GROUSE MOOR managers have been warned to prepare for 'big changes' following the Werrity review into grouse moor management.

Organisations representing the game sector have raised concerns that grouse moors have not been economically assessed and the changes could deliver a damaging blow to rural Scotland.

They issued a joint statement following an evidence session in the Scottish parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, which read: “Grouse moor managers are bracing themselves for huge changes in the wake of the Werritty review and the impact this could have on rural Scotland cannot be underestimated.

“New regulations regarding mountain hares, muirburn and the use of medicated grit – when taken on an individual basis – represent colossal change for the sector. On top of that, any overarching licensing scheme for grouse moors is hugely complex and could wreak havoc on a crucial source of employment in rural Scotland.”

The game sector was pleased that the grouse moor review recognised the upskilling of a new generation of gamekeepers well versed in wildlife conservation, legal and regulatory responsibilities. They also welcomed that the full benefits of skilled 'muirburn' – backed by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as an important tool in reducing the risk of wildfires – was noted by the panel.

The organisations commended the public’s concern for the highest welfare and environmental standards, pointing out that they have been achieving this, however added that no economic and community impact assessment had been undertaken on the effect licensing would have.

The statement continued: “The Werritty review undertook its own survey of the economic impact of grouse shooting based on 16 estates. Only one grouse enterprise made a small profit; all the rest were loss-making and reliant on substantial private investment.

“Despite this, the parliamentary committee was told that no study of the economic impact of licensing has been carried out. If licensing is pursued with no economic assessment – and against the backdrop of an already fragile sector – then it could deliver a destructive blow to vital businesses and hard-pressed communities in Scotland’s rural economy,” it concluded.