A furious row has erupted over the exemption of grouse shoots from coronavirus public health rules limiting gatherings to six people.
The Green Party, which opposes blood sports, has objected to exceptions to the new guidance which suggests that organised outdoor activities can go ahead if there are more than six people involved.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone described the exemption as ludicrous, but country sports organisations accused the Greens of a “vindictive” focus on an activity that brought in £200 million to the economy and sustained more than 8,000 jobs.
Not for the first time, the UK Government has indicated that public health emergency rules don’t apply to their wealthy friends.”
Green MSP Alison Johnstone
The Greens urged the Scottish Government not to make grouse shoots exempt after the Huffington Post reported that Boris Johnson’s government would allow shoots and other hunters to gather in groups of between six and 30 people.
Ms Johnstone said this should not be allowed to happen in Scotland, despite official Government guidance suggesting organised outdoor activities can go ahead when there are more than six participants.
The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) said a framework for the operation of country sports – backed by the Scottish Government – was published in July.
The framework allows outdoor fishing, angling, stalking and shooting activities operated by businesses to continue.
Ms Johnstone said: “This exemption is ludicrous. The restrictions on gatherings is a difficult but important public health measure to prevent the spread of a deadly virus. Not for the first time, the UK Government has indicated that public health emergency rules don’t apply to their wealthy friends.
“This cannot be allowed to happen in Scotland. The tiny minority who derive pleasure from killing wildlife are not more important than the thousands who are being kept apart from seeing friends and family. Thirty people should not be able to gather to shoot grouse when thirty people cannot attend a wake for a lost loved one.”
She added: “The Scottish Government need to urgently clarify the Scottish rules so that this doesn’t happen.”
I don’t think the Greens are looking at the health of the nation in respect of the pandemic. I think they are focusing in on activities that they seem to dislike.”
Colin Shedden of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group
Colin Shedden of the SCSTG said: “We are working under the guidance we produced in the summer with respect to Covid restrictions under the government’s suite of guidance for the outdoor sector. So they’ve effectively approved or endorsed our guidance.
“The exemption only applies to the sport itself. It doesn’t apply to accommodation and shoot dinners and so on.
“The Greens seem to be picking on grouse shooting. To bring the restriction into an organised sport like shooting which is conducted in the great outdoors with physical distancing easily recognised is quite vindictive of them.
“I don’t think they are looking at the health of the nation in respect of the pandemic. I think they are focusing in on activities that they seem to dislike.”
Mr Shedden added: “We are coming into the main shooting season for game birds and we know that shooting is worth £200m a year to the economy and employs 8,800 full time employees. So they are really jeopardising a very important rural business, which backs up tourism in the lean winter months.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Under the regulations, a maximum of six people from two different households are able to gather together. However, there are some exemptions in place for organised activities. Outdoor and sporting activities such as shooting may be permitted if they meet criteria laid out in the legislation and adhere fully with physical distancing requirements.”