[Photo by Jon Nelson, Creative Commons]
The Scottish Parliament has heard an appeal to make the Golden Eagle the national bird of Scotland. It came from the RSPB’s Duncan Orr-Ewing and wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan. During his comments to the Petitions Committee, Mr Buchanan called for an end to the “persecution” of the birds in Scotland, arguing that he along with others was “astounded” that both shooting and poisoning took place.
The petition was first lodged in December by RSPB Scotland. Mr Orr-Ewing described the bird as a “true bird icon of Scotland”. He pointed out that many highland chieftains wore an eagle feather, as did the Royal Company of Archers. With only 431 pairs of golden eagles remaining in Scotland, he added that this represented “the whole of the UK’s breeding pairs, and it is regarded as a Scottish species.”
There was an objection to the plan from the Conservative MSP, Jackson Carlaw. He pointed out that the eagle had been used as a symbol both by the Roman empire and later by Nazi Germany. In his words, “The golden eagle is the symbol of an empire that once invaded large parts of Scotland, and more recently of another empire that tried to.”
He went to say that it was “a symbol of imperial power of which Scotland is emphatically not, never has been, and hopefully never will be.” He asked why another national symbol was needed and suggested that the robin would be a better candidate. However, the Committee agreed to take the proposal forward and it will now go out to public consultation. It follows a similar appeal for the Scots pine to be designated as Scotland’s national tree.
A report published by RSPB Scotland last year said there had been a “significant number” of occasions where birds of prey had been illegally killed in areas managed for grouse shooting. Just last month, police in Angus appealed for information after tests showed that a golden eagle found dead there had been poisoned.
Last year, as part of the Year of Natural Scotland, the eagle came top in a poll run by Scottish Natural Heritage and VisitScotland to find Scotland’s favourite wild animal.