Monday 9 December 2019


At the official Revive launch in Edinburgh, RSPB Vice President Chris Packham said his aim was to ban grouse shooting. Ruth Tingay grudgingly said she would take licensing as a' first step' towards the ultimate goal of a ban.
Responding to Revive's latest anti-grouse moor lobbying report, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: 

“Revive use neutral words like ‘reform’ but their real aim is to ban grouse shooting in Scotland, empty the glens and put gamekeepers and families on the dole.
“Their wish-lists were effectively discredited in Scottish Government’s own commissioned report into grouse moor economics and alternative uses of moorland.
“We know what happens when grouse moors are abandoned. The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project report, published in October, highlighted net biodiversity gains when gamekeepers were employed. When grouse gamekeepers were lost on that moor, European protected open habitats degraded and red-listed and iconic birds crashed. Now Scotland, again, has a failing SPA for Hen Harriers, a silent moor with few jobs, little wildlife and millions of tax payer’s money blown that could have supported teacher posts in rural communities.
“South West Scotland has haemorrhaged rare wildlife since grouse moor management ended. If that is what people want, they don’t need a glossy report, they have 2 painful examples in real time.

“If Revive have the answers, why not invest the anti grouse shooting lobbying cash and go and live and work on land only suitable for rough grazing, to see if they can create and sustain 2500 jobs and associated environmental benefits in those communities.”

What the Scottish Government-commissioned report, Socio-economic and biodiversity impacts of driven grouse moors in Scotland by SRUC (2019) said about Revive’s uplands plan:

As this review process finalised the Revive campaign group published “Back to life: Visions for Alternative Futures for Scotland’s Grouse Moors” (Common Weal and Lateral North, 2018). This is a useful addition to the debate, although there is a lack of consideration over the practicalities of some of the alternatives suggested in the discourse (e.g. landscape, species and habitat protection; inadequate infrastructure; land-use planning regulations; biophysical challenges) or the reliance on public expenditure to provide positive returns.”

What the report also said about the alternatives for grouse moors: 

“Indeed GFA-RACE and Macaulay (2003) suggested that “the financial viability of afforestation of moorland and moorland fringe areas, even with existing public financial support, is doubtful. The pressure of greater environmental constraints has increased this position, and therefore this option has not been revisited in any depth. Whilst the economics of forestry and woodlands have improved significantly since 2003 the hard fact remains that there is limited scope to plant grouse moors due to regulations and poor quality of land. There are limited published details of the costs and returns of planting moorland areas.”

What the report said about 'rewilding': 

“There is limited evidence on the socio economic impacts of alternative land uses on moorland areas, particularly of the emerging rewilding and conservation approaches being taken on some private estates.”

What the report said about other land use alternatives for moors and the need for public subsidy to achieve them:

“Some alternatives (eg. farming, forestry and renewables) are heavily reliant on public payments to justify the activity economically, with others (eg: rewilding, conservation) more reliant on the benevolence of owners or members. It is challenging to make comparisons between land uses as there are regulatory limitations (eg; for windfarms, forestry and woodland management) and biophysical constraints (eg. to farming, forestry and woodland management, wind energy, housing) on some alternatives, meaning they are only viable or permitted across some of the current grouse moor area.”

Rewilding is currently practiced and funded by large scale landownership, with high estate sell-on values, how does this reconcile with Revive's land reform agenda? 

Economics: The context: Revive say grouse moors represent 0.04 % of the economy. All agricultural land in Scotland (80 percent of the nation's land mass, according to NFUS) represents 1.4% of the economy. 

Given the majority of grouse spend stays in Scotland, (as illustrated in the Scottish Government-commissioned report) circulating around sparsely populated communities with limited other opportunities, grouse moors deliver a disproportionately high impact in these fragile and remote areas. Each estate generates on average £515 000 worth of local trade contracts each and the sector sustains 2500 FTE jobs on some of the poorest land in Europe. There is no public subsidy for grouse shooting.

Other alternatives are heavily reliant on public funding. Environmental charities, whose work is conservation, are presently lobbying for more cash. 

Land area: The SGA considers Revive's estimate of 13 percent of land area for grouse shooting to be over-exaggerated and do not take into account recent lost moors. The SGA has calculated present day land area for grouse shooting as between 7 and 10 percent of upland land. Many estates will also use this land for other purposes such as stalking, fishing, accommodation, livestock, tourism, energy or forestry as part of integrated land usage.