By Gavin Pennie

TOURIST bosses promoting Scottish country sports such as grouse shooting and deer stalking are targeting overseas hunters in an attempt to pump an extra a £30 million into the economy within the next four years.

A marketing drive to promote centuries-old outdoor pursuits will see advertising campaigns extended to North America, Scandinavia, France and Germany.

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Hunting enthusiasts in the Far East will also be targeted by the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) in a move expected to take tourism spending from £155m to £185m come 2020.

It is believed social media campaigns will be waged to attract more people to traditional activities such as shooting and fishing.

Andrew Grainger, SCSTG project co-ordinator, said European countries are “critical” markets to expand country sports.

He said: “We plan to commission a couple of short films and use these via social media channels to highlight the unique aspects of country sports in Scotland.

“We will look at doing some marketing in North America, perhaps in 2018/19, once the economic conditions there are more stable, and would also like to engage with markets in the Far East.”

Visitors from across the UK, Europe and further afield have been attracted to Scotland to take advantage of field sports like shooting, stalking and fishing.

Sarah Troughton, chairwoman of SCSTG, said the opportunities available north of the Border are “truly unrivalled”.

“Country sports in Scotland are world class and have international appeal thanks to the unique and evocative combination of sport, scenery and hospitality,” she said.

“Country sports are also highly accessible for a wide range of people and pockets who can participate in a day’s fishing or shooting.

“There is currently a really strong attraction for European visitors and this is expected to contribute to an increase in the value of country sports tourism in Scotland.

“The SCSTG has recently launched new initiatives, including an updated website with improved accessibility, which we believe will help expose country sports to an even wider audience in future.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has praised Scotland’s estates for generating tourism and employment.

Speaking at the Highland Field Sports Fair, he said: “Field sports are a huge draw, with both domestic and foreign audiences enjoying the wealth of world-class opportunities available in Scotland.

And forecasts suggest this area is set to continue to grow over the coming years, which will bring further gains to rural communities.”

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Among the Scottish estates proving popular with visitors is Culachy Estate, which draws people to Fort Augustus from the likes of as far afield as Germany, Sweden, Austria and Holland.

The value of tourism at Culachy has allowed the creation of a new cottage for student gamekeepers.

Last week, some moorland estates signalled that the grouse shooting season may be delayed in some parts of Scotland due to the unusually cold spring weather.

It was thought the chilly spring, which saw snowfalls at the end of April, may have meant the first chicks born this year did not survive. As a result some birds had a second brood later on and their offspring are still quite young.

The Glorious Twelfth - the first day of the grouse shooting season - has become a flashpoint for tensions between the game industry and conservationists, with the red grouse culled in large numbers until the end of the season in December.

Tim Baynes, of The Gift of Grouse campaign, said: “The Glorious Twelfth is the culmination of a year-round effort from gamekeepers and land-managers to maintain a vibrant moorland where shoot days can be enjoyed by a wide range of people, employment is sustained, habitat is cherished and where wildlife can flourish.”

However, campaigners against animal cruelty insist opposition to grouse shooting had “rocketed”.

Fiona Pereira, Animal Aid’s anti-shooting campaign manager, said: “It is important people realise that grouse shooting isn’t just a quirky tradition. It is, in fact, a hard-nosed business aimed at impressing the rich and well-connected.

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“The heather-rich moors that are extolled as being wild and natural are nothing of the sort – they are amongst the most manipulated landscape, the sole purpose of which is to encourage grouse to breed, just so they can be blasted from the sky come August 12.”