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 Grouse season can lessen cost-of-living crisis, say Scottish Gamekeepers

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg (Photo: SGA Media)

THE 2022 grouse season could help buffer some remote rural communities and households from the deepening cost-of-living crisis.

That is the view of Alex Hogg, MBE, Chairman of Perth-based Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who is hoping for some respite for rural businesses enduring spiralling petrol and energy costs.

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Scotland’s grouse shooting season begins this Friday (August 12th) and, after successive years of poor breeding on the moors, there has been an uplift in some regions this year.

Large surpluses of birds to harvest are not forecast but gamekeepers expect visitors to return to the heather uplands of the Highlands, Perthshire, Angus and the Lammermuirs again, bringing a much needed cash injection into the rural economy.

That revenue boost will be important against the backdrop of a looming recession, but also comes at a time when Avian flu looks set to curb the 2022 pheasant and partridge seasons.

A number of UK shoots have been impacted by supply issues caused by Bird flu outbreaks in the Loire region of France where many young birds are sourced for low ground shoots, which will begin later, in September and October.

“In a stable year, grouse shooting brings over £30m to remote communities in a short window, helping a range of spin-off small businesses at a quiet time after the summer holidays. The recent Scottish Government commissioned study indicated just how important that income and household wages can be in these remote areas,” said Mr Hogg.

“We are not looking at consistently good grouse numbers nationally. Red grouse are completely wild. There are so many things which can affect breeding success, but, at a time when grouse shoots have been continuing to invest and getting no income back, we should be grateful for the coming season. The return of visitors spending money is also equally important for local businesses. Their operational costs are going up all the time, with inflation.”

“The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone in the countryside. We are going to need all areas of the economy firing, if we are to get back to some form of stability.”

Grouse shooting is part of a game sector bringing nearly £300m annually to Scotland’s economy.

Game shooting and angling sustain more full-time direct jobs (4400) than all of Scotland’s large conservation charities combined (2204).

They also support more direct full-time jobs than the onshore and offshore energy sectors (3300), BBC Scotland (1250) and the film (3635) and computer games (1285) industries.

However, Avian flu is set to limit the pheasant and partridge seasons, with potential impacts on some rural jobs.

“I know of some part-time gamekeepers around me, in the Scottish Borders, who will not be able to host shoots at all this year because they were reliant on poults being imported from overseas.”

“Some are turning their hand to other things and hoping to source birds for the 2023 season but it is worrying and we hope to be able to sit down with shooting bodies, game farmers, vets and respective UK governments to look at future contingencies,” stressed the Gamekeepers’ Chairman.

While Mr Hogg acknowledges some people oppose game shooting, he believes gamekeepers, river and land ghillies and deer managers are helping to meet Scottish Governments’ environmental and biodiversity aspirations.

“As well as the work that pays the bills, our members are helping restore peatlands, are managing non-native invasive species, humanely controlling deer populations, planting and managing woodlands and creating wetlands.”

“These activities, and many others, are helping Scottish Government reach towards its targets and this skill and local knowledge resource is an irreplaceable asset to Scotland.”

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