THE Greens are calling on the Scottish Government to close a “loophole” that seemingly allows groups to go grouse hunting in Scotland – despite the new rule of six.

Yesterday, with the number of positive Covid cases continuing to rise, ministers brought in new laws stopping more than six people from two households gathering in public places.

However, there are seven exemptions to this rule, including gatherings for “an organised activity which takes place outdoors”.

The regulations go on to clarify that an activity is considered “organised” if it is arranged by “a person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service”.

That seemingly covers estates who organise shooting parties.

Ultimately, that could mean up to 30 people taking part in hunts.

The Greens were commenting after a row broke south of the Border, over a similar exemption in the rules governing England.

According to a report in HuffPost UK, the Cabinet Office’s special Covid-19 Operations ministerial committee – chaired by Michael Gove – scheduled a meeting on Saturday, with one agenda item titled: “Exemption: hunting and shooting.”

The meeting was cancelled just hours beforehand, with cabinet ministers and officials told that this issue would be discussed later or via ministerial correspondence.

One source told Huffpost that the entire issue held up the publication of the English regulations until shortly before the new law was due to kick in at midnight on Sunday.

Commenting, Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone said: “This exemption is ludicrous. The restrictions on gatherings is a difficult but important public health measure to prevent 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.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Outdoor and sporting activities such as shooting may be permitted if they meet criteria laid out in the legislation”.