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Local communities risk being 'wiped out' as investors move to cash in on climate crisis

Activists calling for an end to driven grouse shooting across the UK’s uplands consistently fail to articulate an alternative vision for land use which could provide anywhere near the same level of environmental, social and economic benefits.

In recent months however we have started to see what that alternative vision might be. Far from being the utopian paradise promised by the likes of Ruth Tingay, Chris Packham and Mark Avery, our uplands risk becoming little more than another financial asset used for derivatives trading by major institutional investors and large corporations.

Earlier this year we saw the controversial brewing company, BrewDog, buy the 9,300-acre Kinrara Estate in Aberdeenshire for an estimated £7.5million. The firm was criticised at the time after claims were raised that they were evicting the gamekeepers, gardeners, farmers and domestic staff who had been employed by the previous owners and putting their properties up for sale, thereby killing off an entire local community.

The latest concerns were raised after Standard Life Property Income Trust (SLIPIT) announced last week it had acquired 1,447 hectares of moorland to be ‘used as part of the company’s carbon strategy’ where they expect to plant 1.5 million trees in total with the cost of the planting met by the public purse.

Peter Peacock, a campaigner who served as education minister in the cabinet of Jack McConnell’s Government, has been a leading voice urging action to ensure the local communities are not left behind.

Mr Peacock and others fear the new promotion and interest in purchasing estates is motivated by a desire by large corporations to “hedge future carbon tax liabilities, and access public spending on climate actions, to offset their carbon emissions”, while enhancing their brands by displaying their green credentials.

By contrast to the massive cost to the public purse, moorland which is currently managed for grouse shooting provide enormous environmental, social and economic public benefits and are almost entirely privately funded.

Jim Brown, who runs a hotel restaurant in the Scottish uplands, said “People need to be very careful about what they wish for. Without the gamekeepers and upland workers who live and thrive in these areas there would be almost no community left. It is a very fragile economy around here and the driven grouse shooting makes up the vast majority of our annual business and many others like us. Furthermore, the keepers up on the moor here possess unparalleled local knowledge of managing this land properly, which attracts the tourists. Without the keepers I suspect it would be a disaster environmentally and probably go up in smoke with the first wildfire”.


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