Scotland’s Country Sports – Open for Business

It has been an interesting time recently with reports, consultations and Brexit impacting on the country sports tourism sector in Scotland. However daunting all this may seem I am confident that Scotland is open for country sports and we welcome participants from across the globe to enjoy the magnificent and in some cases unique sport Scotland has to offer.

We have had the Werritty Report into grouse shooting, the large mammal hunting protocol, DEFRA trophy hunting consultation, Deer Working Group Report, General Licences and of course Brexit. All of these will have an influence on country sports tourism in Scotland. Some Scottish Sporting Agents have reported a reduction in bookings with anecdotal evidence suggesting a nervousness in the market with hunters reluctant to commit to hunting or shooting in Scotland, particularly those coming from Europe.

Taking a step back from all the proposals and recommendations things are not as dark as they may at first seem.

Brexit has happened and we are now in the ‘transition’ period. Nothing will change until the end of 2020 at the earliest. So processes and procedures related to European Firearms Passes and Visitors Permits remain valid. In addition, visitors can still bring their dogs if they so wish, provided they follow the European Pet Passport guidance.

The Werritty report into grouse shooting seems to have settled with the proposed 5 year probationary period before considering whether grouse moors should be subjected to a licensing regime. This gives the shooting community some time to ensure good practice is followed in all areas of grouse moor management.

The Large Mammal Hunting Protocol, a Scottish Government inspired initiative with contributions being made by professional hunters and the main countryside organisations, has agreed a light touch approach. Guidance will be published for non-hunters explaining the many factors to be considered in an effective deer management plan and guidance added to Wild Deer Best Practice relating to the use of images and social media.

The UK wide Trophy Hunting consultation is ongoing with the main countryside organisations clearly opting for the status quo to prevail. This appears to most sensible option which takes cognisance of current legislation, guidance and best practice.

The Deer Working Group, established to ensure deer management is compliant with the public interest and sustainable development objectives, made 99 recommendations. Commenting on the report BASC Scotland Director, Dr Colin Shedden, said: “This report contains a range of recommendations that, whilst not all required, will aid the discussion on sustainable deer management and deer welfare whilst taking into consideration the environment and the rural economy. As the Scottish Government digests the proposals in this review, BASC will ensure any recommendations taken forward are made in the best interests of the environment, the species and the rural community”. Again, a sensible and reasoned response.

All in all a busy time with a lot to be considered and debated but I would reiterate the message that Scotland is still a magnificent sporting destination, happy to welcome country sports enthusiasts from across the world.

This article first appeared in Shoot in Scotland 2020/21

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