GROUSE SHOOTING season officially begins today – but many grouse moor owners are choosing not to shoot, still licking their wounds after a washout 2018 season.

Last year’s extreme weather hit Scotland’s grouse season hard, and a year on, the industry is still taking steps towards recovery, with many grouse moor owners erring on the side of caution and deciding not to shoot. However, industry experts presented a more positive outlook, noting that other moors were planning a mixed programme of driven and walked up days.

Land agents Galbraith stressed that landowners continue to invest in moor management – even those who have closed their doors this season: “Despite the fluctuations in terms of shooting, the investment that landowners make in the maintenance of the moorland does not vary,” explained Galbraith partner, Robert Rattray. “Owning a grouse moor is a long-term commitment – as well as a passion – and owners are prepared to shoulder the significant investment required.”

Scotland’s grouse moors are home to many species of rare birds and other wildlife which benefit from the traditional moorland management carried out year-round. Species such as greenshank, lapwing, curlew and golden plover all benefit from well managed moors.

“Estates are the principal employers in some rural areas, providing a range of full time and part time jobs and supporting local businesses,” Mr Rattray continued. “Guests coming to an estate to shoot will also spend money in the local shops and pub, and many extend their visit to include golf, whisky tours, sightseeing and other activities. It’s a huge boost to tourism in Scotland.”

With the anti-grouse moor campaign growing legs, Scotland’s rural organisations have called on politicians to officially recognise the social, economic and environmental contributions of year-round moorland management.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Association for Country Sports together issued a joint statement: “The start of the grouse shooting season marks the culmination of a year-round effort in Scotland’s most remote hills and glens to manage land for a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits.

“This season, more than any other, has been accompanied by frenetic activity from anti-grouse moor campaigners seeking to tarnish the vital role grouse moors play in supporting our rural communities. We appeal to politicians from all parties to recognise the contribution that grouse moors make at a time when the Scottish Government’s review of moorland management should soon be published.”

They made the point that grouse moors provide a rich haven for wildlife beyond red grouse and referred to studies conducted by international scientists which have found more than 100 birds species on grouse moors.

Country sports tourism, including that of grouse shooting is worth £155million per annum to the Scottish economy, with shooting sports supporting the equivalent of 8800 full time jobs in Scotland.

“A survey of 45 grouse estates across Scotland, conducted by Scotland’s seven regional moorland groups in 2017, found that over £23 million flows directly into local businesses in trade generated by estate activity,” the joint statement continued. “That sum, which does not take into account wages paid to gamekeepers or other staff, means downstream businesses, from local garages to building firms, benefit from business worth, on average, £514,886 from each estate.”