A BERWICKSHIRE landowner has poured cold water on suggestions made by an English academic that Scotland’s heather moorland should be ripped out and replaced with forests.
Sir David Read, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Sheffield has caused anger north of the Border with his accusation that grouse moors contribute little to the economy and replacing them with trees would be better all round.
But whilst agreeing that there was plenty of scope to plant more trees in areas like Berwickshire, Robert Douglas-Miller, owner of the 3000 acre Horseupcleugh estate, near Duns said that Dr Read’s suggestion that grouse shooting didn’t make a positive contribution to the economy was wide of the mark.
Dr Read said that around 46 per cent of Scotland was suitable for reforestation, adding: “You think of Scotland as the land of bonnie purple heather. That heather, apart from a few grouse, is pretty uneconomic, whereas if you can grow trees on it, you hugely increase the productivity of the land and get this valuable economic return in due course.
“Grouse shooting makes no realistic contribution to the UK economy. It’s a preferred benefit for a rather select few individuals who happen to be the owners of large tracts of unproductive land.
“Planting trees in an economic and biological context, that context being carbon dioxide sequestration, it is a far more preferable enterprise.”
However, Borders landowners, including Mr Douglas Miller, have not taken Dr Read’s words lying down, stating that the recent grouse shooting season was one of the most successful in years, with one custodian claiming that up to £35 million is generated by the sport annually.
Mr Douglas Miller, who is also chairman of the Wildlife Estates Scotland, commented: “To say grouse shooting is not economically productive is wildly inaccurate. Many people come to Scotland to look at heather-clad hills, they do not want to see blanket forestry.
“I agree there’s plenty of scope to plant trees in Scotland but the blanket planting of sitka spruce on moorland, which was popular in the 1960s and 1970s, is not the way forward. It created vast tracts of woodlands which are effectively environmental deserts that destroy biodiversity.”
Landowners have also pointed to the fact that close to 1,000 full time jobs are created by grouse shooting, with Buccleuch Group Chief Executive John Glen adding: “These comments are quite misleading and it is certainly inaccurate to claim that grouse shooting does not make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy - the estimated annual value being somewhere in the region of £35million with the creation of up to 950 jobs.
“Bowhill is a multi land use estate in the South of Scotland where the quality of our moorland means we can deliver environmental benefits as well as economic productivity through grouse management and sheep farming, both of which contribute significantly towards sustaining local communities.
“We believe trees and moorland both have their role to play in rural Scotland.
“However in our experience as custodians of very large estates, a broad brush approach which simply advocates one land use above others is not sensible; the key issue is achieving the right balance of land uses in the right areas.”