THE GROUSE season commenced on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, bringing a much-needed boost for rural businesses which have struggled during the pandemic.

Following two poor shooting seasons due to bad weather, it is hoped that the socially distanced shoots and the lure of the outdoors might attract new interest from within the UK – making up the shortfall of guests from abroad.

Read more - A mixed forecast marks the start of Scotland's grouse season

The grouse season in Scotland runs for 16 weeks and is estimated to be worth £32m during a good season, part of the £350m overall value of game and country sports to Scotland. Sporting shooting supports 11,000 full time jobs in Scotland, of which 2640 are involved in grouse.

The country sports sector has developed a comprehensive framework of COVID-19 guidance, approved by the Scottish Government, which includes the use of personal protection equipment, implementation of social distancing measures, food hygiene guidance on shoot days and travel restrictions.

Coordinator of the Southern Uplands Moorland Group, Mark Ewart, said: “This year is different to any season we’ve experienced before but the discussions held over the past few weeks have helped to ensure everyone knows what to do.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the season to people in this area. Not just for those directly employed by the estates but all the local businesses that supply equipment and the pubs and hotels,” he continued. “This year there will be fewer guests coming to shoot from abroad, but we are hopeful that more people from within the UK will come and that will make up the shortfall.”

Moorland director of Scottish Land and Estates, Tim Baynes added: “Grouse shooting is by its very nature low risk as participants are well spaced and it takes place on wide open moorlands. Estates planning to shoot early in the season have undertaken detailed risk assessments and adapted their procedures to comply with COVID-19 rules.

“After two poor grouse seasons, largely due to the weather, 2020 is looking better in many areas,” he continued.

“This is the time of year when accurate counts are taken, and decisions are made on whether it is sustainable to shoot. Some moors in the north of Scotland have decided not to shoot, but many have had a good breeding season and will be optimistic.”