Press release from Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform in Scotland (29th January 2021)
Scottish Government urged to protect Scotland’s ‘Amazon rainforest’
As the UK Government announces an end to muirburn on England’s peatland moors calls for the Scottish Government to end muirburn on Scotland’s controversial grouse moors have intensified.
The pressure has increased on the Scottish Government to end grouse moor burning as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has committed to a ban on deep peat, environments which store and sequester huge amounts of carbon in the ground. However when damaged by activities like burning, peatlands release carbon and are known to contribute significantly to climate change.
[Gamekeepers setting fire to a grouse moor at Leadhills Estate, South Lanarkshire. Photo by Ruth Tingay]
Campaigners have welcomed the move by DEFRA but have said the Scottish Government must go further. The Scottish Government has already announced that all muirburn should require a licence and that burning should not happen on deep peat but the terms of the licence have still to be decided.
Max Wiszniewski, Campaign Manager for REVIVE the coalition for grouse moor reform said:
“There is a circle of destruction surrounding Scotland’s controversial grouse moors that negatively affects our people, our wildlife and in this case the environment. Muirburn manipulates the environment to make sure that there are more grouse available for sport shooting and happens over huge land areas across Scotland. There is a very key question to answer here.
“Scotland’s peat stores about 25 times more carbon than all the forests of the UK put together and in carbon terms is our very own Amazon Rainforest. Is this environmental destruction worth it so that a few people can shoot a few more grouse? The Scottish Government must not offer a licence for any moorland burning if the purpose is as unnecessary as shooting grouse for sport.
“While the announcement in England is a welcome step forward if Scotland wants to be truly world leading on climate change this will be a key consideration.”
The Scottish Government has also indicated it is willing to redefine the depth of peat which would limit areas that could be burnt on. REVIVE and other groups like the RSPB are calling for deep peat to be redefined from 50cm to 25cm deep to protect more of this vital resource.
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland added:
“The climate emergency means that the management of the peat-rich grouse moorland in the UK will have to change radically because every sector will have to contribute to our efforts to cut emissions, including in the crucial next decade. That’s why it is welcome news to see the UK Government beginning to take action to better protect blanket bog from this outdated, dangerous practice.
“If the Scottish Government chooses to continue allowing land owners to burn land indiscriminately we risk damaging vital peatlands and allowing the carbon it stores to leak into the atmosphere, undermining other efforts to reduce climate emissions.”
Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland said:
“Burning heather on grouse moors is done for one reason – to increase the number of grouse to be shot. We welcome DEFRA’s commitment to reduce it in England and call on the Scottish Government to do the right thing and ban muirburn – for good”.