The Scottish Government’s decision to exclude deer forests, game larders and shooting ground from a much needed £10,000 coronavirus business support payment is discriminatory and unjust, according to the UK’s largest shooting organisation.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation say that local authorities across Scotland have been tasked with issuing business support payments to help businesses contend with the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Scottish Government have taken the decision to exclude the shooting businesses that are the backbone of Scotland’s rural economy.
The decision has created widespread uncertainty across Scotland’s shooting businesses, with tangible concerns relating to the payment of staff salaries and accommodation costs. A number of businesses have contacted the association to highlight their concerns.
BASC Scotland’s political and press officer, Ross Ewing, said: ‘The Scottish Government’s decision to exclude shooting businesses from a critical one-off payment is wholly unacceptable. These businesses play an instrumental role in keeping Scotland’s rural economy going, and it is profoundly disappointing to see their contribution disregarded in this way.
‘Shooting businesses and their employees are experiencing a time of unprecedented hardship. The cancellation of bookings in the immediate and distant future is a cause for serious concern.
‘These businesses need support from the Scottish Government now more than ever, and we are working hard to urge them to reconsider this exclusion.’
The Coronavirus Business Support Fund Business Support Application can be found on local authorities’ websites.
One shooting business with three full time equivalent employees in Aberdeenshire said: ‘I am not a land owner merely a tenant, I have no interest in the capital value of the land, and I have been on this ground for 32 years, We are not farmers or land owners, this is our only form of income, and I therefore believe that a special exemption should be made in my case.
‘I have two employees, one who has been with me for 25 years and one who has been with me for 18 years and has recently recovered from prostate cancer.
‘I am responsible for paying their council tax and rent. This month I have had to cut their pay by 50% but feel that I will soon be unable to pay rent and council tax, you will then have the obligation to rehouse them.’
And a sporting agency with two full time equivalent employees in Perthshire added: ‘We have lost all of our bookings for roe buck and red stag stalking, and have received very few bookings for the forthcoming game shooting season.
‘The business is family-run, and I am concerned about the financial implications for my family. There will also be a knock on effect on the shoots and estates we send our clients to.
‘We cannot understand why our legitimate, family business is being prohibited from applying for much-needed financial support.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The Scottish Government is going to great lengths to support businesses and have offered a package of support worth £2.2 billion for businesses.
‘Eligibility to the grant scheme is linked to the non-domestic rates system and, while reaching out to a wide range of business, unfortunately some non-domestic property classifications are ineligible – including shooting businesses and deer parks. They should qualify for the 1.6% rates relief across all properties in 2020-21 however.
‘We continue to explore how best to support businesses during this unprecedented economic challenge and recently launched a helpline to provide businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on Covid-19.’