SNH considers appeal from Leadhills Estate to undertake out-of-season muirburn

Earlier this month two blogs were published here about an application from Mark Osborne (representing the Leadhills Estate) to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH, now re-branded as Nature Scot) for a licence to undertake out-of-season muirburn on the grouse moors of Leadhills (see here and here).

A bit of scene setting – regular blog readers will know all about Leadhills Estate and the catalogue of raptor persecution incidents that have been recorded there since the early 2000s, and the fact that this estate is currently the subject of a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed by SNH after even more alleged offences were uncovered there in recent years, including the discovery of this male hen harrier that was found in 2019 with an almost severed leg caught in an illegally-set trap next to its nest site (see here). Nobody was prosecuted for this barbaric killing.

[Chris Packham holds the corpse of the illegally-trapped hen harrier. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Since the General Licence restriction was imposed in late 2019, further alleged offences have been reported at Leadhills and are the subject of ongoing police investigations (see here) including the alleged shooting of a(nother) short-eared owl by a masked gunman on a quad bike as witnessed by a local resident and his eight year old son (see here).

And then there was the individual licence that SNH issued to Leadhills Estate to shoot crows between April and June this year (see here). One of the conditions of that licence was that a return had to be made to SNH within one month of the licence expiring. An FoI request revealed that the estate had breached this condition (see here).

And then there’s the additional context of ALL muirburn being temporarily banned in Scotland until 30 September 2020 under emergency Coronavirus legislation.

The first of the two blogs written earlier this month about the licence application for out-of-season muirburn at Leadhills this summer can be read here.

The second blog detailed SNH’s initial refusal to issue a licence to Osborne/Leadhills Estate, and Osborne’s subsequent appeal of that decision (see here).

This latest blog details SNH’s consideration of Osborne’s appeal, which took place in late August 2020.

So, Osborne had been notified by SNH, in mid-August, that a licence to undertake out-of-season muirburn was not going to be issued. Osborne immediately sent a letter of appeal to challenge that decision and here’s what happened next:

There was some internal dialogue at SNH on 20th August 2020, between unidentified staff members, as follows:

On 24th August 2020 SNH wrote back to Osborne and asked him to provide more detail about his licence application:

Two days later, Osborne responded with the additional information SNH had requested:

The following day, 27th August 2020, SNH wrote back to Osborne saying that if the requested photos could be supplied then a site visit from SNH at Leadhills wouldn’t be necessary:

Later the same day Osborne sent over three photographs and a further explanatory email:

The next blog will examine SNH’s response to Osborne’s licence application appeal…..coming shortly.

9 thoughts on “SNH considers appeal from Leadhills Estate to undertake out-of-season muirburn”

  1. How depressing are these photographs? A landscape devoid of life after carnage due to glyphosate application then an application to burn it further? Not a single tree, no wildlife, nothing.

    This isn’t conservation, it is wanton destruction.

    1. Exactly Sunshine. Why that bit of molina grass and not the other bits? What a load of ‘conservation’ crap. It would also set a dangerous precedent if so-called Nature Scotland (who do not seem at all bothered that a probable carcinogen is dumped to form ugly geometric shapes in the countryside not to mention potential run off and other side effects) as if granted why would Osbourne’s ‘logic’ not be ‘valid’ on future occasions? The whole concept of muirburn needs challenging robustly. It is not needed.

  2. The jury is out on glyphosate.
    There is evidence indicating it is carcinogenic to humans, and there have been lawsuits in the US around this issue.
    A number of countries have banned its use, including some EU member states.
    There is also some evidence indicating that glyphosate when ingested, even in low doses builds up in cells
    and damages the internal organs such as the liver, and kidney in mammals.
    As glyphosate is water soluble it, there are suggestions it readily effects species which underpin the aquatic food chain, as it has the ability to damage microbial and microscopic organisms.

    There is also some evidence of its adverse effects on earthworms, and other valuable insects and bees which are required for pollination.
    Additionally there has been some research which indicates that after use glyphosate due to the way it destroys microbial organisms in fact causes imbalance and damage to the soil, which in turn effects the plant life which can grow.

    As with many chemicals used in agriculture, the agrochemical industry will ensure that that any science is muddied so that the truth of the negative effects of the chemicals can not be easily known or understood.

    Would glyphosate use be sanctioned in an area designated as a SSSI?

    Perhaps SNH should not be considering the question of –
    – allowing out of season muirburn.
    – but instead asking some very probing questions about the use of glyphosate in such a natural environmental setting, the effect that this may have on the natural ecosystem, whether any environmental damage has been caused, and the scale and depth of this damage ?

    Is this just a further example bad land management by some quarters of the shooting industry- where environmental issues are tossed aside in the pursuance of producing artificially high numbers of grouse??

    1. Well said John. I’m amazed (but not surprised) at the unquestioning approach of NS to the casual use of glyphosate for what is obviously not a conservation project. In fact I’m amazed that they obviously accept – in principle – that it is OK to dump large quantities of this stuff onto ‘wild’ land, no doubt at a high concentration, at all. To me it seems akin to pouring hypochlorite into your goldfish bowl to kill algae whilst keeping one’s fingers-crossed that poor old Bubbles does not cark it. With NS in charge who needs polluters?

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