Country sports tourism businesses have been hard hit by the pandemic and the fund will bring welcome financial assistance

Details of a £1m Scottish Country Sports Tourism Restart Fund have just been announced with affected businesses being able to apply from next week.

The fund, which was jointly developed by the Scottish Government, Visit Scotland, British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) will aim to assist hard hit businesses in the country sports tourism sector.

Businesses eligible include sporting agencies, land-based sporting businesses, sporting guides and fishing charter operators.

Shooting UK spoke to Charlie Brownlow, who specialises in running shooting, fishing and stalking trips to Scotland who said: “It is a great relief that this fund has been made available to businesses like mine and all credit to BASC, SCSTG, Visit Scotland and the Scottish Government for putting this together to support rural business. It has been frustrating that my business has not qualified for government support in the past year, however it has only become an urgent situation in the last two to three months as our relatively small overheads have used up any reserves. We have had the dawning realisation that many of our guests from abroad will not be returning in 2021 and we will have another 12 months of disrupted business.”

BASC and SCSTG have put strong pressure on the Scottish Government to support this sector, which drives tourism to Scotland worth millions annually. A spokesperson for VisitScotland said: “Country sports is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy and is considered to be a distinct sector that is extremely valuable to local and rural communities.

“It is estimated that the value of country sports tourism to the Scottish economy is £200m per year, with 8,800 full-time equivalent jobs being supported by the sector.”

Eligibility

To ensure support reaches those in the greatest need, applicants are required to prove that 75% of their annual turnover originates from country sports tourism activity – a requirement that will likely exclude estates which tend to have numerous income streams. Estates are expected to be made eligible for local authority administered funds in due course.

BASC Scotland’s public affairs manager, Ross Ewing, said: “ Businesses have endured significant hardships and little support since the pandemic began …The fund will play a crucial role in helping businesses to safeguard jobs and protect investment in rural areas.”

SCSTG chairman, Rory Kennedy, who is also a member of BASC’s Scottish Committee, said: “This fund is a vital lifeline for Scotland’s country sports tourism sector.

“After a painful year, the fund will give the hardest hit businesses the means to survive. Various other rural sectors rely heavily on country sports tourism, so it is vital that its significant contribution is protected as far as possible.

“The Scottish Government’s decision to rectify the lack of sector support is very welcome indeed, and we would like to thank VisitScotland for their speed in bringing this fund to fruition.”