Thursday, 22 December 2016

Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

The third report on proposals and policies (RPP3 - the draft climate change plan)) is due to be published in January 2017 and Parliament has a maximum of 60 days to report on the document.  Four committees of the Scottish Parliament have agreed to collaborate to consider the draft plan: 
  • The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee (EJW) 
  • The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR) 
  • The Local Government and Communities Committee (LGC) 
  • The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (REC)
The REC has circulated an Information Pack for Stakeholders to provide more information about the process and I have placed this, together with a copy of the covering e-mail message in a Dropbox folder.  There is more background on the Scottish Government website.

No doubt many members of the Forum will wish to contribute to the review process independently and I propose that I keep a watching brief in case there is any input that the Forum as a whole could usefully provide.  The areas that the ECCLR will consider are likely to be of most relevance to the Forum.  I will welcome any suggestions from members about how the Forum could provide input.

I will be arranging a meeting for Lord Lindsay and me with the Cabinet Secretary for REC, Fergus Ewing MSP, in January and we will raise this for discussion as part of the meeting. 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Review of the Muirburn Code

The Review of the Muirburn Code is one of the main projects that the Forum is working on, at present.  The review has been taking place behind the scenes through 2016, but the tempo is increasing.  A series of workshops will be held in February and March and this will lead to the development of a final version of the draft Code.  This will be submitted to the Scottish Government and it will be launched over the summer so that it is place for the start of the next muirburn season in October.

There is a dedicated Blog for the review project and this will contain updates and other information.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement Consultation

The Scottish Government has opened a consultation on the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

Under Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) 2016 Act, Scottish Ministers must prepare, consult upon and publish a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. This forms a key part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to end the ‘stop-start’ nature of land reform. The Statement will underpin a range of Scottish Government strategies related to land rights and responsibilities. This consultation is an opportunity to express your views on the content of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

A press release and a consultation paper are available on the Scottish Government's website.

Please respond to this consultation using the Scottish Government’s consultation platform, Citizen Space. You can view and respond to this consultation online.

For more detail, contact: Stephen Krzyzanowski, Land Reform Policy Support and Administrative Officer.  Tel: 0131 244 4855.

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Principles of Moorland Management Project - update

The Principles of Moorland Management (PoMM) project is producing guidance for practitioners to cover a range of moorland management activity.  Small guidance groups have been established to draft the guidance, which will then be passed to members of the project steering group for comment. When approved by the Steering Group, Forum members will be invited to comment before the guidance is published on the Forum's website.  

The guidance will provide links to other related information, and it will be updated on a regular basis to take account of changes to techniques, regulations or other factors.

Further details about the project are available from the project page on the Moorland Forum's website.

Guidance in Production

Three Guidance Groups have been formed, and have been making progress. The topics covered are: Worm Control in Grouse, Heather Cutting and Mountain Hare.

I expect to have draft versions of the guidance for all three groups by mid-November.

Next Steps
The guidance will cover a wide range of topics and it is likely that the process to be followed before the guidance is published will vary between the different topics.  The starting point will be the following process:
  • The guidance will be circulated to the PoMM Steering Group (see below).
  • Feedback will be collated and passed to the Guidance Group for comment and/or amendment of the draft.
  • When approved by the Steering Group, the guidance will be passed to all Forum members for comment.
  • The guidance will then be published on the Forum’s website.
The next stages for the three topics in progress will provide a demonstration of this process in action.

Purpose of the Guidance

The guidance aims to provide a source of information that practitioners can turn to when deciding how they should carry out an approved management activity. Some guidance may also include issues that practitioners should take into account when deciding whether or not a management activity is appropriate in their circumstances.

The aim is to provide a one-stop-shop for the latest guidance on different moorland management activity; the guidance will link to other information and will not repeat details that are already available elsewhere. It will be important that once published it is kept up to date.

Next Topics

With the three guidance groups about to publish their drafts, it is time to consider the next topics that PoMM should address.

In earlier discussion, the Steering Group considered three options:
  • Bracken Control,
  • Snaring, and
  • Sphagnum Moss regeneration (as part of peatland restoration).
Other suggestions will be welcome, and the options will be raised for discussion at the Forum meeting, on 4 November. The Steering Group will then be asked for their views on all the options so that a decision can be made about forming more Guidance Groups.

Steering Group members

Tim Baynes - Scottish Land & Estates
John Bruce - British Deer Society
Ronnie Kippen - Scottish Gamekeepers Association
Alastair MacGugan - SNH
Duncan Orr-Ewing - RSPB Scotland
Colin Shedden - BASC
Adam Smith - GWCT
Julia Stoddart - SACS
Dr. Tony Waterhouse - SRUC
Malcolm Younger - RICS

Understanding Predation - Legacy Project - Update

The concept for what might follow this project is being developed.  A significant step forward has been the support for the concept offered by Roseanna Cunningham, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform.

We are in the discussion phase that the Moorland Forum was asked to facilitate during the final Understanding Predation seminar, which took place on 3 May 2016.  We are seeking to encourage discussion from all with an interest in the issues and to facilitate the development of a programme of action.  

The suggestion is that the follow-on work should maintain a focus on moorland waders.  The scientific research and stakeholder knowledge reveiwed as part of the Understanding Predation project agreed that the populations of these birds are in steep decline.  

Managing for Wader Recovery Across Scotland has been proposed as the title for the follow on work.

It is likely that this programme will address the issues in two stages: a scoping stage, which will collate different opinions and establish what initiatives are already in progress or planned, and it will guide the development of a second stage, which will support action on the ground and take the debate about the issues further.  In acknowledgement of the concerns about the rapid decline in wader populations, it is possible that the two stages will overlap.

A discussion document will be reviewed during the Forum meeting on 4th November, and more information may come as a result of this.

Volunteers to enter the discussion and/or help with the scoping phase and delivery of the programmes of action will be welcome.

Muirburn Code Review - update

For an update on the progress of the review of the Muirburn Code 
see the post on the 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Peatland Code at the Royal Highland Show

I was pleased to be able to support the presentation about the Peatland Code that took place on the Scottish Land & Estates stand on Thursday, 23rd June.  The benefits that flow from better management of peatland are becoming clearer and it is encouraging that ambassadors amongst the land management community are coming forward to state their support.  However, it is difficult to justify the cost of restoration work without external funding and this is how the Peatland Code aims to help; one of the roles for the Code is to provide a match-making service between those who want to restore peatland and those who might want to fund this, perhaps as part of a Corporate Social Responsibility package.

If you want to know the IUCN UK Peatland programme is running a webinar on 26 July. The Peatland Code Webinar: A practical solution to a global problemThe Peatland Code Webinar: A practical solution to a global problem.

With thanks to SL&E for hosting the Peatland Code event, their hospitality provided a good opportunity to meet a range of Moorland Forum members and others with an interest in Scotland's moorlands and uplands.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Principles of Moorland Management (PoMM) - an update

The PoMM project has developed in the shadow of the Understanding Predation project and members of the Forum, and others alike, will be forgiven if they have lost sight of the plan for this work.

The aim is to develop a series of guidance covering a range of moorland management issues. This guidance will be aimed primarily to give practitioners an overview of the information they need before applying different management techniques, and directions to where to find more detailed information.

The project is now gathering momentum and with this briefing, I aim to bring everyone up to date on the stage that this project has reached, the work in progress and the work that is planned.

This project has always been a 'slow burner' but nonetheless it provides the Forum with an opportunity to produce guidance that will be of value to practitioners.

It is deliberate that a some of the details of the project have been left to evolve as the work of the project develops, and it is recognised that each topic will to some extent require a different approach. 

A key feature of the project is that it will rely on cross-sector support for the guidance. Some may think that it will not be possible to achieve this for some of the more controversial topics, but this is the challenge that the project lays down. To produce the guidance may require some compromises but if these can be accepted the benefits from being able to provide a positive influence on the management activities carried out by practitioners will justify this approach. 

Project Governance 

A Project Plan has been agreed and approved by the Forum; this is available on the PoMM page of the Forum's website. 

A provisional Steering Group has been formed from the Planning Group that developed the Project Plan:
Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group
British Deer Society
SNH Wildlife Management Manager
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)
Representing RICS  

The Project Plan makes it clear that the Steering Group can be extended to embrace other interest groups, and volunteers to join the Steering Group will be welcome. It may be possible for someone to contribute to the work of the Steering Group in arelation to one particular topic of interest, but this will need to be considered by the Group.

When guidance has been approved by the Steering Group, it will be referred to all members of the Forum for any comment, before final publication.

Guidance Groups

Guidance Groups are being formed to consider topics agreed by the Steering Group and the Groups will be given a brief to work to and develop, in liaison with the Steering Group.

The Chairman of the Guidance Group will be a member of the Forum.

Guidance Groups will be kept small (4-6 members) and will be formed from people with current experience of the topic, from within but also, where appropriate, from outside the Forum.

Form of the Guidance

The aim is for the output from each Guidance Group to be a summary of the knowledge practitioners, who are seeking to apply the moorland management technique, should have together with directions about how to find more information.

The guidance will be web-based and at least initially, this information will be added to the Moorland Forum’s website.

The format of the published guidance has not yet been agreed and the first piece of guidance will be used to develop a style that will be used for other information, although it is likely that variations in the style will be required for different topics. 

The aim is to publish the best guidance available at the time of publication. This may be a ‘moving target’ but a feature of being online is that it will be easy to update the guidance to reflect increasing knowledge or other changes.


It will be important to keep the guidance up to date, and a feature of the project will be an annual review of all published guidacen, although guidance can be updated at any time in response to changes.


Guidance Groups have been established to consider: Worm Control in Grouse and Heather Cutting. Briefs for both these topics are available on the PoMM webpage.

A group is forming to consider Sustainable Management Mountain Hare and to produce interim guidance, ahead of more formal guidance that is due to be published in 2017. A need for the interim guidance has been identified and this topic is being given a high priority. 


This is a valuable opportunity for the Forum to apply is broad based, specialist knowledge. It will take time to develop the planned suite of information but this will become a valuable source of information for practitioners and others.

Please caontact me if you have any questions about the way the project is developing, if you want to propose topics to address, or if you want to offer support for the work in progress or planned.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Summer Meeting - Sleat Peninsula, Skye

I would like to thank all those who made the Forum's summer visit to Skye such a success.  Lady Noble of Fearann Eilean Iarmain (The Isle Ornsay Estate) hosted the visit and Malcolm Younger (Islesman Ltd) made the local arrangements on her behalf.  We stayed at Sabhal Mor Ostaig (The Gaelic College), which was established by Sir Ian Noble.  We met there on Thursday afternoon, 26th May, and completed a short meeting to discuss Forum business, before being joined by several local guests.

After an introduction by Lady Noble, we heard presentations from:
  • Professor Frank Rennie from UHI about Common Grazings;
  • Isabel Moore, ‎Biologist at Skye Fisheries Trust, about Salmon and Sea Trout; and
  • Jan Wallwork-Clarke, the CEO of Clan Donald Land Trust (the neighbouring landowner), about the estate and deer management.
Photo: Stewart Dawber
Over drinks before supper, the local photographer, Stewart Dawber, gave us a show of his photographs.  This served to whet our appetite for the field visit the following day; we were not to be disappointed.  This photo is an example of his work.

After dinner, we were treated to a cultural presentation about the history of the Sleat Peninsula by Professor Hugh Cheape from the College.  After this, the weather was so perfect, with wind to keep the local midges at bay, that we were able to put the world to rights while standing outside enjoying the view across the Sound of Sleat, in the last of the light.

On Friday morning, we drove the loop road to the west coast of the peninsula and had many interesting discussions in the sunshine, while soaking in the stunning view of the Cuillins.  Among many other topics, we discussed: deer management; the interaction between moorland and woodland management; the economics of farming in the area; fishery management, which included coming face to face with Fresh Water Pearl Mussels and an Adder; and common grazings.

This visit has served to provide the Forum with some very useful contacts in the north and west of the country.  This is of particular importance as we roll out the review of the Muirburn Code and the developing guidance under the banner of the Principles of Moorland Management.  Also, if the Forum is to play a role with the development of a Moorland Vision, in whatever form this takes, good contacts in this area will be essential. The area to the north and west of the Great Glen does not get enough focus and I hope that the Forum can use this visit as the catalyst to start to correct this.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Wildfire Warning for Scotland

The Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) is raising awareness about the increased risk of wildfire across most parts of Scotland over the next few days as weather forecasters predict very dry conditions.

Vice Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, Michael Bruce, monitors the European Commission’s European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) which provides information, which can be used to inform the public about the risk of wildfire.

He said: “At the start of spring there is often a lot of dead vegetation leftover from last year. This fuel can dry out quickly when there are bright sunny days with high temperatures and low humidity levels. We have a high pressure weather system dominating Scotland creating these conditions at the moment.”

We are now well into that time of year when the risk of wildfire is at its highest and The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is already working closely with land managers and appealing to tourists and communities to help reduce the number fires in a bid to protect the countryside and its residents.

On Saturday, SFRS crews tackled a wildfire which involved a large area of heathland a mile long being fanned by strong winds near the village of Carsphairn in rural Dumfries and Galloway.

SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer, Andy Coueslant, the chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, said raising awareness is key to reducing the risk.

He explained: “We have a forecast of settled dry, warm and at times windy conditions over the next week. We therefore ask people to be vigilant and act responsibly, while this period of weather affects the country.

“Many rural and remote communities are hugely impacted by wildfires, which can cause significant environmental and economic damage.

“Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires, as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.

“Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting so it’s crucial people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and follow the countryside code.”

The public can help prevent wildfires by making sure they dispose of litter and smoking materials carefully while in rural areas. Land managers are reminded that the legal period for Muirburn ended on 30 April.

For further advice and information about wildfires and what we can all do to prevent them visit our website

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Scottish Land & Estates - Spring Conference - 25 May 2016

Scottish Land & Estates has announced details of their Spring Conference, which will be held in The Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh on 25 May 2016.

This conference offers delegates a unique opportunity to engage with Scottish landowners, representatives of land based business, rural professionals, politicians, policy decision makers and academics. The conference is designed to stimulate debate, introduce new ideas and approaches, explore challenges and identify potential solutions.

For more details about the conference and how to apply for a place, see the SL&E website.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Wildfire Warning for Southern Scotland

As a result of the dry weather conditions and the dry condition of the vegetation, the Scottish Fire & Rescue Servce and the Scottish Wildfire Forum have issued a Wildfire Warning.  The areas at most risk are in SW Scotland and across the Southern Uplands.

There have been some wildfire incidents in these areas in the last few days and and landowners and managers are asked to take care.  Full details of the Wildfire Warning are available to download.

Michael Bruce, the Vice chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, monitors the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) and he said, "at the end of winter, before plants start growing in the spring, there is often a lot of dead vegetation from last year. This fuel can dry out quickly when there are bright sunny days and frosts overnight with low levels of humidity. We have a high pressure weather system dominating the UK creating these conditions at the moment."

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Land Reform (Scotland) Bill - Summary

Photo: CKD Galbraith
I recommend that anyone seeking easy-access to the key areas addressed by the Bill should read the summary published by CKD Galbraith.

Langholm Moor Demonstration Project - completion plan

This 10-year project completes in October 2017. The project is set up as a company and it is run by a Board of Directors, which met, last week, to discuss how the project is to be managed between now and completion. This follows the sad resignation of the Headkeeper, Simon Lester, earlier this month, and other reductions in the gamekeeping team.

See the news item on the Project's website for details of the plan that has been announced.

The Directors have acknowledged that the Project is not going to meet all the targets that were set for it. However, there have been many successes and I welcome the plan to write up properly all the work that has been completed so that the moorland management community can get full value from the project. Inevitably, there will be criticism that all the targets will not be achieved, but this should not be seen as failure. Targets are always going to be at risk when dealing with natural systems that cannot be tightly controlled, and the final report from the Project will need to balance the successes against the challenges that still remain to be answered.

Will there be an appetite for a Langholm 3 project?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Regional Workshops - wild deer research and delivery of sustainable deer management in Scotland

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Centre for Mountain Studies (UHI) are conducting a review for the Scottish Government of existing research on wild deer management. The aim is to identify gaps in the existing knowledge-base through gathering the views of stakeholders and reviewing existing material.

For full details of the workshops, see the flyer.
(if you cannot access the Dropbox link, please advise so that I can send you a copy of the flyer by e-mail)

Environmental impacts of driven grouse shooting

Photo: Patrick Laurie
See the post on the Understanding Predation project blog about the new paper published by the RSPB and its relevance to the project.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021

Getting the best from our land: A Land Use Strategy for Scotland 2016 – 2021 is published today and is available on the Scottish Government website

‘Getting the best from our land’ is Scotland’s second land use strategy and comes at a time when focus on the way we use land is stronger than ever. The recently passed Land Reform (Scotland) Bill and Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act have paved the way for this revised strategy, which sets out the importance of: 
  • Management of natural resources with an ecosystems approach to land use
  • Partnership activity to bring a range of interests together to consider land use at a local level in both rural and urban areas
  • Developing and implementing activities to promote climate friendly farming and crofting
  • The relationship between ownership, use and management of land
  • Continuing to explore the potential of catchment based approaches for managing land
A full press release is available and any questions relating to the Land Use Strategy should be directed to the Land Use and Biodiversity Team - e-mail:

Monday, 14 March 2016

Wildfire 2015 - conference presentations available

Prevention Better than Cure
November 2015

The presentations from last year's wildfire conference are now available to download.  

The actions and lessons learned during the conference will provide a focus for the work of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, this year, and work will soon need to start to prepare for the next conference, which is likely to be held in 2017.

With the weather set fair this week, there is a good chance for muirburn plans to be put into action.  Even after all the wet weather of the winter, the vegetation can dry very quickly at this time of year and I urge care so that we do not end up with a spate of wildfires.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Understanding Predation - the end of the beginning

This project was launched by the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land reform on Monday.  There is much more about it on the Understanding Predation blog, and the report can be downloaded from the Forum's website.

The Project has identified pathways to address conflicts from an agreed starting point.  I look forward to working with Forum members and other organisations to develop some collaborative actions that will aim to arrest the declines of the key species considered by the report.

Please let me know what you think by using the comment facility on this blog, or on the project's blog.

Website Offline, 8pm 12 February

Due to 'essential maintenance' by the hosts, the Forum's website, will not be available for about 3 hours from 8pm tonight.

All being well, it will be fully restored thereafter.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Principles of Moorland Management gathers pace

Progress on this project has suffered from being in the shadow of the Understanding Predation project, but we are making progress.

The latest version of the plan for this project is on the project page of the Forum's website and this provides the detail of what this project aims to achieve. In summary:
  1. The project aims to identify the best practice techniques to be used for a variety of moorland management practices;
  2. The project will publish short summaries of the key issues on the Forum’s website and will link to other guidance, where this is available;
  3. If guidance gaps are identified, the project may commission the production of appropriate detailed guidance; and
  4. The guidance published by the project will be reviewed at least annually and updated when necessary.
It has been agreed that initially the project will focus on guidance that covers four topics:

Lead Organisation
Worm Control in Grouse
Predator control & Snaring
Sheep Ticks & Mountain Hare
Heather Cutting
Heather Trust

A Guidance Group will be established for each topic and the Group will operate in accordance with a brief agreed by the Steering Group.  The first brief, for Worm Control in Grouse, has been drafted and currently this is under review - it can be viewed on the webpage.  When finalised, the Guidance Group will start work.

I will publish more information about this important project as it gathers momentum, but please use the Comment facility below, if you would like more information.