A campaign to bring “significant reform” to Scotland’s grouse moors to make them more environmentally friendly is being launched by naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham.
Social, environmental and animal welfare charities have joined forces to press for changes on the moors – which make up almost a fifth of Scotland’s land mass.
Campaigners claim this land is intensively managed to create a habitat suitable for one wild species, the red grouse, which they say is “effectively farmed to be shot for entertainment”.
To support grouse shooting, intensive land management techniques are employed to ensure estates yield large numbers of the birds to increase bag sizes at commercial shoots, they argue.
These include heather burning, rigorous predator control, mountain hare persecution and the construction of roads and tracks.
TV presenter Chris Packham hit out at the “wholesale mismanagement of Scotland’s grouse moors”.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the Revive Coalition – which includes Friends of the Earth Scotland, the League Against Cruel Sports, animal charity OneKind and the Common Weal think tank – he said: “There is no doubt that we all deserve and need better uplands, a prosperous place for wildlife and people – and that is far from impossible.
“But making that turn will need a suite of skills and energies – and that’s why I am keen to help inaugurate this partnership. Dead, burned and barren has to go – Scotland’s hills should be alive.”
Green MSP Andy Wightman, an adviser to the coalition, said: “It is time for a fundamental shift away from this damaging land use to more sustainable alternatives.”
Revive senior campaigner Max Wiszniewski said: “The aim of the Revive coalition is simple, we want significant reform of Scotland’s grouse moors to benefit our environment, our communities and our wildlife.
“However, in reality this ask is anything but simple which is why we are excited to be working with a number of partners across a spectrum of issues to tackle the problems associated with intensive management of this land.
“We are under no illusion that this will be a short campaign, but we have laid the foundations to take the first steps towards reform and we relish the challenges ahead.
“This is the first time organisations have come together in this way and our partners did so with no hesitation.
“It’s time we took back ownership of Scotland’s uplands and make our vision of reform a reality.”
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association branded the new coalition a “wrecking-ball campaign by a cohort seeking to ban grouse shooting and put thousands of Scotland’s rural workers and their families on the dole”.
A spokesman said the majority of members in Revive had “never been interested in reform.”
He added: “Over the coming weeks, while government independently reviews grouse shooting, we expect the track record of tactics which has seen members within this group covertly filming land managers undertaking legal activities and spreading misinformation in a bid to get the result they crave.
“Those seeking to use their charitable lobbying influence in Edinburgh to kill off livelihoods should take responsibility for the consequences and provide alternative employment for the lives they will wreck.”
A Scottish Government commission into sustainable grouse moor management is ongoing, with conclusions expected to be reported in spring of 2019.