Red grouse

By Jim Goodlad

Lecturer in Gamekeeping & Wildlife Management at SRUC Elmwood Campus

Scottish colleges began offering game keeping courses after recognising there was a demand for training and education to pave the way for the next generation of stalkers, upland and lowland gamekeepers throughout Scotland.

Courses are designed and delivered to accommodate all aspects of modern gamekeeping and encompass lowland and upland land management activities. All training is delivered in line with current best practice and associated legislation. The national certificate course is the most common access level to enter industry. Vocational qualifications such as the SVQ and HNC in Gamekeeping & Wildlife Management can be preferred options for further progression.

Courses are popular, attracting a diverse range of applicants from all over the UK and from different backgrounds. SRUC Elmwood, Borders and North Highland College have been offering these courses for 35 years now. There is scope for all kinds of applicants from the school leaver to the mature returnee inclusive of both male and female candidates. There is high demand for places and many courses are often over-subscribed much to the disappointment of some. It appears, for the 2016/17 intake, applications are high, with recruitment targets well on the way to being achieved.

Moving on from college, in general the aim of most students is to gain employment via a voluntary, part time seasonal or full time basis. College and industry have a good bond and liaise well. Links are developed through site visits, field trips, and work placement programmes for students during their course work. This relationship continues to be developed and nurtured for the present and future years to come.

Gamekeepers have sometimes been portrayed over the years as purely interested in preserving grouse chicks and not allowing any predators to share the moorland. In reality, the modern day gamekeeper is a custodian of the countryside and manages rural Scotland with benefits to all species from the butterfly to the Golden Plover and rare Dotterel. Biodiversity is key to all land management activities relating to gamekeeping. The modern young gamekeepers of today, will I am sure become pioneers in keeping rural Scotland diverse in species and habitats.

The social and economic benefits associated with deer and grouse in the highland glens are a great example of how this all works. Everyone gets a bite at the cherry, from the full time and seasonal employment benefits for rural communities to hotels, shops, garages and grocers to name a few. Most importantly, our heritage, culture and tradition will continue to develop and prosper for the short and long term future.