TODAY will be the final “Glorious 12th” – the official start of the grouse-shooting season – before a new Scottish law brings in a licensing scheme and regulations for the country sport.

Landowners say the tradition, one of the busiest days of the shooting season, is at risk from the “excessive” legislation going through Holyrood.

The Scottish Government wants to minimise the impact of grouse moors, which campaigners say are causing environmental damage.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill was introduced at the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, seeking to implement many recommendations of the Werritty review in December 2019.

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Scottish Land & Estates said the game and country sports sector is worth more than £350 million to the economy, supporting 11,000 jobs.

Its director of moorland, Ross Ewing, said: “Sustainable grouse moor management provides a huge boost to the economy, bringing visitors to rural areas from August to December and providing revenue which underpins rural jobs year-round.

“The licensing scheme proposed by the Scottish government is excessively disproportionate, allowing NatureScot to suspend a licence if an official investigation is initiated and, crucially, without being satisfied that any relevant offence has been committed.

“We would urge the Scottish Government to amend the legislation, before it has an impact on jobs and the rural economy.”

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He argued that grouse moors provide environmental benefits through carbon capture, peatland restoration and wildfire prevention.

Mr Ewing continued: “Sustainable grouse moor management provides remarkable conservation benefits, particularly for ground-nesting birds, birds of prey, rare moorland plants and pollinators.

“The uplands are home to specialist species that benefit enormously from land management for red grouse.”

Environment Minister Gillian Martin said: “The Scottish Government expects grouse moors in Scotland to be managed in a sustainable and responsible way, that minimises environmental impacts and helps to protect nature and wildlife.

“Many landowners are already doing so and we want others to follow their example.

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“The vast majority of gamekeepers in Scotland care deeply about the land they help to steward, respect their natural environment and wildlife populations and make a valuable contribution to our economy and delivering our net-zero ambitions.

“The provisions in the Bill provide for a practical, proportionate and targeted licensing regime which will support those carrying out activities appropriately and in line with the law, and will have consequences for those that don’t.”

Jake Swindells, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, also said he was “extremely concerned” by the Bill.

He said: “Unless the government works closely with those who actually manage the land and listens to public bodies including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland, both of which have expressed serious concern with elements of this Bill, they risk getting this very badly wrong.”

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The Scottish Greens say the “Glorious 12th”, the start of the annual grouse shooting season, is a “festival of violence”.

MSP Ariane Burgess said: “There is nothing glorious or humane about the 12th of August. It is a festival of violence. Far too much of our land is given to this cruel and outdated hobby.

“The intensive burning and degradation of our landscapes to try and improve the habitat for red grouse so that there are more of them to be shot is unnecessary, and damages the local environment and our climate.

She added: “Our world-renowned landscapes and nature are for all of us.

“They must serve local communities, rather than the interests of the small number of wealthy people who pursue these niche and elitist bloodsports.”