New research has found that the coronavirus pandemic, which wreaked havoc on industries and economies around the world, has contributed to losses of nearly £ 1.7 million in the grouse moors of Scotland.
Figures from the Scottish Regional Moorland Groups show that in the period from March to November, estates invested a total of £ 8.98 million – an average of more than £ 390,000 per estate.
Nevertheless, the survey, which obtained data from 23 grouse moor estates, showed that due to the pandemic, each farm lost an average of £ 73,000 in hunting and lodging income – a total of £ 1.67 million.
The study found that “grouse estates continued to spend in their communities.” said Lianne MacLennan, coordinator of regional moorland groups in Scotland.
She added: “They continued to use local businesses and retained all their land management staff, even though they knew they would lose income because of travel and accommodation restrictions.”
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“This is in contrast to employers in the conservation industry who rely heavily on the taxpayer to keep their employees working,” Ms. MacLennan said.
She said the survey was a “opportunity to get an indication of the financial impact of Covid-19 after a very different grouse season.”
“Ms MacLennan added: “For all 23 respondents, the overall losses from cancelled hunting days, tourist accommodation and things like game sales amounted to £ 1.67 million.
“That’s not an insignificant dent.”
She concluded that “small family farms will struggle badly, jobs will be lost and the threads of these small communities will be further weakened.” without the money invested by grouse estates.
One of the 20 organized outdoor sports the Scottish government has cleared for the fall was grouse shooting.
Some hunts, however, canceled their programs early, while limits on travel led to missed bookings.
It was revealed last month that grouse shooting operations in Scotland would be subject to a new system of licensing to address the illegal killing of prey birds.
Minister of Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said there needed to be “greater oversight” of the activities of grouse management.
But gamekeepers responded with fury, arguing that the move could not be “so easily forgotten,” resisting “never-ending scrutiny and investigation with enormous influence by elitist charities.”
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Some rural groups, meanwhile, called the proposals a “seriously damaging blow to vulnerable rural communities.”
The announcement follows last year’s submission of a paper, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, by a group of experts on grouse moor management.
Campaigners, however, welcomed the decision by the Scottish government to tighten restrictions on grouse moors via a licensing scheme.
RSPB Scotland says grouse industry self-regulation has not managed to curb the deaths of prey birds or the damage to the ecosystem caused by burning peatlands.
Responsible moorland hunters have “nothing to fear” from tougher laws, the Scottish SPCA said.
Also funding the scheme is the Scottish Wildlife Fund.