Extreme weather has been blamed for a poor start to the Scottish grouse season, with local businesses likely to suffer as a result
Stocks of grouse are so low that several estates have had to postpone or even cancel shooting. A long, hard winter followed by weeks of hot sunshine and little rain has had a critical effect on bird breeding rates. Areas particularly badly affected include Perthshire, the Highlands and the Borders.
Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “The cause is a combination of the Beast from the East causing late snow and cold, which meant that the heather was in a poor condition, followed by an extremely hot summer that has stressed a lot of birds and animals and caused a shortage of water.
“A lot of estates are cancelling shoots entirely. Many will think that, rather than push it, they will leave the birds alone this year, which is a blow to their finances, but they want to make sure that they don’t start shooting breeding stock by mistake.”
Andrew Bruce Wootton, manager of the 145,000-acre Atholl Estates, said: “The late snow has meant we’re not in good shape for the start of the season. Numbers are disappointing but we are not cancelling fully.”
Locals are concerned about the knock-on effect on tourism and employment. A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The poor breeding season looks certain to curtail some activity and that means less tourism spin-off.
“Grouse shooting in Scotland injects £32million into the economy annually. Every year the estates invest £23million, before a shot is even fired, to keep the season running smoothly, with the money spent on contractors, traders, garages and general goods and services. With this year’s cancellations there is going to be a shortfall of millions, which will of course impact on the Government’s tax revenues.”
John Sugden, who runs outfitter Campbell’s of Beauly, warned: “The financial impact that the poor grouse season will have on remote and rural local towns and villages is significant. Hotel bookings will be down, which has an effect on retail stores and other businesses. It will take some time to get grouse stocks back and the poor season means that our tweed orders will likely be significantly down next year as a result.”
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