised BASC, noting that “there is a lot of good work we can do together.” Always willing to line up for a shooting-related press opportunity, possibly because they could do with any good publicity they can get.
What they said about shooting: “I recently visited a local shoot in my constituency that illustrated the economic value of shooting. I was pleased to see not just the employment opportunities created by the shoot itself but also the investment it encouraged in the local area. This putting back into the local economy is wholly good for the rural community and environment.” – David Heath MP
Seats won in 2010 election: 6 (plus a majority in Scottish Parliament)
Campaign highlights: A victory in the 2011 Scottish election plus the further rollout of devolution has paved the way for the SNP to introduce airgun licensing, one of its major campaign promises. Despite responses to a consultation being overwhelmingly against a licensing system, the SNP was keen to press on, saying the consultation was only ever about the specifics of implementation rather than the overall question of airgun licensing. Could make big gains in May, mostly taking seats off Labour in Scotland.
What they said about shooting: “We remain absolutely committed to a licensing scheme which is practical and sensible and will ensure that those who wish to use air guns responsibly for sports, target shooting and pest control can continue to do so.
“We are not banning airguns but ensuring they are used for legitimate reasons by responsible people.” – Kenny MacAskill, justice secretary
Seats won in 2010 election: 1
Campaign highlights: You can’t accuse the Greens of sending mixed messages about shooting: They hate it. Bringing an end to the shooting sports is officially stated policy, and they have pushed to end trophy hunting and the importing of wildlife trophies into the EU. A large membership (57,000) does not translate to a large number of seats since their support is very diffuse.
What they said about shooting: “The Green Party is opposed to shooting and hunting and would bring an end to these ‘sports’. Until this happens, the Green Party are calling for magazines that promote the shooting and hunting of animals to have blank wrapping and be kept out of the reach of children.” – party policy statement
Seats won in 2010 election: 0 (since increased to 2)
Campaign highlights: Man-of-the-people Nigel Farage went on record to say the handgun ban should be repealed, calling the current legislation “ludicrous”. However, the party has admitted that securing a European exit is its top policy at the expense of all else, and policies such as Hunting Act repeal are “just not a priority” in any deal with other parties. After five years of swelling support for UKIP, 7 May will be make-or-break time for the party.
What they said about shooting: “Proper gun licensing is something we have done in this country responsibly and well and I think the knee-jerk legislation that Blair brought in that meant that the British Olympic pistol team have to go to France to practice was just crackers. If you criminalise handguns then only the criminals carry the guns.” – Nigel Farage