Rural communities and businesses across Scotland are gearing up for the start of the grouse shooting season, adopting extra safety measures to ensure the season can go ahead on 12th August.
The country sports sector has developed a comprehensive framework of COVID-19 guidance approved by the Scottish Government.
The start of the season heralds a much-needed boost for rural businesses at a time of great uncertainty.
The grouse season in Scotland, which runs for 16 weeks from 12 August to 10 December, is estimated to be worth £32m during a good season, part of the £350m overall value of game and country sports to Scotland. Sporting shooting supports 11,000 full time jobs in Scotland, of which 2,640 are in the grouse sector.
Yesterday in the Lammermuir hills, where grouse shooting is worth £2.97m each year, the new protocols are already in place. These include the use of personal protection equipment, implementation of social distancing measures, food hygiene guidance on shoot days and travel restrictions.
Mark Ewart, coordinator of the Southern Uplands Moorland Group said: “This year is different to any season we’ve experienced before but the discussions held over the past few weeks have helped to ensure everyone knows what to do.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the season to people in this area. Not just for those directly employed by the estates but all the local businesses that supply equipment and the pubs and hotels. This year there will be fewer guests coming to shoot from abroad but we are hopeful that more people from within the UK will come and that will make up the shortfall.”
Each shoot in the Lammermuirs creates 110 days of shoot employment. This seasonal work is over and above the 45 full-time and five part-time jobs sustained by the five grouse estates throughout the calendar year. Local businesses in the Lammermuirs benefitted from trade with estates worth £466,274 in 2017.
Tim Baynes, moorland director, Scottish Land & Estates said: “Grouse shooting is by its very nature low risk as participants are well spaced and it takes place on wide open moorlands. Estates planning to shoot early in the season have undertaken detailed risk assessments and adapted their procedures to comply with COVID-19 rules.
“After two poor grouse seasons, largely due to the weather, 2020 is looking better in many areas. This is the time of year when accurate counts are taken and decisions are made on whether it is sustainable to shoot. Some moors in the north of Scotland have decided not to shoot, but many have had a good breeding season and will be optimistic.”
Grouse shooting only takes place when there is a good number of birds to provide a sustainable surplus for shooting.