A Scottish Government Minister has condemned “the abuse and unfair harassment” of gamekeepers and their families in Scotland, after research commissioned by the government showed that almost two thirds had experienced abusive behaviour.

In a letter to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the newly appointed Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Ben Macpherson MSP, said he was “appalled to hear of the experiences” reported by Scotland’s gamekeepers, which were documented in a study by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Mr Macpherson added that he “would work to ensure that no credence is given to any vexatious or malicious claims of malpractice”, amid concern that the establishment of a licensing scheme for grouse moor management could be exploited by malevolent accusations from anti-shooting campaigners intent on seeing grouse shooting banned.

The comments come after a motion was tabled in the Scottish Parliament by Conservative MSP, Oliver Mundell, which acknowledged the findings of the SRUC research and called on the Scottish Government to do more to support Scotland’s gamekeeping community. The motion was only supported by Conservative MSPs, which prompted BASC to question whether MSPs from other political parties care about the plight of Scotland’s gamekeepers.

Commenting on the Minister’s letter, BASC’s political and press officer in Scotland, Ross Ewing, said: “We welcome this condemnation by Mr Macpherson so early into his tenure as rural affairs minister. The widespread abuse facing Scotland’s gamekeepers is a national disgrace, and it is reassuring to hear that the Scottish Government shares our sentiment.

“Mr Macpherson’s commitment to safeguard gamekeepers from vexatious allegations is particularly welcome, and we look forward to briefing him on the extensive contribution gamekeepers make towards biodiversity and climate change objectives in the coming weeks.”     

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