Calls intensify to end muirburn on Scottish grouse moors

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”.


10 thoughts on “Calls intensify to end muirburn on Scottish grouse moors”

  1. ‘We didn’t know it was that deep honest’
    ‘Well, if you promise not to do it again and again and again and again we will let you off this time. If however you are still doing it 30 years from now we may have to fine you a tenner’.

  2. Its one of the sights of the disturbing sights of Spring in the uplands as farmers set the hill on fire…….it is a shame that for decades now its been persued with such reckless abandon that a complete ban may be the best option.. and clearly fires on peat soils are not a good thing and should have been stopped two decades ago……Burning back molinia tussock grass is another issue that if only it had been conducted with a modicum of respect one could see a limited role here; ………..Progress is slow.. Brexit may accelerate change ; have nt heard anything re live lamb exports yet and how’s that going to fare eh under new Custom regime (no reason for the French to be generous there)!! Ha . P

  3. It is clear that the Sc. Gov. will do nothing unless they pushed, pulled or otherwise driven and even then they attempt to get away with doing the barest minimum.
    They sympathise with the wrong side.

  4. The issue of large industrial windfarms being granted permissions on such peatlands needs to be looked at too. The situation on Shetland with regards to a massive wind farm currently being built on pristine peatland’ with some of the UK ‘s rarest breeding birds nearby is frankly a disgrace!!

    1. Yes, and the large tracts of mainland hill areas that have been disfigured by wind farms is outrageous.
      The landowners make a pretty penny from them !

      1. While being appalled by the “disfiguring” of our hillsides by a few windfarms we seem to have lost sight [literally] of the hundreds of thousands of acres of monoculture grouse moor, monoculture conifer blocks and monoculture sheepwalk. We need a sense of proportion here, Im no fan of wind farms in the wrong place threatening our rare birds..but these birds are rare in the first place due to loss of habitat [and persecution]. Lets get some native woodland back on our hills as our top priority.

  5. It is very disappointing that the proposed legislation is so full of loopholes that I can already imagine the agents and Grouse moor owners are working out ways to get around it and I don’t think with the lack of monitoring by agencies it will be difficult for them. It needs to be a lot tighter and the cynic in me suspects it has been drawn up deliberately to enable estates to carry on pretty much as usual albeit with a bit more paperwork involved.

  6. Yes, Ros ………. engineered escape routes.
    Seems to be how legislation from the Holyrood mob works. Does everything except address the problem.

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