Monday, 19 December 2011

Woodland Expansion Advisory Group

The Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG) has been established in response to The Scottish Government's wish to increase the amount of woodland cover in Scotland from 17% to 25%.  The WEAG has established a consultation process which closes on 6 January 2012 and a copy of a letter that was sent by the Group to stakeholders can be downloaded from the FCS website.

The Forum will be submitting a consultation response and the intention is to base this on the paper that was prepared by a Forum task group in 2008.  Some of the recommendations that related to the need for a coordinated land use policy have been addressed by the development of the Land Use Strategy, but most of the paper is as relevant now as it was in 2008.

The WEAG has announced a series of seven stakeholder events across Scotland between 21 February and 1 March 2012, and details can be found on the WEAG page of the website.

The success of the 2011 Scottish Grouse season

The Scotsman has published two articles that describe how memorable this year's grouse season has been and how the income the sport has generated will be of benefit to moorland management, to biodiversity and to local communities.

The articles have been mentioned in separate posts on the Heather Trust's blog:

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The European Nature Trust

The European nature Trust's latest newsletter will be of special interest to those with an interest in peatland management.  There is a description of using voluntary carbon management to fund peatland restoration.

James Hutton Institute

The JHI newsletter published on 16 December 2011 can be downloaded here.  There is an option to sign up for future editions.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Mar Lodge Estate - Independent Review

Mar Lodge is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is close to Braemar.  The management of this  estate has been controversial of late, particular over the deer management and muirburn policies.  There has been concern about the reduction in deer numbers and the impact that this will have on stalking enterprises on neighbouring estates.  The lack of a full muirburn programme has also left neighbours worrying about wildfire risk.

NTS commissioned an independent report and this is available to download.  To quote from the report, it is interesting to note that, "part of the initial aspiration for the Estate was to demonstrate that conservation and sporting objectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but that with sensitive management, both can be accommodated."  The report considers different scenarios: two variants of the status quo, and then minimum and medium intervention policies; it then makes a series of recommendations.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Country Sports Tourism Group

I recommend the short film on the home page of the CSTG's website.  Some stunning aerial video of mountains.

The website also has a sign up option for the newsletter and details of the Wild Scotland conference that takes place in Perth next week (6 December).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

James Hutton Institute Newsletter

Follow the link to the latest newsletter from The James Hutton Institute.

Sustainable Uplands Project - Music Video

This video produced by the Sustainable Uplands Project, captures the artistry of 20:20 Vision and presents some stunning images and video accompanied by compelling music.  Recommended watching for all with a passion for moorlands, uplands or bogs.  It serves to remind us of why we care about such areas.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Peatland Working Group

Fifteen representatives of organisations from both within and outside the Moorland Forum met on 11 October in Perth to discuss the formation of a Peatland Working Group to be operated as part of the Forum.  The need for a coordinated approach to the management of peatland areas was recognised, and there was unanimous support for this Group.

The Group agreed that it would be useful to produce briefings on key topics as a way of harnessing the knowledge and experience available to the Group and increasing awareness of the issues.  As an example of the potential of this Group, Clifton Bain, the Director of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, Mark Reed from Aberdeen University and Prof Stuart Gibb, Director of the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso, would be cooperating to produce the first briefing that will provide a route map for developing a Peatland Carbon Code.

Following the meeting, the 2020 Climate Group published an article on their website.

More information will be available on the Forum's website shortly.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Asulam - Letter to The Scotsman

The Forum agreed the wording of a letter to the Editor of The Scotsman that was published today under the questionable title of 'Moor the Merrier'.

The full text of the letter can be viewed on the Forum's website and the published text can be viewed here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

GWCT - Grouse management training course

The Grouse Keeper’s Course will take place 4-6 November 2011 on managed grouse moors in Glen Esk, Angus. The itinerary taps into the unique knowledge of well-respected grouse keepers and that of GWCT advisory and research staff to provide a solid understanding of these game birds and their needs.

Key topics will include:  Heather burning, Tick and louping ill control, Grit and direct dosing, Strongyle worm counting, Heather beetle, Grazing management, Bracken control, Black grouse habitats, Latest developments (including legal) in hill predator control techniques, New methods of counting red grouse and shoot planning

The hands-on course will also explore the wider conservation benefits from managing these species.

The cost of the course is £362 per person, excluding VAT and accommodation. Good accommodation is available nearby.

For more information see the Flyer and to book a place, contact Lynda Ferguson, tel: 01425 651013; email:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Langholm Moor - Burning Under Licence

This ITV video clip shows an interview carried out with the headkeeper, Simon Lester, while burning was taking place on Langholm Moor before the start of the main muirburn season on 1 October.  The burning was taking place under an out of season licence granted by SNH.

The licensing option was introduced by the Wildlife & Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 2011 and this part of the Act came into force on 1 August 2011.

The Muirburn Group of the Forum is working with SNH and the Scottish Government to implement the licensing regime and the Group will also be advising on other possible changes (see the previous Post).

Friday, 30 September 2011

Muirburn Group News Release

The Muirburn Group has issued a News Release covering the recent and possible legislative changes and giving encouragement to carry out muirburn. The release can be downloaded from the Forum's website.

Scottish Moorland Group Newsletter

The Group's Newsletter can be viewed from this link.

Asulam - some good news

A summary of the outcomes from a meeting held between representatives of the bracken control industry and UPL can be found on the Heather Trust's Blog.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Asulam for Bracken control - the appeal fails

For information about this, see the post on The Heather Trust's Blog.

It is a major issue for Scotland as well as other areas of the UK with large areas of bracken cover.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Langholm Moor Demonstration Project

Wildlife has published an article summarises the 3 year review of the project and provides a useful summary of progress.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Meet the Minister at Glensaugh

Lord Lindsay and Prof Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, jointly hosted a meeting at the Glensaugh Research Station for Stewart Stevenson, MSP, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change.  This gave representatives of both organisations a chance to discuss upland issues with the Minister in an informal, practical setting.  The weather was fair and some interesting discussion too place.  The JHI communications team issued a press release which can be viewed here and the Press & Journal published a short article which can be downloaded here.

This was a good chance to impress on the Minister the role that the Forum has in generating consensus.  It linked well to the JHI message about the need for partnership and engagement with the end users of the science.  The proposal to establish an annual research exchange meeting at Glensaugh received all round support and the aim will be to set this up as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Upland Solutions

The final versions of the three reports produced by the project are now available on the Forum's website.  This project is an important output from the Forum.

The press release issued to announce the publication of the final report is also available from the website and this resulted in an article in the Press & Journal on 23 August 2011, which again can be viewed from the website.

The project and the report have highlighted many issues and the Forum will be considering these to see how the lessons learned can be applied in the future.

Peatlands and the 2020 Climate Group

Building on a briefing I prepared for the Forum, I wrote an article for Scotland's 2020 Climate Group that has now been published on the group's website.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Muirburn Licensing

The licensing scheme introduced by the Wildlife & Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 is now live and the guidance and application form can be downloaded from the SNH website.

Other muirburn provisions introduced by the Act are likely to be implemented prior to the start of the Muirburn Season on 1 October.   The Forum's muirburn group will be assisting the Scottish Government with the preparation of additional guidance about these issues - mainly changes to the season to remove the extension above 450m to 15 May, and changes to the neighbour notification requirements.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape partnership

The John Muir Trust has announced the launch of the Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape, the largest project of its kind in Scotland. 
It is a partnership project between the John Muir Trust, Assynt Foundation, Culag Community Woodland Trust, Eisg Brachaid Estate, Tanera Mòr and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The aims of the work include the restoration of woodland and peatland habitat and the creation.
See the press release for more details.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

WNE Act - first enactment orders

The first orders of the new Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 come into force this week, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today.  Amongst other issues the orders will cover: game licences, the transfer of wildlife licensing to SNH and muirburn licensing.

More details are in the SG press release

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

SEPA View No 51: Breathing spaces

The latest magazine from SEPA can be downloaded here.  Of relevance to the Forum are the articles about 'Managing Flood Risk' and 'Forests for the Future'.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Back to the Future: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2011

This is a relevant report of the US experience that builds on the issues discussed at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme Conference held in Stirling on 20-22 June 2011.  See the Heather Trust's Blog links & more details.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Scottish Land & Estates

Welcome to Scottish Land & Estates that has been spawned from the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) and the Scottish Estates Business Group (SEBG).  For details of the new organisation see yesterday's press release.  There are two articles in the press today that give a view on the challenges facing the new organisation:
More than just a new name..., Andrew Arbuckle in The Scotsman

Monday, 6 June 2011

Looking to the Hills published

The latest and last edition of this publication can be downloaded from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee's website.  There are many good articles and reports that are relevant to members of the Forum.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Wildfire on the BBC

Tomorrow, Friday 3 June 2011, the BBC is likely to broadcast a series of articles on wildfire issues on: Good Morning Scotland, Reporting Scotland and a slightly longer piece on BBC Landward at 7pm. The participants are likely to include Chief Fire Officer Trevor Johnson, Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, Tom Aldridge of Central Insurance Services, Drew Macfarlane-Slack SRPBA and Michael Bruce. The material was recorded by the BBC Landward team last the rain.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fair Game: Scotland's Sporting Estates

See the earlier post that provided details of this BBC2 TV programme.  Note that it is no longer available on the BBC iPlayer.

The SRPBA has responded to the programme and Doug McAdam has asked that I make the response that was circulated to SRPBA members available more widely; it can be viewed here.  A letter from Doug was also published in the Scotland on Sunday paper on 22 May.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Code of practice on deer management: Draft for public consultation

A consultation on the draft Code has been launched and responses have been requested by 1 July 2011.  Public meetings are being held in Inverness, Perth & Moffat.  More details are available from the SNH Website.

I am taking soundings from members of the Forum about whether the Forum should submit a response to the consultation and I would welcome any views.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Minister for Environment

Stewart Stevenson, MSP has been appointed as the new Minister for Environment and Climate Change.  See the BBC report.

We will be considering how best to brief him on the Forum's activities.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Highlands wildfires could cost landowners £26m

See the BBC News article and an article in The Scotsman that are based on a press release issued by Highlands & Islands Fire & Rescue Service on 16 May.  If anyone would like to see the original press release, which has more facts and figures, leave me a comment.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Fair Game: Scotland's Sporting Estates

For anyone who missed the live broadcast of this TV programme, it is available on the BBC iPlayer, although I am not sure how long for.  See the Moorland Forum's Doug McAdam and Duncan Orr-Ewing in action!

I would welcome any comments about how the programme portrayed sporting estates and the raptor-grouse conflict.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Willie Fraser,
National Trust for Scotland
I am running a commentary about the current spate of wildfires on the Heather Trust's Blog.  To avoid duplication please follow this link to the Blog.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wildfire Risk is High

Caution is required in upland areas this weekend.  See the Heather Trust Blog for details of recent wildfires.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Muirburn season

See the post on the Heather Trust's Blog for an update on the Muirburn Season following the passing of the Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Asulam: The loss of effective bracken control?

For a view on the debate surrounding the re-registration of Asulam, and the potential threat to effective bracken control in the uplands, see the post on The Heather Trust's Blog.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Getting the best from our land: a land use strategy for Scotland

From the Land Use Strategy Team:

Scottish Ministers today laid Scotland’s first Land Use Strategy and an accompanying consultation report before the Scottish Parliament.  The Strategy signals a change in the ways that we approach land use across the country, and will influence a wide range of land-use decisions.   To find out more or to view the Strategy, please visit our web page at the above address.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Strategy’s development.  The response to our consultation in the autumn was excellent, and helped build on the views received at our public workshops last spring.

The full suite of documents, including the Strategy itself, is available as follows:

Getting the best from our land: a land use strategy for Scotland
Getting the best from our land: a guide to Scotland’s first land use strategy
Getting the best from our land: a report on the consultation process undertaken to produce a land use strategy for Scotland
Analysis of Responses to the Consultation on “Getting the best from our land: a draft land use strategy for Scotland”
Analysis of responses to the consultation on “Getting the best from our land: a draft land use strategy for Scotland”  [summary findings]
Getting the best from our land: A draft land use strategy for Scotland: Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Report: Consultation Analysis Report

Friday, 11 March 2011

Wildlife Management - SNH's role and priorities

SNH has published feedback to those who responded to the consultation on Wildlife Management in December 2010.  The Board paper can be downloaded here.  Is there a role for the Moorland Forum here?

The covering e-mail message is repeated below:

Our role in wildlife management: discussion on our future priorities 
Our Board met on the 22 February and discussed the attached paper which outlined our proposed future wildlife management priorities.  This was prepared following our recent consultation looking at this new programme of wildlife management work.

The Board were very supportive of the general approach laid out in the paper and the priority areas identified for early work.  They recognised that this was an important area for SNH and complemented our existing activities very well.  It was recognised that there is a desire for greater co-ordination and leadership in wildlife management work, but that clarity was needed on where SNH's influence would be most beneficial.

It was noted that animal welfare was an important aspect of this work and that a more objective approach to animal welfare issues would enable more transparent decisions to be made by SNH and other public bodies on wildlife management work.  It was also felt that more could be done by SNH and others to promote a more informed and balanced public debate on the welfare matters.

Our Board also recognised that this work needed to be underpinned by sound science and this should build on existing work and data collection by other bodies.  It was recognised that SNH Board and Committees had limited expertise in areas of social science and this expertise may need to be supplemented to enable effective support of this programme of work.

Finally, the Board noted that staff and financial resources were limited and asked staff to develop the identified priorities into a realistic programme of work that would enable tangible progress to be delivered within the next 2 years.

We will be developing our wildlife management programme along these lines and look forward to working with you as this work is progressed.
If you have any queries about any of the details within the paper please contact one of us:

SG's Report - 'Our Rural Future'

This report is the Government's response to the Speak Up for Rural Scotland consultation carried out, last year.  It contains many themes that are similar to the recommendations contained in the report from the Forum's Upland Solutions project.  A thought for the Moorland Forum is that we could offer a task force approach, building on our experience with Upland Solutions, for the development of plans for communities where there are upland or moorland interests. This would allow the Forum to work in partnership with other organisations to produce plans for the future of the community area that connected with upland interests.

The report can be downloaded from the SG Website and is well worth a look.  For the Forum, the sections on Land Use Priorities and Community Participation Priorities are of particular relevance.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

England - Farming in the Uplands - Select Committee Report

Although this report only relates directly to England, there are many issues that are relevant to Scotland and the other parts of the UK.  I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the future of the Uplands.  Many of the recommendations tie in closely with the findings coming out of the Forum's Upland Solutions Project.

More details and links are available from The Heather Trust's Blog.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

UHI Millennium Institute becomes the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)

The University of the Highlands and Islands comprises 13 colleges, specialist institutions and research centres spread across the area. It uses information technologies to link together students and staff to bring access to higher education to dispersed communities.  More information.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Trends in Corvids & Mountain Hares

A link has been added to the website to give access to the GWCT's update about the National Gamebag Census.   This contains interesting information on 'Trends in Corvid Species' and 'Mountain hare bags and distribution in Scotland.'

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The James Hutton Institute - Chief Operating Officer

The James Hutton Institute’s Chief Operating Officer has been named as Dr Karen Shaw.  Currently, she is working at the University of Manchester as Head of the University Research.  Dr Shaw (46) will start work in Aberdeen and Invergowrie at the end of January.  More details

Professor Iain Gordon has been appointed as the Chief executive and the new Institute will take over the  work of the Macaulay and SCRI Institute on 1 April 2011.  More details about the Hutton Institute

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Culling of Mountain Hares

As a result of the concerns amongst some Forum members about the content of the articles about culling of hares that appeared in recent newspapers,  (see the post on 11 January about the 'Scotland on Sunday' article published on 9 January), the following letter has been sent to the editors of the papers that carried the story:

Dear Sir,

Your article relating to hare culls in Scotland is inaccurate. Scottish moors can continue to harvest hares without fear of compromising their European conservation status.

Over the years mountain hares have become an important asset for many estates in  Highland Scotland. This is because management for red grouse, notably improving habitat and controlling predators, has allowed mountain hare populations in Scotland to build densities up to 10 times greater than seen anywhere else in Europe. Indeed, some moors need to do so in order to enhance and protect the very moorland management hares have come to depend on. This issue has been discussed by Scotland’s Moorland Forum without major concerns being raised.

When sheep treated with tick killing (rather than attracting) chemicals are present and there are few deer to support the tick population, hare densities have sometimes had to be reduced to suppress viral disease of sheep and red grouse. This ultimately protects the investment in heather moorland which both hares, grouse and tourism depends upon. Similarly, some suppression of hare population densities may be necessary on some occasions to allow woodland regeneration.

Of the reported 25,000 hares culled per year it has to be considered in the context of a national population of around 350,000. In real terms, any cull representing less than 10% of a population is entirely sustainable.  Allegations of local ‘over-culling’ have never been quantified and given the range over which eagles hunt are unlikely to have consequential impacts on raptors. Recent research by Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, SNH and the Macaulay Institute it was found that the range of mountain hare had not changed – a sign of a healthy population.

We recognise it is good practice for moorland managers to consider the impact of their actions on their own and neighbouring hare populations. Therefore we welcome, with some adjustments, the hare closed season in Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill. But moors must also take account of the need to secure the future of the key driver of the hare population, investment in red grouse shooting.

Yours faithfully,

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
Scottish Rural and Property Business Association
Scottish Gamekeepers Association
British Association of Shooting and Conservation (Scotland)
Scottish Countryside Alliance
Scottish Estates Business Group
The Heather Trust

Speak Up for Scotland

The Analysis Report of the consultation, which generated 131 written responses, has now been published and can be accessed from the SG website.  It is available as the full report or in an abbreviated version.
Some highlights from a Forum perspective:

  • encouragement of rural partnerships in the context of land use
  • co-operation between local communities, land managers, planners and developers to identify appropriate sites and opportunities with potential for renewable energy development
  • planning and regulation: the need to reduce regulation and bureaucracy
  • respondents stressed the need for skilled and informed community organisations
  • the importance of evidence gathering and sharing good practice
  • a need for an action plan/strategic guidance from the Scottish Government relating to implementation

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Landscape Issues

Read the John Muir Trust news release on landscape issues and the European Landscape Convention.

The Culling of Mountain Hares

See the article from Scotland on Sunday on 9 January 2011.

To cull or not to cull?

(see the response from some Forum members in the post on 12 January)