The UK’s grouse shooting season is to begin officially today, marking what enthusiasts call the ‘Glorious Twelfth’.

However, the practice faces questions about its impact on the environment, with Scottish Government ministers due to bring in a licensing system to control grouse shooting.

They have cited ongoing problems with illegal raptor persecution on or around grouse moors, as well as concerns surrounding muirburn — burning heather moorland to provide fresh growth for game and livestock.

The protest group Extinction Rebellion is demonstrating against the practice by placing a large ‘don’t shoot’ message in the hills near Dundee Airport.

The Herald:

2,640 jobs in Scotland are supported by the industry and it is worth millions to the economy, according to supporters of grouse shooting.

Drew Ainslie, the head keeper at Roxburghe Estates in the Scottish Borders, and Ed Brown who is an assistant factor were out on Byrecleugh Moor on Wednesday scouting out how many adult birds were out.

Mr Brown said: “After the past 18 months of disruption, the revenue from the grouse season will be a lifeline for small businesses, hotels and pubs in the area.

“The expenditure during the season provides a much-needed boost outwith the peak tourist season in the summer.

“Like many estates our main shooting programme will start in September.

“It’s not unusual to have a slow start to the season, and the cold weather in April and May will have affected early nesting birds.”

Mr Ainslie said: “Well-managed moorlands provide habitat for at least 57 bird species in Scotland, as well as mountain hares, reptiles and amphibians.

“Curlew, lapwing, meadow pipit, oystercatcher and golden plover, as well as a range of birds of prey, including golden eagles and hen harriers, all thrive on grouse moors.

“We are proud of our year-round conservation work.”

The Herald:

The season lasts until December, a total of 16 weeks, drawing visitors from around Europe and North America.

Extinction Rebellion says they will be placing a large ‘don’t shoot’ message near Dundee Airport today, in protest against grouse shooting. They say that the practice have left the Scottish wildlife "ugly, barren and virtually devoid of life”.

Scotland’s Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: “Grouse moor management is a complex issue, attracting strong views and public interest.

“The majority of those tasked with managing land already follow best practice guidance and care deeply about the countryside and the land that they manage.

“However, I cannot ignore the fact that some of the practices associated with grouse moor management, such as muirburn and the use of medicated grit, have the potential to cause serious harm to the environment, if the correct procedures are not followed.

“Neither can I ignore the fact that, despite our many attempts to address this issue, every year birds of prey continue to be killed or disappear in suspicious circumstances on or around grouse moors.

“This legislation is not designed to bring an end to grouse shooting. Indeed those businesses which comply with the law should have no problems at all with licensing.

“But, crucially, where there is clear evidence that this is not happening, where agreed standards are not being adhered to or there is evidence of illegal raptor persecution, there will be a range of effective and transparent mechanisms in place to allow us to address such behaviour.”

In November, Scottish rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon announced the Scottish Government’s intention to bring in the licensing system for grouse shooting.