AFTER SEVERAL years crippled by low bird numbers and Covid restrictions, Scotland’s grouse moorlands – and the communities they help support – have their fingers crossed that this season will help boost income.
Speaking ahead of the start of the season on Friday, Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg, MBE, said he hoped for some respite for rural businesses suffering from soaring oil and gas costs. Energy.
After successive years of poor grouse breeding on the moors, there has been uplift in some areas this year. While large surpluses of birds to be harvested are not expected, game wardens expect visitors to return to the heathland uplands again, bringing a much-needed injection of cash to the rural economy.
This increase in revenue will be particularly important for the Scottish game sector at a time when bird flu looks set to severely curb the 2022 pheasant and partridge seasons.
A number of UK shoots have been hit by supply problems caused by flu outbreaks in the Loire region of France, where many young birds are bought for low shoots, which will start later in September and october.
“In a stable year, grouse hunting brings in over £30million to remote communities in a short period of time, helping a range of small spin-off businesses at a quiet time after the summer holidays”, noted Mr. Hogg. “The recent study commissioned by the Scottish Government indicated just how important household incomes and wages can be in these remote areas.
“We’re not looking to get good numbers of grouse nationally. The black grouse is completely wild. There are so many things that can affect breeding success, but at a time when grouse shoots continue to invest and receive no income, we should be grateful for the coming season,” he said. he declares.
“Returning visitors who spend money is also important for local businesses. Their running costs keep rising, along with inflation. The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone in the countryside. We are going to need all sectors of the economy pulling, if we are to regain some form of stability.
Grouse shooting is part of a gaming industry that brings nearly £300m a year to the Scottish economy, supporting 4,400 direct full-time jobs. The SGA noted that this was almost double the number of staff of all major Scottish conservation charities combined.
But the impact of bird flu on the pheasant and partridge seasons is a very real threat to some rural jobs: “I know part-time gamekeepers around me in the Scottish Borders who won’t be able to at all to organize shootings this year. because they depended on importing poults from overseas,” Hogg said.
“Some are looking to other things and hope to stock up on birds for the 2023 season, but this is worrying and we hope to be able to sit down with the shooting bodies, game breeders, vets and respective UK governments to consider future contingencies.”
Although Mr Hogg acknowledges that some people oppose game shooting, he strongly believes game wardens, river and land ghillies and deer managers help meet the environmental and biodiversity aspirations of Scottish governments. .
“In addition to work that pays the bills, our members help restore peatlands, manage invasive non-native species, humanely control deer populations, plant and manage forests, and create wetlands.
“These and many other activities help the Scottish Government achieve its objectives and this resource of local skills and knowledge is an irreplaceable asset to Scotland.”