THE SCOTTISH grouse industry is increasingly confident of a good season ahead after last year’s washout led to the cancellation of shooting programmes across Scotland.

Demand from domestic and international shooters remaining strong and although estates are rightly airing on the side of caution with bookings, there is a sense of optimism for the coming season.

Scotland’s grouse season runs for 16 weeks from August 12 until December 10 and is estimated to be worth £32m to Scotland’s economy. Many rural jobs depend on a good season with 2,640 full time jobs supporting the grouse sector alone.

A third of visitors to Scotland’s moors come from overseas, primarily the USA, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France and Spain with interest being sparked in China and India.

Head of Ossian, Galbraith’s Sporting and Leisure Division, and one of the country’s leading experts on field sports, Robert Rattray, commented: “Last year’s cancellation of grouse shooting programmes right across the country still resonates with many of us. We are hoping for a much better season this year.

“Estates quite rightly have only committed to modest programmes at this stage, and we are hopeful if counts are promising, that more days will become available as the season unfolds,” he continued. “Grouse counts will start in earnest shortly and once these have taken place; we will have a much better idea of prospects.

“The good news is that demand from shooters continues to be as high as ever. We have a full book already and still have many parties looking, including those who had their programmes cancelled last year who are doubly keen to be in Scotland this year to shoot grouse.”

Moorland director of Scottish Land & Estates, Tim Baynes, emphasised the season’s economic importance to Scotland: “The grouse season – while short – is a great asset to this country and delivers huge benefit to the economy.

“In particular, rural jobs depend on a good season,” he stressed. “We know that the impact is much greater than the direct employment of keepers, land managers and seasonal workers. A whole range of businesses, from shops to hotels, restaurants, pubs and car hire services are boosted by grouse shooting. Millions of pounds are spent by visitors who come here for grouse.”

Mr Baynes added that conservation by moorland managers is increasingly being recognised: “A good season on any moor is invariably the result of years of investment by the landowner. Specialist moorland management including muirburn, predator control and measures to reduce the number of ticks, which carry disease, offers rewards in terms of a healthy and sustainable stock of grouse. It also results in the creation of favourable habitats for other moorland birds, including lapwing, curlew, golden plover, black grouse and oystercatcher, which thrive on grouse moors,” he concluded.

The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group reports that there are 270,000 visitor trips to Scotland per year for country sports, with a value of £155m to the tourist economy.