Grouse shooting could be negatively affecting Scotland’s tourist industry

Following the publication last week of a number of reports on the socio-economic and biodiversity impacts of driven grouse shooting in Scotland (see here), a number of news articles are now appearing.

The National published the following article yesterday:

GROUSE shooting in Scotland could be negatively affecting Scotland’s tourist industry, according to a new report.

Populations of mountain hare may also be at risk as a result of the controversial culls by gaming estates, with “potential cascading effects” on predators.

The report – which was drawn up by the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College, and commissioned by the Scottish Government– estimates that 2500 equivalent full-time jobs are supported by grouse moors, but emphasises that existing data on their benefits is inadequate.

The authors say the figures on grouse moors’ socio-economic impact “come from a very narrow base of industry-sponsored studies that have self-reporting biases and do not consider counterfactual scenarios”.

The authors go on to point out that the research base has a lack of “robust” evidence on which to base policy decisions.

However, they say the existing evidence highlights that driven grouse moor management and grouse shooting are part of a myriad of wider sporting activities.

The report explains the negative aspects of driven grouse moors – such as raptor persecution, the impact of heather burning on soils and certain birds, and perceived negative landscape – which may be affecting the areas they are based in.

The authors continue: “Negative impacts (perceived or actual) may limit visitor spending within an area from the estimated half million domestic visits, 2.7m accommodation nights and £187m spend on visits that included watching wildlife/bird watching in 2015.”

In examining the impact of muirburn and legal culls, the report identifies “major knowledge gaps” and calls for further research and data collection on both the environmental impacts and the socio-economic impacts of grouse shooting.

With regard to mountain hares the reports states: “Evidence suggests that hare populations in Scotland show limited dispersal capacity and may therefore be prone to local extinction, though hare spatial ecology is not well understood. Changes in mountain hare numbers could have potential cascading effects on predators, although the effects are not well researched.”

Responding to the report, Alex Hogg, chair of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, agreed there were “clearly some knowledge gaps” but welcomed the work done so far.

“The jobs created by grouse shooting, like gamekeepers’ roles, are important because they keep people in some of the most fragile and remote parts of Scotland where opportunities can be very hard to come by,” he said.


Of course, the grouse shooting industry has a different interpretation of the reports’ findings, leading to other headlines yesterday such as these:

Naturally, the grouse shooting industry fails to mention that these findings are based on previously published reports, commissioned by the grouse shooting industry itself, and therefore suffering from inherent bias, as noted in the more recent reports from the James Hutton Institute and the SRUC.

This media circus will continue, no doubt, until the publication of Professor Werritty’s grouse moor management review later this year, and perhaps more importantly, when we find out how the Scottish Government plans to respond to Prof Werritty’s recommendations for grouse moor reform.

15 thoughts on “Grouse shooting could be negatively affecting Scotland’s tourist industry”

  1. One thing that needs to happen is tackling the perceived status issue when it comes to tourism jobs. They are seen as low status, and with very little room for personal initiative, just standing there and taking abuse with yessir nosir responses. We all use the service economy as the punchline of a joke, in fact, and that means that selling tourism jobs is a hard sell. Whereas, while still very much part of the service economy (and bowing and scraping to their lairdships), the gamekeeper and bailiff jobs as seen as high status and allowing a high degree of personal initiative in their working days. Until we can change that, and I think we should change that very much so, selling tourism jobs is going to be hard. Especially with their seasonal nature and our abusive and deliberately humiliating unemployment system for the off season.

    I don’t have any answers on that, but until we can give tourism and service sector jobs better conditions and social status, just saying tourism jobs is not really going to work to win enough people over.

    1. Your very one sided an bigoted view of tourism jobs won’t help either. Happily, I think you are in a very small minority. And yes, I do know the service industry, from both sides.

      1. Unjerk that knee, pal, because I know the service industry too. I’ve been at the coalface of seasonal and retail work, I’ve dealt with customers face-to-face for a very long time. I’m not saying what the public perception should or should not be, I’m telling you what it is. Yes, it should be better, and in an ideal world it would be, but in the current world the employees doing those jobs are still seen by the rest of the public as low-paid and low-skilled. Denying that, for the sake of a feel good factor, will not help the cause. That has to be taken into account when setting strategy regarding promoting wildlife tourism. I want it to be seen as better; and I’m not talking just about the few owner-operator places, but the coalface employees.

  2. Grouse moors are heavily subsidised to keep a few in work and at the same time destroy the fragile ecosystems. If a similar set of subsidises were put into supporting the ecosystem you would get a lot more jobs created across a wider spectrum of people, and not a narrow band of the shooting industry.

  3. Do what I do when visiting Scotland. Drive straight through it and get the ferry to Orkney!
    Beautiful place with lots of raptors and no grouse shooting.
    I refuse to spend my tourist pounds anywhere that has a bad reputation for wildlife crime.

    1. I do exactly the same and head straight for Mull and do this five or six times a year.
      I have not spent any tourist money in grouse shooting areas in England or Scotland for over 30 years.

  4. As more people realise how widespread it is, it will have a greater negative impact. I for one will avoid all those areas. I live in a valley where there’s pheasant shooting and it has a negative impact on the community and most are against it, though its proponents try to argue otherwise. I was surprised after moving here that there’s so much shooting. Previously, I’ve lived near a moorland in Wales which was an abandoned grouse shoot. It was a lovely place full of wildlife. It was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is maybe what one-fifth of Scotland’s land could become, havens for a dying biodiversity, much needed in this age. I’d be happy to pay a tax for that.

  5. I’ve avoided areas used for grouse shooting since being up on the moors in Durham – pretty much landscapes of death. I no longer visit the moors themselves or the town in them. All because of grouse shooting. True story.

  6. Good to see holes getting punched in the argument grouse moors are good for jobs. As I’ve mentioned before years back I spent some time in Yorkshire and in retrospect it’s remarkable how it was a few special places like Haworth, Brimham rocks and Fountains Abbey that drew in us and other visitors. The grouse moors were just places you passed through on to the few nice bits, added absolutely nothing to your experience of the county. If rural communities are dependent on grouse shooting it’s a dependency caused by that ‘sport’ driving everything else away. This issue is moving into public scrutiny, such a change on even two years ago. Great stuff.

    1. I was once a regular visitor to the Dales, and had a desire to retire there. What changed my mind was the way the landowners started to fence off great tracks of moorland. Some of the arguements for why were mad; livestock management, public safety, sink holes, the list goes on. For hundreds of years it has been a place of beauty that is becoming devoid of any wildlife, but grouse over the last decade. Your chance of seeing any prey species of any type is remote, and if you do then some keeper has not done his job!!!

  7. The only tourists the grouse shooting industry is interested in attracting onto “their” land are the ones dressed in Harris tweed, with matching flat hats and wearing comic baggy trousers. And carrying shot guns of course.

  8. We now avoid grouse shooting areas when taking a break in Scotland, landscape bleak , little chance of seeing wildlife , except in a trap or stinkpit, even the signs warning you not to interfere with traps are depressing.

  9. What nobody noticed was the photograph in the Metro newspaper didn’t depict a grouse, it looked more like an endangered moor-hen, I myself have shot grouse, with a .22 calibre air-rifle (spring) which says volumes for the guy’s shooting skills doing with a .12 bore loaded with skeet cartridges.

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