The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has issued a stark warning their profession stands at a critical juncture amid an array of legislative changes to the rural sector.

The organisation said in a statement that rapid land use change due to incentivised carbon schemes and the political uncertainty caused by the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, a licensing scheme for the use of dogs for fox control and other impending moves on predation control, licensing and deer are overshadowing this year’s season and impacting workers' confidence and wellbeing.

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The SGA said its member survey is confirming job fears, with responses to date indicating positions being lost on estates and not replaced.

Chairman Alex Hogg said: “While some places may have taken on the odd part-time staff member, the trend is clear and that is very worrying. Gamekeepers have been part of Scotland's cultural heritage for centuries.

“The Government needs to understand the seriousness and work with us to protect these positions, not dismantle everything,”

Meanwhile, The Scottish Green Party has launched a blistering attack on grouse shooting, describing the sport as a “cruel and outdated hobby” and the 12th of August as a “festival of violence”.

The Greens, who are in government coalition with the SNP under the Bute House Agreement, say the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, which will introduce a licensing system for grouse shooting and the practice of muirburn are a ‘necessary response to incidents of illegal persecution’ of birds of prey.

The party’s rural affairs spokesperson Ariane Burgess MSP said: “There is nothing glorious or humane about the 12th of August. It is a festival of violence. Far too much of our land is given to this cruel and outdated hobby.

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“The intensive burning and degradation of our landscapes to try and improve the habitat for red grouse so that there are more of them to be shot is unnecessary, and damages the local environment and our climate.

“The Scottish Government’s Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill will be an important step to protecting our wildlife and curbing the environmental degradation and ritualistic cruelty that lies at the heart of this so-called sport.

“Our world-renowned landscapes and nature are for all of us. They must serve local communities, rather than the interests of the small number of wealthy people who pursue these niche and elitist bloodsports.”

The Scottish Government said the views of both the public and stakeholders have been carefully considered in the formation of the Bill. a spokesperson added, the public consultation received more than 4,500 responses and made clear that the regulation and protection of our natural environment is an important issue for many.

Environment Minister Gillian Martin told the Scottish Farmer: “The Scottish Government expects grouse moors in Scotland to be managed in a sustainable and responsible way, that minimises environmental impacts and helps to protect nature and wildlife. Many landowners are already doing so and we want others to follow their example.

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“The vast majority of gamekeepers in Scotland care deeply about the land they help to steward, respect their natural environment and wildlife populations and make a valuable contribution to our economy and delivering our Net Zero ambitions.

“The provisions in the Bill provide for a practical, proportionate and targeted licensing regime which will support those carrying out activities appropriately and in line with the law, and will have consequences for those that don’t.”