The coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated business and economies worldwide, has resulted in almost £1.7 million of losses in Scotland’s grouse moor estates, according to new research.

Figures from Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups indicate estates spent a total of £8.98 million over the period March to November – an average of more than £390,000 each.

However, the survey, which took information from 23 grouse moor estates, shows each business lost an average of shoot and accommodation income of £73,000 due to the pandemic – totalling £1.67 million.

Lianne MacLennan, co-ordinator of Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups, said it shows “grouse estates continued to spend in their communities”.

She added: “They were still using local businesses and they retained their full land management staff despite knowing they would lose income due to travel and accommodation restrictions.”

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Only one junior gamekeeper was placed on the UK Government’s furlough scheme.

Ms MacLennan said: “That is in contrast to employers in the conservation sector, which relied heavily on the taxpayer to keep employees in jobs

She said the survey was an “opportunity, following a very different grouse season, to get some indication of the financial effects Covid-19 has had”.

Ms MacLennan added: “The total losses, from cancelled shoot days, visitor accommodation and things like game sales amounted to £1.67 million across the 23 respondents.

“That is not an insignificant dent.”

She claimed without the money spent by grouse estates, “small family businesses will struggle badly, jobs will be trimmed and the threads of these small communities will weaken further”.

Grouse shooting was among 20 organised outdoors sports the Scottish Government cleared to take place in the autumn.

Some shoots cancelled their programme early, however, while travel restrictions led to lost bookings.

Last month it was announced that grouse shooting businesses in Scotland will be subject to a new licensing scheme under proposals to tackle the illegal killing of birds of prey.

Rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon said there needs to be "greater oversight" of the practices associated with grouse moor management.

But gamekeepers reacted with fury and insisted the move will not be "easily forgotten", hitting out at "never-ending scrutiny and inquiry driven by elite charities with big influence". 

READ MORE: Campaigners welcome plans for licensing of grouse shooting industry

Meanwhile, some rural organisations called it a "seriously damaging blow to fragile rural communities".

The announcement follows the submission of a report last year by an expert group on grouse moor management, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty.

However, campaigners welcomed the Scottish Government's move to tighten restrictions on grouse moors with a licensing scheme. 

RSPB Scotland say that self-regulation of the grouse industry has not worked to curb deaths among birds of prey or environmental damage caused by muirburn.

The Scottish SPCA said that responsible moor woners had "nothing to fear" from tighter rules. 

The Scottish Wildlife Trust are also backing the scheme.