A morning on the moor

Emma Dickinson ,
16 Aug 2019

For Emma Dickinson, SLE Digital Communications Officer, the Glorious Twelfth was the first time out on a Scottish moor, experiencing a grouse shoot. She discusses what she learnt and how there is more to the industry than appears on social media.

Having never set foot on a grouse moor, or experienced a shoot before, it was easy to build a negative perception of the industry from things I had read on social media. Well-known and popular activists have a strong voice on these platforms and it’s tempting to take the words they speak from the heart at face value. The opportunity to experience the realities of moorland management myself and on the Glorious Twelfth of all days, told a very different story. 

Whilst the scenery we saw on our journey from Edinburgh to Rottal Estate in Glen Clova, was spectacular, we saw little else as we travelled further into the Angus Glens. Alternative forms of employment are few and far between in remote communities such as this one and the vital economic contribution grouse shooting makes was clear to see. 

The income the estate receives from visitors that travel from within the UK and all over Europe and beyond not only supports estate staff, but also flows down to other local businesses such as hotels, butchers and shops. Lesley McArthur, partner at the Glen Clova Hotel, found just down the road from Rottal, describes grouse shooting as “a lifeline for the livelihoods of remote communities” and finds it difficult to imagine a scenario where the revenue provided by visitors could be replaced by any other means. 

It was also fantastic to hear estate owner Dee Ward speaking so passionately about the wildlife found on the estate. As a Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) Accredited landholding, a commitment to conservation and wildlife and habitat management best practice is at the core of the work under-taken at Rottal. Over 100 species of birds alone can be found on its land and we were lucky enough to see species such as curlew and the protected black grouse during our short time out on the moor. 

From my morning on the moor, I learnt that there is much more to the grouse shooting industry than is often shown in the media. Those that live and work on our moorlands have so many positive stories to tell, yet may be reluctant to do so for fear of backlash on social media or intimidation in their homes. 

There will always be a polarizing debate around grouse shooting and although the last 20 years has seen a significant culture change in moorland management, there will always be more work to be done. Examination of the facts, careful consideration and collaborative working is key to keeping the futures of our remote rural communities bright.