‘Scaremongering’: Grouse moor reform campaigners hit back at ‘killing livelihoods’ claim

Ben Wray

Report by Andy Wightman MSP and Dr Ruth Tingay found analysis of grouse-shooting estates employment and wages “equates to an average salary of “£11,401 which is below the level of the national minimum wage”

CAMPAIGNERS for grouse moor reform have hit back at criticism ahead of the launch of their new coalition, Revive, after the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said they wanted to “kill livelihoods”.

The Revive coalition is seeking radical reform of the one-fifth of land taken up by grouse moors, where intensive land management practices including heather burning and mountain hare culls are used to keep the habitat suitable for the Red Grouse, which is then shot for entertainment value.

Campaigners have criticised the impact of grouse-shooting on animal welfare, ecological sustainability and increasing carbon emissions.

Revive, whose member organisations include the Common Weal think tank, OneKind, Friends of the Earth Scotland, League Against Cruel Sports and Raptor Persecution UK, is launching in Edinburgh tonight [6 October] and has published a report by Andy Wightman MSP and Dr Ruth Tingay making a detailed case for grouse moor reform.

But the Scottish Gamekeepers Association accused the coalition of being a “wrecking ball” which sought “to put thousands of Scotland’s rural workers and their families on the dole” and would “kill off livelihoods”.

Revive senior campaigner Max Wiszniewski responded by stating: “This is the typically hysterical kind of reaction we have come to expect from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association on anything which potentially threatens their so-called sport, and of course bears no resemblance to reality.

READ MORE: New campaign to reform grouse moors aims to change the face of Scotland

“The Revive Coalition has been years in the planning to get to the stage of launching publicly, so every argument has been thoroughly researched to create the foundations for a campaign which can be effective in significantly reforming Scotland’s vast grouse moors in a way which brings positive results for all.

“This is over the top scaremongering from the SGA and nothing more.”

The report by Wightman and Tingay questioned the wages paid in the grouse-shooting sector, stating: “In relation to employment, recent studies have shown that grouse-shooting contributes 2,640 full-time equivalent jobs and £30.1 million in wages (Scottish Land and Estates, 2013). This equates to an average salary of £11,401 which is below the level of the national minimum wage.”

Craig Dalzell, Common Weal head of policy & research, said the economic argument made against grouse moor reform did not stand up to scrutiny.

READ MORE: Analysis: Disastrous hare-culling shows big landowners are irresponsible custodians of Scotland

He told CommonSpace: “Whenever anyone proposes change or reform to an industry or economic sector, among the cry from detractors is to refer to the jobs sustained by the status quo.

“Wightman and Dr Tingay’s Revive report highlights that only around 2,600 jobs are created by grouse hunting despite the estates covering 20 per cent of Scotland’s land.

“The economic benefits of diversifying this land into more sustainable developments or in re-wilding the land should be obvious – there are far more tourists coming to Scotland to ramble than there are to hunt. The experience of many other places where hunting has been banned or phased out that the jobs in the sector adapt easily and become more valuable for it – hunters can become rangers. Stalkers can become guides.

“It is time for Scotland to end bloodsports and become a world leader in preserving nature rather than shooting it.”

READ MORE: ‘The Gift of Grouse’? Shooting estates revealed to be paying less than minimum wage

In 2016 CommonSpace reported on evidence to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change & Environment Committee from then land reform minister Aileen McLeod, who said that shooting estates was among the most consistently low waged industries in Scotland.

“The limited evidence available suggests that the average hourly wage within the shooting sector is between £5.70 to £7.30, rising to around £10 per hour for experienced gamekeepers,” she told the committee.

In 2015, Wightman commented on new ONS stats which showed that Angus, one of the many local authorities for grouse moors, had 33 per cent of jobs paying below the living wage.

A 2010 economic impact study of grouse moors by the Fraser of Allander Institute found that the respondents, who’s estates collectively owned 550k hectares of land, supported 705 jobs, just one job per 780 hectare of land.

A study published in September by the Forest Policy Group found that 6,255 people are employed in small-scale woodland enterprises, generating and spending £69.8 million in local rural economies.

Picture courtesy of peterichman

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