Today marks open season for shooting grouse, but the Scottish Greens this year's shooting season should be the last.

Upland businesses are set to reopen for the start of the “Glorious 12th”, which has reignited the debate over grouse shooting.

Branded a “cruel Victorian hobby” by the Scottish Greens, they have called out the Scottish Government for not responding to a two-year review of the sport by Professor Alan Werritty.

The Scottish Greens are also concerned about the environmental impact of grouse shooting season.

John Finnie, Scottish Greens rural economy spokesman, said: “Up to a fifth of Scotland is given up to this cruel hobby practised by a very small group of people.

“It is a hobby which tears up and burns our land, it kills all kinds of wildlife, yet the Werritty review couldn’t even recommend licensing.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Greens spokesman John Finnie calls it a "cruel hobby"Scottish Greens spokesman John Finnie calls it a "cruel hobby"

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“What’s worse, the Scottish Government has dragged its heels since. It hasn’t responded to the review, and it hasn’t prevented the mass killing of mountain hares despite Parliament and public calling for the species to be protected.

“Birds of prey, too, continue to disappear, like Tom the golden eagle who vanished this week.

“There’s nothing glorious about the 12th of August or about the intensive and damaging killing, burning, and degradation of our landscape that is associated with driven grouse shooting.

“Scotland’s land needs to be freed up for the economic and social benefit of all of its people and used in ways that contributes to a thriving rural economy and natural environment.

“It’s time for the Scottish Government to get off the fence, come into the 21st century and end this cruel practice.”

However, Tim Baynes, moorland director at Scottish Land & Estates, claims that there are a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits to be gained from grouse shooting in Scotland. 

He added: “In the midst of a global pandemic, which has buffeted the rural economy, it is astonishing that the Scottish Green Party call for measures that would decimate highly skilled rural jobs.

“The recent Werritty review highlighted how important grouse shooting is for employment, reporting that around six gamekeeper jobs are maintained for the same area of land that would need one shepherd if used for farming.

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“This also doesn’t take account of the hotels, shops, restaurants, garages and other businesses across Scotland which rely on downstream revenue from estate for their own sustainability.

“No more than 10% of Scotland’s land area has some component of grouse moor management – considerably less than the 20% claimed by activists – yet it is still renowned in both domestic and international markets.

“At a time of so much economic uncertainty, we would like to see parliamentarians demonstrate their support for the benefits that this land use undoubtedly provides.”

The Scottish grouse season runs for 16 weeks from August 12 to December 10, and is estimated to be worth £32 million.

This is part of the £350 million overall value of game and country sports to Scotland.

Sporting shooting also supports 11,000 full-time jobs in Scotland, of which 2,640 are in the grouse sector.

Conservationists have raised concerns about the illegal killing of birds of prey on moorlands managed for grouse in the past.

However, birds of prey can come into conflict with landowners and gamekeepers – with hen harriers particularly vulnerable because they prey on the chicks of red grouse that are quarry for shoots on upland estates.

A study released by government conservation agency Natural England in 2019, analysing satellite tagging data, found young hen harriers suffer abnormally high death rates, with illegal killing the most likely cause.

There are also concerns about burning heather to stimulate new growth that grouse like to feed on, in moorland which sits on peat – much of it historically drained for sheep grazing.

The Moorland Association says managing moorland with burning is important to prevent wildfires and support wildlife.

However, the RSPB says burning releases carbon emissions and blanket bog should be restored to hold water and prevent flooding downhill.