That is the view of Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) President Alex Hogg, MBE, who is hoping to find some relief for rural businesses shouldering soaring petrol and energy costs.
Shooting season begins in Scotland today, August 12th, and after consecutive years of bad breeding in the moors, there has been a spike in some areas this year.
Large surpluses of birds to be harvested are not expected, but gamekeepers do expect visitors to return to the heather heights again, bringing a much-needed cash injection into the rural economy.
The revenue boost will be important against the backdrop of a looming recession, but it also comes at a time when avian flu appears poised to cap the pheasant and partridge seasons in 2022.
A number of shoots in the UK have been affected due to supply issues caused by an outbreak of Avian Flu in the Loire region of France where many young birds are being obtained for ground low shoots, which will start later, in September and October.
In a stable year, shooting grouse brings in more than £30m to remote communities in a short window, helping a host of occasional small businesses in the quiet time after the summer holidays.
A recent study by the Scottish Government indicates just how important income and household wages are in these remote areas,” said Mr Hogg.
“We’re not looking for consistently good protest numbers nationally. Red grouse are quite wild. There are a lot of things that can affect breeding success, but while grouse buds continue to invest and don’t get any income, we should be grateful. for next season.
“The return of spending visitors is also important to local businesses. Their operating costs are going up all the time, along with inflation.
The cost of living crisis affects everyone in the countryside. We will need to unlock all areas of the economy, if we are to return to some form of stability.”
Grouse shooting is part of the gaming sector which brings in nearly £300m a year to the Scottish economy.
Shooting and hunting maintain more full-time direct jobs (4,400) than all large conservation charities in Scotland combined (2,204).
It also supports more direct full-time jobs from the onshore and offshore energy (3300), BBC Scotland (1250), film (3635) and computer games (1285) industries.
However, avian influenza is set to limit pheasant and partridge seasons, with potential impacts on some rural jobs.
“I know some part-time gamekeepers around me, in the Scottish Borders, who wouldn’t be able to host shots all this year because they were relying on a bolt being imported from overseas.
“Some are turning their hands to other things and hoping to get the birds for the 2023 season, but this is concerning and we hope we can sit down with shooting carcasses, game farmers, vets and concerned UK governments to look at future contingencies,” the Gamekeepers’ chair confirmed.
While Mr Hogg acknowledges that some people are against shooting, he believes gamekeepers, river and land managers and deer managers are helping to meet Scottish governments’ environmental and biodiversity aspirations.
“In addition to the work that pays the bills, our members help restore peatlands, manage non-native invasive species, humanely control deer populations, plant and manage forests and create wetlands.
“These activities, and many others, help the Scottish Government reach its goals and this skill and resource of local knowledge is an irreplaceable asset in Scotland.”
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