Jim Goodlad, gamekeeping and wildlife management lecturer at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Elmwood. 

Moorland, peatland, and rough grass types make up over 50% of upland Scotland. This supports upland Scotland in many ways – conservation benefits, the economic impact to local communities through employment, total expenditure, and holistic capital expenditure, everyone gets a bite at the cherry. Local communities benefit from seasonal employment with local businesses becoming sustainable during the winter months. Income generation from field-sports supports full-time employment, encouraging landowners to continue with their investment and support for local communities.

The recent report commissioned by the Scottish Government  into the socioeconomic and biodiversity impacts of driven grouse moors now acknowledges all of these benefits.  The management of habitats and ecosystems encourages, enhances, and benefits biodiversity. This is evident through the rise in wader numbers and diversity of plant life as a result of the management of an internationally important habitat.

The findings of the report showed that legal predator control, carried out as part of integrated grouse moor management to minimise predation of red grouse, has been shown to benefit other ground nesting birds and mountain hares. The effect of grouse moor management, based on the intensity of muirburn, on the distribution of selected upland species was also assessed. The report concluded that most species do well at low and intermediate levels of muirburn, although some such as curlew and whinchat also do well at the highest levels of muirburn.

Grouse moor management is an integral part of countryside management. The personnel that implement this have a superior knowledge and understanding of the wildlife and their habitats. The modern-day gamekeeper is very much conservation-minded, a custodian of the countryside, so to speak. A prime example of this would be the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project – success and demise in the same glass. The Scottish upland habitats need to be managed. Taking a yield from nature where applicable is healthy and helps to create good welfare for grouse and other related species.

Access and egress to upland Scotland has also created and promoted maintenance of hill roads, stiles, bridges, and bothies. This has encouraged integrated use of the countryside, increasing the number of visitors to rural areas. The influx of tourists ensures the survival and future sustainability of local businesses namely hotels, and shops. All year-round tourism assists in regulating the depopulation of communities, thus preserving the upland way of life.

Without the grouse sector it would be a very different picture indeed in so many rural communities throughout our country. It is imperative we safeguard it for generations to come.

To find out more about studying at SRUC, go to www.sruc.ac.uk/study

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