A £1 million Scottish Country Sports Tourism Restart Fund has been made available, and affected businesses have been able to apply for help.
The fund, which was jointly developed by the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG), aimed to assist hard-hit businesses in the country-sports tourism sector.
Businesses that were eligible included sporting agencies, land-based sporting businesses, sporting guides and fishing charter operators.
Shooting UK spoke to Charlie Brownlow, who specialises in running shooting, fishing and stalking trips to Scotland, who said: “It is a great relief that this fund has been made available to businesses like mine and all credit to BASC, SCSTG, VisitScotland and the Scottish Government for putting this together to support rural business.
“It has been frustrating that my business has not qualified for government support in the past year, however, it has only become an urgent situation in the last two to three months as our relatively small overheads have used up any reserves.
“We have had the dawning realisation that many of our guests from abroad will not be returning in 2021 and we will have another 12 months of disrupted business.”
BASC and SCSTG put strong pressure on the Scottish Government to support this sector, which drives tourism to Scotland that is worth millions of pounds annually. Applications for support had to be made between 24 February and 3 March.
A spokesperson for VisitScotland said: “Country sports is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy and is considered to be a distinct sector that is extremely valuable to local and rural communities.
“It is estimated that the value of country-sports tourism to the Scottish economy is £200 million per year, with 8,800 full-time equivalent jobs being supported by the sector.”
To ensure support reached those in the greatest need, applicants were required to prove that 75% of their annual turnover originates from country- sports tourism activity—a requirement that will likely exclude estates, which tend to have numerous income streams. Estates are expected to be made eligible for local authority administered funds in due course.
BASC Scotland’s public affairs manager Ross Ewing said: “Businesses have endured significant hardships and little support since the pandemic began… The fund will play a crucial role in helping businesses to safeguard jobs and protect investment in rural areas.”