Vital coronavirus funding worth £1M has been awarded to over one hundred hard-hit country sports tourism businesses in Scotland, following a concerted lobbying campaign by two of the sector’s leading representative bodies.
The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) made representations to the Scottish Government in February when it emerged the country sports tourism sector had been excluded from crucial funds for a second time.
This resulted in Fergus Ewing MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism, authorising the creation of a dedicated fund for country sports tourism businesses worth £1M.
Developed in a partnership between SCSTG, BASC, VisitScotland and the Scottish Government, the fund set out to help the hardest hit businesses most in need of support.
Applicants were required to demonstrate that they had incurred a minimum revenue loss of 50% as a result of the pandemic, while also proving that 75% of annual turnover was derived from country sports tourism.
The fund – which opened to applicants at the end of February – received applications from a diverse range of businesses from across Scotland. These included sporting agencies, game shoots, sporting estates, clay pigeon shooting grounds, deer stalking providers, falconers, sea fishing charters and inland fisheries.
Rory Kennedy, chairman of the SCSTG, said: “With our core season coinciding with the second lockdown, few sectors have been as hard hit as the country sports tourism sector.
“It was regrettable that we had to fight so hard for this lifeline funding, but we appreciate the Scottish Government and its agencies acknowledging the vital role we play in Scotland’s rural economy and in supporting its fragile communities.
“We continue to make representations on behalf of those diversified country sports tourism businesses who have still not been able to access coronavirus support. We remain concerned that some local authorities administering funding streams may discriminate against legitimate country sports businesses on ideological grounds and we are taking an active role in monitoring this on an authority-by-authority level.”
BASC Scotland’s public affairs manager, Ross Ewing, said: “This fund has delivered crucial and much-needed support to a sector that makes a pivotal contribution to the rural economy.
“After what has been a tumultuous and disruptive year, this funding will provide many businesses with the means to survive and reopen, which in turn will benefit other key rural businesses.
“We would like to thank the Scottish Government and VisitScotland for eventually making this funding available, and we wish the successful applicants the best of luck in their recovery.”
Alf Sorensen, owner of an Aberdeenshire-based sporting agency, said: “The Scottish country sports tourism restart fund has been a much-needed lifeline for my businesses.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been severely disruptive, resulting in the almost complete loss of international tourists as well as those from other UK nations.
“This funding will give us the best chance of successfully reopening when restrictions allow, and we would like to thank BASC and the SCSTG for their efforts in successfully lobbying for this funding.”
Mike Hardy, owner of an Angus-based sporting business, said: “After months of no support whatsoever, I am extremely relieved to have been successful in my application to the Scottish country sports restart fund.
“The coronavirus restrictions significantly impacted on my businesses, and we were forced to close for much of the latter half of the shooting season while still maintaining overhead costs.
“The funding is extremely welcome, and I would like to extend my thanks to BASC and the SCSTG for securing this crucial funding on behalf of the sector.”