Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Review of the Muirburn Code

The Scottish Government tasked the Muirburn Group of the Moorland Forum with carrying out an initial critique phase to start the review process for the existing Muirburn Code.  The report from this phase of work would be used to develop the scope of the main review.

I am grateful for the many responses I received to the questionnaire that was widely circulated to invite comments on the existing Code and to capture ideas about how it should be developed to meet current and future requirements for a Muirburn Code.  This process was due to report during April.  Then the great wildfire conflagration struck the north west of Scotland.

The scale of this spate of wildfires was sufficient to make it clear that it would have an impact on the way we approached wildfire and this in turn must affect the way the Muirburn Code should evolve.  The result of this was to put a hold on the development of the ideas coming out of the critique phase, while the lessons form the wildfire incidents were considered.

The Scottish Government held a meeting on 7 May to review the situation.  The wildfire incidents had highlighted very clearly the need for a coordinated approach to wildfire that could only be provided by an effective Wildfire Forum.  As a result of this, it is expected that a revitalised Wildfire Forum will emerge soon.  During the meeting, I emphasised my view that it is time we started planning for wildfire and not reacting with surprise and horror when it occurs.  Planning should start with a prescribed burning plan as a way to reduce fuel load and create firebreaks, and this is where the Muirburn Code comes in.

While the response to the wildfires is reviewed,  the programme for the development of the Muirburn Code is uncertain, but I think it is worth waiting to make sure that a revised Code is able to address wildfire issues, as well as prescribed burning.  If the review process can trigger the development of an effective approach to wildfire and fire management it will have achieved great things.

While we are waiting, further input to the critique phase will be welcome, but judging by the issues that have already been raised, it is clear that there is an appetite for a review of all aspects of the Code, and this will include the objectives for carrying out muirburn in the first place.  

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