Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg, of Peeblesshire, has hailed as ‘indispensable’ the contribution field sports make to the nation’s remote economies and employment figures.
Mr Hogg, a gamekeeper for over 40 years, was speaking to around 150 land managers at the organisation’s 18th AGM in Inverness on Friday (March 4) with local MSP Fergus Ewing one of the eight speakers at Caledonian Stadium.
The SGA chief said the shooting and angling industry, which is worth over £300m to the nation’s economy annually, helps to keep youth opportunities and families in glens which would otherwise run the risk of depopulation and falling school rolls.
He also said Scotland’s lauded environment would suffer if the industry was made unviable, causing vital land management jobs to be haemorrhaged.
According to the 2014 report, The Value of Shooting’ by PACEC, shoot providers in the UK spend £250 million a year on conservation.
The SGA Chairman cited the example of the glens of Angus where grouse shooting, once under threat due to dwindling red grouse numbers, was helping to keep skilled employment in villages.
He said that few other industries could match what is delivered for Scotland in these fragile areas without dipping increasingly into tax payers’ pockets.
“One thing that stands out like a sore thumb is the amount of investment, conservation and employment which is being created from fields sports and fishing,” he said.
“This cannot be understated, particularly when we have problems in oil, challenges in farming and job losses and dropping margins in aquaculture.
“That is why we are continuing with our Year of the Rural Worker programme, which we introduced last year. Not only is our work providing economic benefits, it is keeping the landscape and rivers in such a way that brings people to Scotland. It keep jobs in our hills, glens and straths. Each year, new children and families are being brought up in these places and skilled opportunities are keeping those families there.
“Last year, in five scattered Glens in Angus, one grouse season saw £1million going directly to households in wages. It created 57 full-time jobs, seasonal work for 512 beaters, 30 full-time employees were under the age of 25 and 7 students were given opportunities over the year. At the same time over 900 businesses benefitted from trade directly with estates, to the tune of £4.7 million. That was in only 6 of 20 estates surveyed in one region. What other type of business at 1,000ft, and above, could generate that for Scotland?”
Other speakers at the event were Sutherland estate owner Michael Wigan, independent woodland advisor Victor Clements, Chief Inspector Fraser Lamb of Police Scotland, ecologist Dr James Fenton, Gordon Brown’s former adviser Charlie Whelan and scientist Josephine Pemberton, who spoke on her work researching deer on Rum.