The Steering Group of Friends of Findhorn Bay recently had to make an important decision about the petition to ban shooting. It had been made clear to us by the Council that a ban on shooting would require a byelaw. The Council also told us that they would not be prepared to consider implementing a byelaw, as it may be a contentious process, entailing a process of consultation and a public enquiry, which is unaffordable at this stage. The Council said that it will consider a byelaw only if there is prior agreement among all parties on the terms of the byelaw. Even if the Council would investigate the possibility of a byelaw, it would not be put in place in time to have an effect on the coming shooting season.
Instead, the Council proposed a mediated meeting between the petitioners (i.e those in favour of a ban, and those who want to keep on shooting) in order to find a compromise as a point of departure. We agreed to take part in the negotiations, which were held on 8th June and we have reached a ‘compromise’ in the form of a voluntary shooting arrangement, which will be tested over the next season. The shooters present at the 8th June compromise talks assured us on a number of occasions during the 5-hour long meeting that they had the support of a large proportion of the shooting community to negotiate a compromise agreement.
It is important to see this ‘compromise’ in the right perspective:
(a) The ‘compromise’ does not represent our ideal. Our ideal is to have no shooting in the Findhorn Bay LNR.
(b) The ‘compromise’ is the only mechanism that can make an impact on this coming shooting season, which starts on 1st September. If we did not agree to an arrangement, there would be no intervention at all with regard to this shooting season.
(c) The ‘compromise’ is being regarded as a test that will run for one shooting season. At the end of the season it will be reviewed. Lessons learned from the experiment will be discussed at the review meeting and the relevant parties will try to find a sensible way forward. By agreeing to test the ‘compromise’ during this shooting season, Friends of Findhorn Bay does not waive its right to have the shooting ban petition formally considered by the Council at a later date. However, it enables us to explore all possibilities and, importantly, it enables us to remain involved in the process to address the issue of shooting in Findhorn Bay.
(d) The ‘compromise’ does not represent our view of a fair and workable compromise that could serve as a template for the future. In the negotiation process we did our best to reach an agreement that would be fairer and that would better reflect the identity of Findhorn Bay as a Nature Reserve, but the negotiations were inhibited by the fact that the shooters had to agree to any arrangement. The current ‘compromise’ is the absolute maximum change in the status quo that the shooters were prepared to accept. The ‘compromise’ does however entail a number of restrictions on shooting during the coming shooting season, which is a much better scenario than the status quo, in which there are no restrictions at all. The key restrictions are listed below and the full compromise document and a map showing restricted areas can be viewed here.
1. The no-shooting zone on the East side of the Bay is extended southwards to Line 1.
2. There will be no shooting on the East side of the Bay up to Line 2 after 10am.
3. The principle of ‘no-shooting days’ is accepted. In addition to the extended no shoot zone, on Mondays and Tuesdays there will be no shooting at any time in the South-East corner of the Bay between Points B and C.
(e) If our ideal cannot be realised in the foreseeable future and we have to settle on an interim arrangement that would improve the current situation substantially but also accommodate shooting in some form, such a compromise will have to be fairer and entail much more than the current ‘compromise’. It will probably be discussed at the review meeting with the Council at the end of the shooting season.
We have been asked to encourage our supporters to respect and implement this agreement during the 2016-17 shooting season. We have also been asked to request that our supporters “refrain from harassing or impeding shooting participants while those engage in their lawful sport”. Note that the agreement states that this term “should not be interpreted as any kind of assertion or acknowledgement that such harassment has, to date, taken place”.
We very much hope that our efforts over the last 9 months will lead to an improvement in the situation this season.