The future of grouse shooting in Scotland is on a knife-edge as traditional ‘Glorious 12th’ events mark the start of a new season.
Estates are still recovering from last year’s bird shortage, with warnings some are still unable to host shoots and others will have to wait until later in the season to begin.
The sport is coming under increasing scrutiny as a Scottish Government panel finalises its decision on licensing grouse shooting businesses.
Estate staff have highlighted a “campaign of intimidation” as public debate rages over the controversial pastime.
The sport’s main membership bodies have, for the first time in recent memory, released a joint statement ahead of the Glorious 12th defending the industry’s role in supporting the rural economy.
But the sport’s detractors have doubled-down on their opposition, claiming grouse shooting leads to the “extermination” of other species, such as birds of prey and mountain hares.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) and the Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) statement highlights the sport’s social, economic and environmental contribution.
A spokesman said: “The start of the grouse shooting season marks the culmination of a year-round effort in Scotland’s most remote hills and glens to manage land for a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits.”
He said the run up to this season “has been accompanied by frenetic activity from anti-grouse moor campaigners seeking to tarnish the vital role grouse moors play in supporting our rural communities.”
“The last 20 years has seen a significant culture change in grouse moor management, and our organisations remain determined to stamp out the remaining incidents of raptor persecution.
“This is a hugely important season but also one that we enter with significant optimism for the future,” he added.
Robert Rattray, partner with agent Galbraith, said estates were still recovering from last year, when a hard winter and hot summer affected bird numbers.
“Many grouse moor owners will not be shooting at all this year. Those lucky enough to have a surplus of grouse will likely only be shooting a small number of days, mostly with family members and a core of regular clients,” he added.
Mark Ruskell, Green MSP from Mid-Scotland, and Fife, called for a ban after this season.
He said: “The industry has had decades to turn the corner and address issues like illegal raptor persecution that have plagued Perthshire and Angus.
“Any other sector that damaged the environment in such a blatant way would have been regulated or banned by now,” he added.
The grouse shooting season runs for 16 weeks from August 12 to December 10. Events on the ‘Glorious 12th’ traditionally mark the start of the new season.