Scotland’s estates are continuing to generate tourism, employment and economic benefits thanks to the popularity of world-class country sports.
The value of shooting, stalking and fishing to Scotland’s rural communities was endorsed today at the Highland Field Sports Fair by Fergus Ewing MSP, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity.
With Scotland leading the way in field sports - drawing visitors to the country from the UK, Europe and further afield - recent research has placed the current value of this tourism to Scotland at £155million per annum, estimated to rise to £185million by 2020.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Our tourism sector is a vital strand of the rural economy and country sports represent a significant proportion of this. Field sports are a huge draw, with both domestic and foreign audiences enjoying the wealth of world-class opportunities available in Scotland. And forecasts suggest this area is set to continue to grow over the coming years, which will bring further gains to rural communities in terms of employment and economic benefits.”
One estate where the income generated by country sports is used to drive investment is Culachy Estate.
A traditional Highland shooting and stalking estate, Culachy is in its tenth season under head gamekeeper Scott Bremner who started working at the estate in 2002 and developed the shoot in 2006 – before Scott was appointed 14 years ago the estate hadn’t been keepered for 25 years. Culachy now draws visitors to Fort Augustus from all over Europe including Germany, Sweden, Austria and Holland as well as throughout the UK.
The value of this tourism has allowed the creation of a new build cottage at Culachy for student gamekeepers, which now takes the total number of keepers working at the estate up to four – head keeper, under keeper and two students. Additional properties built on the estate include a new house for the underkeeper, dog kennels, a larder and sheds.
Culachy has also been committed to work in partnership with local businesses to ensure they can capitalise on the popularity of country sports tourism.
The estate has also erected a large quantity of fencing to help with deer management, working with local fencer Michael McNally, as well as restoring stone walls throughout the estate which has had a positive knock-on effect for the local business, Tom Nelson Stonework, in Milton near Drumnadrochit.
A small family-run business, the investment by sporting estates in the last few years has allowed owner Tom Nelson to employ two local school leavers. Last year the business’s workload was almost exclusively on estates but generally, it is the tourism and investment generated by country sports that has underpinned his wider trade.
Scott Bremner, head gamekeeper at Culachy Estate, said: “The estate has only offered country sports for 10 years, which has been a huge undertaking to establish over the short period of time that I have been here at Culachy. However, we can clearly see the significance to the area. We are building a great product that generates income from home and abroad and that in turn allows the next generation to gain a start in skilled employment such as gamekeeping and stonemasonry. We want to encourage this even further and grow not only the estate but the businesses of the local area.”
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Scotland’s estates are at the forefront of driving progress in our rural economy and country sports are a significant contributor to that success. Through income generated by field sports, estates are committed to reinvesting in their local area and environment: supporting education, building employment, developing business partnerships, providing housing, delivering biodiversity and conservation gain. It is clear that rural economies close to sporting estates recognise the value they create for the area and estates are committed to furthering that cooperation.”
Sarah Troughton, chair of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG), said: “Country sports in Scotland are truly world class and have international appeal thanks to the unique and evocative combination of sport, scenery and hospitality that is truly unrivalled. Country sports are also highly accessible for a wide range of people and pockets who can participate in a day’s fishing or shooting.
“There is currently a really strong attraction for European visitors and this is expected to contribute to an increase in the value of country sports tourism in Scotland from its current value of £155m to around £185m by 2020. The SCSTG has recently launched new initiatives, including an updated website with improved accessibility, which we believe will help expose country sports to an even wider audience in future.”
Tim Baynes, speaking on behalf of The Gift of Grouse campaign, said: “The Glorious Twelfth – the start of the grouse shooting season in Scotland – is almost upon us and this is a highlight for everyone in the country sports calendar. It is the culmination of a year-round effort from gamekeepers and land-managers to maintain a vibrant moorland where shoot days can be enjoyed by a wide range of people, employment is sustained, habitat is cherished and where wildlife can flourish.”