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Will new Welsh leader will be on shooting’s side?

Wales has a new first minister but is he good news for shooting and conservation communities, or out of the frying pan and into the fire?

As Wales votes in a new first minister in Vaughan Gething, there are fears that nothing will change in terms of how the rural communities are treated. 

Mr Gething beat closest rival Jeremy Miles with a 51.7% majority. However, he is already embroiled in controversy over a £200,000 campaign donation he accepted from businessman David John Neal, who has been convicted of multiple environmental crimes. Neal received suspended prison sentences for illegally dumping waste on conservation sites. 

Outgoing leader Mark Drakeford’s Labour government has appeared to hold a hostile position towards the rural sector, with the abandoned attempt to license the release of gamebirds in Wales last autumn. That same government — which included anti-shooting climate minister Julie James — also banned the use of all humane cable restraints for predator control. 

Although the leader of the Welsh Conservative Group and former National Farmers’ Union delegate, Andrew R T Davies, publicly congratulated Mr Gething on his victory, he also warned that “Wales can expect more of the same with Vaughan Gething as first minister”. 

Gethin Jones, headkeeper on the Coed Coch Estate in North Wales, told Shooting Times: “With this change in leadership I don’t foresee any major policy or attitude shifts towards the countryside. I’m not sure Mr Gething knows much about how rural Wales functions but I’m sure the Welsh government will forge on regardless.” 

Farmer and television personality Gareth Wyn Jones added: “I’ve congratulated Vaughan Gething on social media for becoming first minister, but I desperately hope his election won’t be an out of the fire and into the frying pan scenario. Hopefully, Mr Gething is keen to engage with the countryside on rural issues in a more respectful way than his predecessors and contribute some sensible policy suggestions. 

“I hope he has some fresh ideas and a more complete grasp of key countryside concerns across farming and shooting,” he continued. 

“I am cautiously optimistic that under his new leadership we will be able to get to the bottom of matters like the problems with the sustainable farming scheme and the issues surrounding nitrate vulnerable zones. 

“Further, I think that the removal of magpies from the general licence is absolutely barmy given the predatory damage they do to songbird populations, so this could also do with further scrutiny.”