IN response to the article printed on Monday which both lauds the economic benefits of grouse hunting and calls for politicians and activists who are against it to “drop their prejudice”, I would like to take up that challenge and call the sector out on its business case (Estates call for political rethink on shooting, August 12).

READ MORE: 'Prejudiced' politicians urge to recognise value of grouse shooting

Imagine there were no grouse moors in Scotland but you were interested in creating them. You’ve organised a meeting of Scottish ministers to discuss your case and it goes something like this:

“We’re going to create or sustain between 2,600 and 8,800 jobs and generate between £32 million and £155m per year in gross value added (GVA). But to do this, we need the exclusive use of almost 20% of Scotland’s total land area. We will turn that land area into an ecological desert designed to maximise grouse numbers at the expense of everything else.”

How long do you think it’ll be before the last minister leaves? Will you even have time to shout “But we’ll need subsidies too!” before they close the door?

When considered in terms of GVA per hectare, grouse hunting turns out to be just about the least economically beneficial use of Scotland’s land that one can envisage. Common Weal recently published a paper, Back to Life, which looked at alternative uses for Scotland’s grouse moors and found that grouse moors generated only £30 per hectare per year compared to £500 per hectare per year for agriculture, £2,500 per hectare per year for biomass for renewable heat and a massive £10,900 per hectare per year for solar farms.

I’m not suggesting that we plate the Highlands in silicon but when the grouse hunting sector claims that it is a guardian of the “fragile rural economy” I have to ask if the rural economy is so fragile because so much of it is turned over to the very rich for the hunting of wee birds.

Surely the rural economy would be a lot stronger if it was more diverse and based on more valuable jobs? As Scotland enters a generation of transitioning towards a Green New Deal economy, we’re going to have to think about the least productive 20% of Scotland’s land as a potential contributor towards this transformation. Instead of servicing an elite of bloodsport enthusiasts, Scotland’s rural economy could be based on a diverse mix of renewable energy production, managed forestry, eco-tourism and re-wilding. This will contribute billions more to the Scottish economy than hunting will, and will sustain tens of thousands more jobs.

The hunting lobby in Monday’s National did say one thing with which I agree. This transformation isn’t going to be a quick or easy replacement for the current state of affairs. I’m not arguing that it will be. I’m merely saying that it’ll be worth the effort.

Dr Craig Dalzell
Head of Policy and Research, Common Weal

“IT’S time” is a phrase being used more frequently, but isn’t it time we get past the they-say, we-say argument and for both side to start painting a picture of a future Scotland?

What are both sides really asking us to believe? What type of Scotland is on offer, and what makes remaining part of the Union so attractive that the Unionist parties are so convinced we are better off staying post-Brexit? And the other side of the coin: what’s on offer with independence?

Both sides are so entrenched in their point of view, but no-one is really coming clean about what’s on offer. In regard to our politicians, when will they stop arguing and rehashing the same points and give us a strong vision of a future Scotland?

There will be challenges with both arguments there, I’m sure good and bad points to both sides, but in truth, our leaders need to trust the Scottish people with the facts. They need to be passionate about their arguments. To win the next indyref it’s only right to provide the nation with a vision of Scotland that people can get excited about, warts an all.

The answer to most of the above from the Yes movement will possibly be the 2014 White Paper, but does this still stand? We’re told continually that things have changed enough to push for a new referendum, so can we use the same logic, do we need a fresh vision of our future? The remain side, well what are they really asking us to embrace? The only strong argument is that one side says remain part of the Union, to which indy supporters say independence is what we need, but what does that look like?

Neither side are offering much of anything at the moment. It’s time to move things on, it’s time to show what kind of Scotland we want to live in. Perhaps both side can take a leaf out of Edinburgh council’s 2050 vision and ask the country “what kind of nation do you want to live in?” This, some may say, is the logic behind the citizens’ assemblies, and perhaps they are right, but what do we do with this information, once we have it? Will it move the argument forward?

Paul Gilchrist