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Ministers under fire over grouse shooting proposals

Nearly 400 businesses have joined together to urge the Scottish Government to rethink “disastrous” plans to licence grouse shooting, reports Felix Petit

Upland estates, farmers, tradespeople and hotels are among those who have written to the Scottish Minister for Energy and Environment, Gillian Martin, calling for changes to the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill.

The Scottish Government wants to implement far-reaching changes that would massively affect grouse moor management. The bill, it is claimed, seeks to enforce the many recommendations of the Werritty review of December 2019, which suggested changes to grouse moor management. However, the proposed Muirburn Bill goes far further and on a far shorter timescale than the research overseen by Professor Alan Werritty advised.

In the letter, businesses raise concerns over the proposed licence duration of only one year, which they said would provide a crippling lack of long-term business certainty and would also create an “administrative burden” for estates and NatureScot.

Ross Ewing, director of moorland at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “If the proposed licensing scheme is introduced without amendments, then it would be disastrous – not only for moorland estates but also for the broad range of businesses and communities that rely on them across rural Scotland.

“Scottish Government commissioned research has shown that, compared to other upland land uses, grouse shooting provides the greatest number of jobs per hectare, the highest levels of local and regional spending, and the greatest levels of investment per hectare without public subsidy.

“The Scottish Government will jeopardise this if it does not bring forward amendments that will provide certainty to businesses and legal safeguards for licence holders.”

The businesses also express concerns over the broad discretionary power of the Government’s nature body NatureScot to decide whether it is “appropriate” to grant a licence and the power it would have to suspend licences. These changes would make NatureScot the sole arbiter of grouse moor licensing with little oversight or opportunity for appeal.

In an open letter, Amanda Anderson, director of The Moorland Association, expressed her concern for this bill, highlighting research at York University that suggests controlled burning is essential to moorland biodiversity. Ms Anderson also spoke of the “imperative need to mitigate risk posed by wildfires which cause massive devastation and vast carbon emissions.”