Rumours of the government’s enthusiasm to reintroduce sporting rates – abolished in Scotland in 1995 – cast a shadow over the opening of the grouse season yesterday.
The cold, wet spring cut down grouse numbers and many estates are not taking bookings for shooting parties. Sutherland Estates manager Chris Whealing said only two or three days of shooting would be allowed this season.
‘Returns from sporting activities are marginal at the best of times,’ he said. ‘If the sporting rates were reintroduced, it would make it very difficult to carry on.’
Until 1995, the estate paid up to #10,000 a year to the local authority and, if it had to find this sum again, it might not be able to retain its three gamekeepers, he added.
‘Highland estates are seen to be the preserve of the aristocracy and the government isn’t keen to continue to support them,’ said Whealing.
The Treasury refused to comment on the ‘speculation’.
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