A NEW coalition targeting Scotland’s grouse moors has prompted counter-protests from industry bodies, which warned that its agenda to 'reform' upland management was a direct threat to the many jobs that the game sector provides in rural communities.

Titled 'Revive', the coalition involves the charities and campaign groups Common Weal, OneKind, Friends of the Earth Scotland, the League Against Cruel Sports and Raptor Persecution UK, all now working together towards the common goal of 'taking back ownership of Scotland’s uplands'. Launched in Edinburgh this week by TV naturalist Chris Packham, Revive has stated that it will be a long-term political campaign, gradually building both the factual case and public support for legislative change.

Speaking from Scottish anti-animal cruelty charity OneKind, director Bob Elliot explained why the movement had come about: “One-fifth of Scotland is a grouse moor, many of which are intensively managed to create a habitat suitable for just one wild species, and we have a very good starting point for a debate around ownership, reform and reclaiming huge swathes of Scotland for the benefit of our environment, our communities, our economy and our wildlife.

“The red grouse is a wild bird, so gamekeepers must heavily manage the habitat to have enough grouse for visiting clients to shoot. The heather is rotationally burnt in strips and threats from natural predators to the grouse are removed – foxes, stoats and weasels and other aerial predators such as crows and ravens are routinely killed,” he commented.

Responding, a spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Despite the veneer, the majority of these organisations and individuals have never been interested in ‘reform’. People should not be fooled. This is a wrecking ball campaign by a cohort seeking to ban grouse shooting and to put thousands of Scotland’s rural workers and their families on the dole.

“Over the coming weeks, while government independently reviews grouse shooting, we expect the track record of tactics which has seen members within this group covertly filming land managers undertaking legal activities and spreading misinformation in a bid to get the result they crave," said SGA.

“Those seeking to use their charitable lobbying influence in Edinburgh to kill off livelihoods should take responsibility for the consequences and provide alternative employment for the lives they will wreck,” it concluded.

The British Association of Shooting and Conservation, The Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Association of Country Sports issued a joint statement in response to calls for restrictions on grouse moor management: “We are today witnessing another attempt by anti-grouse shooting activists to further their agenda under the guise of calling for reform of grouse shooting. They want to stop it and pursue that agenda relentlessly with little or no recognition of the facts.

“The fact is that for decades now, the grouse shooting community has been embracing reform and modernising land management practices. This is a sector that complies day-in day-out with a wide range of regulation and legislation and is committed to constant improvement. Standards have improved greatly and – like progress in farming methods and addressing climate change – they will continue to develop," read the statement.

“Grouse moor management also provides as multitude of social, economic and environmental benefits. These include the sustaining of thousands of jobs in remote rural communities, a substantial contribution to Scotland's tourism industry and the safeguarding of many bird species and habitat.”