Muirburn banned in Scotland from tomorrow as emergency legislation receives royal assent

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, agreed by the Scottish Parliament last Wednesday, has today received royal assent and thus as of tomorrow (Tuesday 7th April 2020) becomes enacted.

This emergency legislation (Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020) incorporated an amendment from Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman leading to an immediate halt to all muirburn across Scotland, including on grouse moors, for the remainder of the muirburn season (up to and including 30 April 2020).

If you see any evidence of muirburn please report it to Police Scotland.

[Muirburn, photo via Scottish Natural Heritage]

6 thoughts on “Muirburn banned in Scotland from tomorrow as emergency legislation receives royal assent”

    1. We should be on the alert at all times. Last year in my study area fire broke out on land which has two interests, farming and grouse shooting. The view from my house overlooks this and other grouse moors, but in that case I strongly suspected that the farmer was the more likely candidate for this act of eco-vandalism. I called in the police, but predictably the farmer told them that it was night-time vandals, youths from a nearby town of course! One had to beg the question then, why did the farmer not immediately call in the fire service or the police? This form of apparent bluffing has taken place several times on five separate grouse moors within my Harrier study area. Some of the landowners and shooting interests insisted that fires were the work of vandals, with the exception of one huge area of heather which was set alight by the sheep farmer, who challenged that he had the right to manage his land as he saw fit. He even claimed he didn’t know his land was within a Special Protection Area for breeding harriers, and that he was unaware of any instruction to consult with SNH! His “decision” to burn all the heather on his farm was apparently because “heather is a pernicious weed” which rendered the moor as less productive than he would like it. Sadly (and I mean that), he died about ten years ago.

  1. It’s a pity that the Scottish Government does not treat the ‘climate emergency’ – and thereby already banning this unnecessary practice – as seriously as a global pandemic. Still, nice to see the fun killers rattled for a while.

  2. Just been watching a you tube video, narrated by Cris Packham promoting burning of Heather and Gorse in the New Forest, film is called, ” ground nesting birds, birds under your feet, ” well worth a watch it was made a few years ago, and burning actually can improve the habitat.

    1. Only in very limited circumstances if that – the RSPB also does a little reedbed burning at one or more of its reserves. We are increasingly recognising that fire has been a not particularly good proxy for the actions of missing keystone species like beaver, wild boar, aurochs and wild horses that through grazing, turning the soil and coppicing with big orange teeth often did what fire does, but with more effect and fewer drawbacks – incinerated reptiles for one. Fire has never been a regular element of the UK ecosystem, the John Muir Trust has reported that analysis of peat cores indicates significant fires only occurred on the Scottish hills about once every 150 or 200 years. That’s one hell of a far cry from the rotational roasting that takes place on grouse moors and which is serious enough to virtually eradicate long standing native species like juniper. As some keystone species become re-established in the countryside and domesticated cattle and horses are used in the place of old ones I’m sure arguments for using fire as a conservation tool will become weaker. This is similar to the situation where ecologists are finding the closer we get to having the natural assemblage of predator species we should have then there’s less and less need for predator ‘control’ for genuine conservation purposes.

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