Tuesday 10 August 2021


Scotland must harness the untapped skills existing within its game management sector if it is to achieve its NetZero ambitions.

That is the opinion of Alex Hogg MBE, Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), as the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow looms.

SGA members, numbering 5300 in Scotland, have managed a million deer in a decade; helping to protect habitats, forests and food crops.

This habitat protection, free of subsidy, represents more deer management than any other single entity in Scotland and will be increasingly necessary if the country is to meet tree planting targets, according to Mr Hogg.

Gamekeepers have been improving upland flood solutions and peat condition in recent years by voluntarily blocking moorland drains which were installed last century to boost agricultural production.

In 2019 SGA members also assisted Scottish Fire and Rescue Service at megafires in Moray and the Flow Country, which doubled Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Discussions are ongoing with fire officials regarding asset sharing which will further formalise the deployment of gamekeepers’ manpower, skills and equipment during wildfire emergencies.

The SGA Chairman warned politicians that ignoring this free resource on the road to NetZero would be a national mistake.

“Anyone who thinks country sports employees are at the opposite end from climate solutions are ignoring an amazing delivery mechanism,” he said.

The direct employment of 4400 people is more than a third larger than the Govt’s own nature advisory service, NatureScot, plus the entire employment roll of the wealthiest Scottish conservation NGOs put together. 

“Contained within that workforce are practical skill sets and knowledge which Scottish Govt would struggle to source anywhere else in Europe.

“Scotland currently benefits from this resource, funded not by constrained public finances, but by visitors who enjoy these activities which, in turn, pays for a range of climate actions over extended habitats, from wetlands, woodlands and mountains to riverbanks.

“I urge MSPs from all parties to think hard about that talent pool and to engage with this asset, in the days ahead of COP26- and beyond, to help deliver the NetZero ambition.

It would be a national error to overlook centuries of boots-on-the-ground knowledge and know-how embedded within our own people.”

The SGA Chairman was speaking as the rural body launches its

Year of Employment https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/year-of-employment/

The programme will highlight the role rural workers will play in post-Covid economic recovery and the route-map towards emissions reductions.

Fishing and shooting, increasingly technological, sustain more direct Scottish jobs (4400) than the biggest conservation charities (2204), salmon farming (2300), computer games (1285) and the film industry (3635).

Unlike the conservation sector, which requires extensive grant hand-outs to undertake climate work, country sports employees carry out beneficial management free from any direct government support.

The invaluable role of local knowledge in addressing the Nature emergency was this year extolled by Cambridge academic and economist Professor Partha Dasgupta in his Treasury Commissioned ‘Economics of Biodiversity’ paper.

“As a worker, the emphasis in recent years has always been on more and harder regulation of our sector,” said Perthshire gamekeeper, Ben Stevens.

“That has been tough and employee morale has suffered.

“But with some recognition for the work that goes on in conservation and what more could be achieved for the climate, I think ordinary Scots would be amazed at what could be done, free of charge, if the politicians started to engage better with our sector.”


For more Sector Employment comparisons and how rural workers can assist NetZero, see our Year of Employment page on  https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/year-of-employment/

*For the purpose of Employment statistics, direct employment (ie: people directly employed in Scottish game management and fishery operations) has been used as the measure of comparison.

This discounts supply chain and associated employment or FTE: full-time equivalents, which when included amount to 13 100 full time jobs in Scotland’s country sports sector.

Sources: Employment figures

Game shooting and fishing - 4400 direct full time jobs: Source: PACEC: The Benefits and Volume and Value of Country Sports Tourism in Scotland Final Report 2015

Nature Bodies and main Environment NGOs:

NatureScot, Scotland’s Nature agency- 613 jobs: Source: Funding application for the Orkney Native Wildlife Project.

RSPB Scotland 318 jobs: Source: Funding application for the Orkney Native Wildlife Project.

Scottish Wildlife Trust-100 jobs: Source: https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/our-staff/#:~:text=The%20Trust%20has%20around%20100,day%20running%20of%20the%20Trust

John Muir Trust54 jobs: Source: Annual company accounts.

National Trust for Scotland: 1217 jobs (517 employees and 700 seasonal): Sources: LinkedIn and official website.

Trees for Life:  24 jobs: Source: official website

Woodland Trust Scotland: 491 jobs: Source: Company Accounts.

Total jobs between NatureScot and the principal Scottish environment NGOs = 2817 jobs.

Principal environment NGOs alone = 2204 jobs

Other sectors: 

Salmon farming: 2300 jobs: Source: https://www.scottishsalmon.co.uk/facts/business/salmon-sector-supports-thousand-of-scottish-families

Film Industry: 3635 jobs: Source: The Scottish Parliament Information Centre SPICe

Computer Games: 1285 jobs: Source: https://www.gov.scot/news/brexit-impact-on-computer-games-industry/

* Did you know, 

Shooting and fishing employ more people directly in Scotland than:

  • the music industry
  • winter sports 
  • The Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • The BBC
  • Global tech giant Amazon

For details, see: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/year-of-employment/