The safe participation in country sports is vital to helping the rural economy recover, Scottish Land & Estates said today.

The comment comes as country sports has been unfairly singled out by a vocal few as an activity that should not be allowed to take place during Covid restrictions.

In common with a plethora of other outdoor events and tourism activities, country sports can continue so long as social distancing measures are maintained.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of the rural business association, said critics of country sports appeared content to see thousands of workers’ livelihoods lost in order to prevent the activity taking place.

Ms Laing said: “Over recent days, we have seen an array of calls being made for country sports including grouse shooting to be halted, which would deliver a crushing blow to the rural economy at a time when it has already been struggling during the pandemic.

“A recent Scottish Government commissioned review highlighted how important grouse shooting is for employment, reporting that around six gamekeeper jobs are maintained for the same area of land that would need one shepherd if used for farming.   This also doesn’t take account of the part-time employment on shoot days and the hotels, shops, restaurants, garages and other businesses across Scotland which rely on country sports tourism for their own sustainability.

“Country sports is an open air pursuit where social distancing is easily practiced and a Covid-19 framework is adhered to. A range of other activities in the events and tourism sector are also unaffected by changes to maximum gatherings.

“Rather than health concerns being the foremost priority for all, it is sadly clear that some are using the pandemic as a means to attack an activity which they wish to ban anyway.

“People from all walks of life go angling, stalking and shooting in rural Scotland and to enforce a shutdown would unnecessarily cost thousands of jobs at a time when we need to maintain every form of employment we can. Country sports are worth around £200m per annum to rural areas, far more than many other celebrated sporting and cultural events.

“Everyone fully understands the difficulties that the pandemic is creating, especially when it impacts on visiting our family and loved ones. However, it is deeply troubling that anyone would use unfounded health concerns to pursue their dislike of country sports and place livelihoods at risk as a result. That is the reality of what activists are calling for.”

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