Grouse season may not be so glorious

THE summer’s miserable weather is threatening this year’s grouse shooting season – which will kick off next week, traditionally, on the Glorious Twelfth.

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

The relentless cold and wet weather endured in the Highlands over the last few months has resulted in poor breeding and high chick mortality.

A large number of moors have taken the decision to curtail or cancel their grouse shooting programmes, resulting in a huge loss of revenue, according to Robert Rattray, partner at CKD Galbraith and head of the firm’s Sporting Lets department.

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But he added: “It is certainly not doom and gloom everywhere. For other moors, relatively unaffected by the vagaries of the weather, it is business as usual.

“These moors can even take advantage of the situation if stocks allow, and book in additional parties displaced elsewhere.”

Speaking at the Moy Game Fair, Mr Rattray said: “Grouse shooting is a fragile industry at the mercy of nature and commands a serious level of investment both financially and in terms of commitment from moorland owners.

“If the grouse shooting has to be cancelled, owners must hold their nerve and continue to invest despite the lack of income coming in from the shooting.

“The long term viability of the industry is totally dependent on this long term view of grouse management. Spending must continue despite the uncertainty of any rent coming back in.

“In complete contrast to this year, 2014 was one of the best seasons in living memory, producing record bags on many moors right across Scotland’s grouse moors.”

He added: “Unfortunately the scenario we find ourselves with this year is by no means uncommon, and demonstrates graphically the fickle nature of grouse shooting which can experience extreme highs and lows over very short time periods.

“Despite best efforts and huge investment, ultimately the weather is the master, and moor owners understand this uncertainty.

Mr Rattray said that excitement was running high for many countrysports enthusiasts gearing up for this year’s grouse shooting season.

But, with the spotlight usually focused on those enjoying the sport, Mr Rattray claimed it was easy to overlook the thousands employed as an integral part of the whole process of managing the grouse shooting industry.

He said it was imperative to understand the importance of the grouse industry to rural Scotland.

It operates 365 days of the year, and is often the only lifeline for small communities in fragile rural areas, creating employment and business opportunities across a broad spectrum within the community from hotels, holiday houses, shops, schools, petrol stations as well as direct employment, both full and part time on the estates themselves.

An area of around 2.5 million acres is used for grouse shooting in Scotland - one seventh of the country’s land mass - and it is a multi-million pound income generating industry supporting 2,640 full time jobs and providing £30.1 million in wages.

The economic contribution of all types of shooting and stalking in Scotland is estimated at £200 million per year, with grouse shooting directly contributing approximately £40 million-plus in a good grouse year.

Although the official grouse season lasts from mid-August to early December, in reality shooting may only take place on a limited number of days for the first four to six weeks of the season.

The keepers of the moors have been preparing for the start of this season day in day out for the last 12 months.

Mr Rattray added: “The new Land Reform Bill, proposing an end to the exemption on rates for sporting land, would provide another unwelcome cost for many estate owners.

“Business rates have not been applied to sporting estates for over 20 years, and particularly in a year such as this, focuses the mind on the huge burden placed on estate owners managing Scotland’s moorland areas.”

He said conservation management was another important aspect of the industry, claiming the management of grouse shooting directly benefits 57 bird species including lapwing, hen harrier, and black grouse, all of which are protected species.

CKD Galbraith is an independent property consultancy managing in excess of one million acres of land across the country.