THE owners of the Bowhill estate have shot down claims that grouse moors should be turned into forests.
Sir David Read, an emeritus professor of plant sciences at the University of Sheffield, believes trees should cover Scotland’s estates to help the environment and because grouse shooting is “uneconomic”.
But Buccleuch Group chief executive John Glen, whose firm hosts grouse shooting around Selkirk on its 46,000 acre estate, said the industry was worth tens of millions of pounds and employed hundreds of people in Scotland.
Mr Glen told the Wee Paper: “These comments are quite misleading and it is certainly inaccurate to claim that grouse shooting does not make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy – the estimated annual value being somewhere in the region of £35million with the creation of up to 950 jobs.
“Bowhill is a multi-land use estate where the quality of our moorland means we can deliver environmental benefits as well as economic productivity through grouse management and sheep farming, both of which contribute significantly towards sustaining local communities.
“We believe trees and moorland both have their role to play in rural Scotland.
“However, in our experience as custodians of very large estates, a broad-brush approach which simply advocates one land use above others is not sensible. The key issue is achieving the right balance of land uses in the right areas.”
Sir David had previously told reporters: “You think of Scotland as the land of bonnie purple heather.
“That heather, apart from a few grouse, is pretty uneconomic, whereas if you can grow trees on it, (you) hugely increase the productivity of the land and get this valuable economic return in due course.”
He added: “Grouse shooting makes no realistic contribution to the UK economy.
“It’s a preferred benefit for a rather select few individuals who happen to be the owners of large tracts of unproductive land.
“Planting trees in an economic and biological context, that context being carbon dioxide sequestration, is a far more preferable enterprise.”
In 2007, Bowhill was forced to call off the shooting season because poor weather had led to low grouse numbers.
But its grouse population has risen in recent years after a review of stocks took place, with the estate’s moorland team being credited for the revival.
And more than 50 black grouse were spotted at Bowhill this year as attempts were made to improve the habitat for the endangered species.
However, grouse numbers have fluctuated across Scotland due to predation and disease, with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust calling for Scottish Government help in 2010. An estimated 6,000 people take part in grouse shooting in Scotland annually, 28 per cent of which are from countries outwith the UK.