Grouse shooting begins next Saturday in Scotland, attracting visitors from all over the world to the iconic heather moors.
But although the season lasts only 18 weeks maximum, the economic impact grouse estates have on local communities, all the year round, has been hailed as significant.
A survey of 45 grouse estates across Scotland, conducted by Scotland’s 7 regional moorland groups, has found that over £23 million flows directly into local businesses in trade generated by estate activity.
That sum, which does not take into account wages paid to gamekeepers or other staff, means downstream businesses, from local garages to building firms, benefit from business worth, on average, £514,886 from each estate.
The poll, which assessed financial accounts for 2015/2016, did not look at the sums accommodation providers receive from the influx of visiting shooters between August and December.
Holdings of all sizes across 7 moorland regions provided accounts, with the results showing the highest local expenditure and most employment stemming from larger, commercial driven grouse moors.
Over the studied period, there was significant investment made in buildings, public path repairs and renewable energy projects as well as core grouse moor management.
“Grouse shooting attracts criticism in some quarters but the survey tells the story of the value of country sports to smaller rural communities,” said Lianne MacLennan of Scotland’s regional moorland groups.
“The results do not show the wages that keep the gamekeepers and their families in the glen villages. What we wanted to understand better is how the impacts trickle down. There is not a rural community in these 7 areas that could afford to lose either the number of jobs created by the grouse estates or the business people are deriving from all the work that goes on in these places.
“It is not just shooting-related businesses, either, it is everything from wine sellers to clothing companies, fencers, architects and garages. Those businesses are out in force today, standing shoulder to shoulder with the gamekeepers ahead of another busy season.”
Out of polled estates in Perthshire, canvassed by Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group, 3 respondent holdings generated local contracts totalling almost £2 million.
Businesses in Angus benefitted to the tune of over £4.2 million from 7 respondent estates while the Grampian region saw £3.1 million invested locally across 10 estates.
Trades and services around Loch Ness and Inverness-shire secured trade worth £6.2 million from 11 estates providing accounts. Speyside saw local income of nearly £4 million from 6 polled estates and the towns and villages around the Lammermuir Hills in the Scottish Borders enjoyed over £2.7 million of business from 6 estates, with grouse shooting as their principal income.
The final total across all the estates who participated was £23,169 891.20, with two estates in the Tomatin area creating over £880,000 of downstream economic benefit.
Perthshire-based building company Frankerton work on moors from Morayshire to the Borders, with 75 percent of their businesses coming directly from grouse estates. Such regular contracts have enabled the firm to expand from 2 employees only ten years ago.
“We employ 9 people now and 6 of those are working full-time for estates, with the others working on other construction contracts such as wind farms. We, too, use local hotels and businesses when we are working. That is when you see how far into communities the work generated, goes,” said Frankerton’s Bryan Paterson.