Rural families are set to receive millions in wages from the 2016 grouse season, according to new survey figures.
A poll of 32 grouse shoots nationwide revealed almost £7 million will flow directly into remote households in wages – and that’s just covering the polled estates alone.
The actual total for the whole of Scotland will be significantly higher.
The survey results were announced as gamekeepers and families gathered for a workers’ march and community day at Edzell in Angus on Sunday, ahead of start of the grouse season on Friday, August 12.
Watched by MSPs and councillors, traders and the public, gamekeepers from all over Scotland were piped through the famous Dalhousie Arch to Edzell Muir.
There they offered game tasting to the public and took onlookers and politicians to the nearby moors to learn about grouse management.
Bruce Cooper, head gamekeeper and member of the Angus Glens Moorland Group, said: “Every year, around the 12th August, we listen to organisations pushing their agendas from afar about grouse shooting.
“Members of the public shouldn’t forget that, all year round, working folk rely on grouse shooting and this way of life to bring up their families and send kids to schools in these communities.
“It also brings a huge amount to the trades and tourism operators, many of whom are marching with us today. These people have seen other industries falter and, if it wasn’t for the grouse and other shooting seasons, they would be laying off staff.
“We are proud of what we do, the array of species our management supports and how we help to keep our communities going.
“That’s why we are bringing people from all over Scotland together today ahead of the grouse season.”
The estate salary survey was organised by regional moorland groups in seven areas: Angus, Grampian, Loch Ness, Tomatin, Tayside and Central Scotland, Speyside and the Lammermuirs.
Participating shoots, of varying size, were asked to supply wage spend on full and part-time staff in 2015, as well as seasonal workers such as grouse beaters and students employed over the season, which runs until December 10.
The final tally from the 32 surveyed estates amounted to £6,714,806.
Gamekeeper Pam Butler, member of the Lammermuirs Moorland Group, and mother-of-two, said: “For our family, the grouse is a way of life. Our house comes with the job but it is more than that. It is about how we want to bring up our children, living an outdoor life which they love.”
Calum Douglas-Jones, whose experience as a grouse beater in the Loch Ness area helped him and his father set up a firewood business, said: “If there wasn’t sporting estates, it would be a big loss to our company but also for tourism in the Strath. Estates bring people into the highlands but the benefits spread around the whole area from there.”
As well as salaries paid to workers, wider tourism spend from visiting sportsmen and women means the four-month grouse season will be worth around £32 million to the Scottish economy.