Grouse moors and gamekeepers

Moorland management in Scotland has come under the spotlight in a series of reports assessing socioeconomic and biodiversity impacts of driven grouse moors and the employment rights of gamekeepers.

The research, led by SRUC, was commissioned by the Scottish Government to address questions about the impacts of grouse shooting – including concerns about large-scale culls of mountain hares, the burning of heath or stubble (muirburn) and the persecution of raptors.

Researchers from SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes) at SRUC and the James Hutton Institute looked at the financial and employment impacts from a range of different moorland management activities; the employment rights and attitudes of gamekeepers; the extent and intensity of moorland management; and biodiversity impacts from grouse moor management.

Divided into four reports, the research – which addresses gaps identified by work carried out in Phase 1 research conducted on driven grouse moors – has highlighted the complexities involved in assessing the impacts of grouse moor management, with grouse shooting often embedded in, or underpinned by, wider estate activities, some of which occur on the same moorland that grouse shooting takes place. 

Project lead Steven Thomson, Agricultural Economist at SRUC and SEFARI Gateway Sector Lead for Communities,  said: ”This significant body of evidence provides some new insights into the socio-economic impacts of different models of moorland management, including driven grouse, and helps us better identify the area of moorland used for driven grouse, levels of management intensity and also how management may impact on some less studied flora and fauna related to moorlands. 

“The research has also provided a unique insight into the gamekeeping profession including their terms and conditions of employment.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am grateful to Scotland’s Rural College and the James Hutton Institute for undertaking this extensive research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity. The Scottish Government commissioned this research to help build the evidence base to support the development of policy on driven grouse moor management.

“I shall give careful consideration to the findings of these reports, alongside other relevant material and expect to provide our response to the recommendations of the report from the Grouse Moor Management Group chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, later in the autumn.”

The first report, Socio-economic impacts of moorland activities in Scotland, found that while grouse shooting can generate signficant economic impacts for local communities, it is rarely profitable and often exists alongside other sporting activities such as deer stalking.

It also found that alternative moorland uses – such as native woodland creation and conservation land management– can generate comparable, and in some cases more consistent, spending and revenue impacts, but is likely to lead to some job losses and decreased levels of private owner investment.

The second report, Gamekeeper Employment Rights, looked at the responses of 152 gamekeepers to an online survey, which offer a unique insight into Scotland’s gamekeeping profession.

Many gamekeepers regard their job as a vocation rather than a career, and nearly a fifth of them have a partner or spouse employed at the same estate or business.

However, many of the respondents complain about their profession being maligned by those using the countryside for recreation, and feel the Government and other agencies don’t do enough to engage with the industry to develop practical solutions to problems.

In the third report,  GIS Mapping of Grousemoor, researchers used geographical information system (GIS) and remote sensing methods to identify areas of driven grouse moors, including an assessment of the density of grouse butts and the strip burning of heather. They found there was a large difference in the manner and intensity of management between grouse moors.

The final report, Biodiversity Impacts, examined the biodiversity impacts of driven grouse moors using distribution data for selected moorland biodiversity indicator species – including blaeberry, curlew, green hairstreak butterfly and adder.

However, the researchers were unable to identify clear patterns in the occurrence of these ten species in relation to muirburn in areas of Scotland where grouse moor management is an important land use.

To read the reports, visit:

Posted by SRUC on 04/11/2020

Tags: Animals, Gamekeepers, Research
Categories: Animal Welfare