ESTATES have been preparing to hold socially-distanced shoots ahead of the grouse season beginning on Wednesday.
Protocols have been developed and approved by the Scottish Government.
Mark Ewart, coordinator of the Southern Uplands Moorland Group, said: “This year is different to any season we’ve experienced before, but the discussions held over the past few weeks have helped to ensure everyone knows what to do.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the season to people in this area.
“Not just for those directly employed by the estates but all the local businesses that supply equipment and the pubs and hotels.
“This year there will be fewer guests coming to shoot from abroad but we are hopeful that more people from within the UK will come and that will make up the shortfall.”
The grouse shooting season in Scotland, which runs for 16 weeks from 12 August to 10 December, is estimated to be worth £32 million during a busy season, part of the £350m overall value of estates to the economy.
Shooting supports 11,000 full-time jobs in Scotland, of which 2,640 are in the grouse sector.
Tim Baynes, moorland director at Scottish Land & Estates, which represents rural businesses, said: “Grouse shooting is by its very nature low risk as participants are well spaced and it takes place on wide open moorlands.
“Estates planning to shoot early in the season have undertaken detailed risk assessments and adapted their procedures to comply with covid-19 rules.”
Baynes added: “After two poor grouse seasons, largely due to the weather, 2020 is looking better in many areas.
“This is the time of year when accurate counts are taken and decisions are made on whether it is sustainable to shoot.
“Some moors in the north of Scotland have decided not to shoot, but many have had a good breeding season and will be optimistic.”
Read more stories about how Scotland’s businesses are bouncing back from the coronavirus lockdown on Scottish Field’s news pages.