Friday, 14 July 2017

Soil Association Events - 26 July & 7 August

The Soil Association Scotland is hosting a range of events for farmers, growers and crofters across Scotland.

Buzzing About Grassland (Caithness, 26th July) will look at how we can better utilise species rich grassland meadows and what revenue is available for managing them. 

For Peat’s Sake (West Linton, 7th August) will look at the opportunities peatland restoration may offer to farmers and how that impacts farming and upland grazing. 

These events are free to farmers, foresters and land managers. Book online, or call Jane on 0131 666 2474.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Keeping up-to-date with snaring

 Snaring in Scotland

Reprinted from the GWCT members' magazine 'Gamewise' by kind permission of GWCT.

I would welcome contributions to this blog covering topics that will be of general interest to a range of Forum members.

The report to Scottish Government by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on the use of snares in Scotland was published in March. This meets the requirement for the regulation of snaring to be reviewed every five years.

The main thrust of the report is that current legislation is working and that no fundamental changes are needed. However, SNH does recommend some changes with regard to fox snares and to the Code of Practice. These proposals are as follows:

  • Require each snare to have at least two swivels — this follows the findings of research by Defra and the GWCT to further minimise risk of a snare breaking should a single swivel become clogged with vegetation with resulting welfare issues.
  • Require the stop position, which determines the minimum noose size, to be 26 cm from the running eye — this follows research by the GWCT to identify the optimal stop distance whereby hares are more likely to escape while not affecting the retention of foxes.
  •  These hardware changes would bring Scottish snaring practice in line with the recently published Codes of Practice in England and Wales (2016). 

Other proposals in the report include:

  • Standardising attendance methods and 'pass' criteria.
Code of Practice
  • Clarifying authority and responsibility where another person is required to provide 'sick cover' for the original operator.
  • Implementing a maximum period for updating snare records — SNH is proposing within 48 hours.
  • Reducing the time allowed to produce snare records for inspection. This currently allows 21 days, but the proposal is to reduce this to 'immediately' when requested by police on location, or otherwise to be produced at a police station within seven days.
Penalties on conviction of an offence 
  • Introduction of the power of disqualification for a snaring offence, although it is not clear how this would operate, how long disqualification would last, or whether there would be a system of appeal.

Overall, the report found that snaring related incidents had reduced and therefore further changes were not required. Any changes to come from the review will be delivered through the Snaring Code of Practice.

Next steps are likely to include consultation with the Snaring Technical Assessment Group (TAG) and possibly wider public consultation.

Changes to fox snares, such as the introduction of a double swivel and change to stop position, will require amendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which could take time.

We do have concerns over the sanctions being proposed and these will need careful discussion and consultation. It would certainly be wrong if very minor mistakes, as opposed to blatant abuses of the Code, could result in disqualification. We will need to wait and see the detail.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Working for Waders

This is a working title for an initiative that is developing to follow the Understanding Predation project.  To help develop the concept, one or more workshops are being proposed in early May to gather views from as many people as possible about the sort of initiative that would match the range of different aspirations amongst stakeholders.

A save-the-date notification has been placed on the Moorland Forum website and anyone with an interest in the potential of this work is invited to indicate which of the three workshops they would like to attend.  A decision about which workshop to run will be made in response to demand - please complete all the workshops you will be able to attend.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Peatland ACTION re-launch

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, has re-launched the Peatland ACTION project.

The Peatland ACTION fund received a further £8 million from the Scottish Government, in January. The investment allows the Peatland Action Fund, which is administered by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to continue working with its partners and restore a further 8,000 hectares of this precious peatland habitat in Scotland, during 2017/18.

The fund is open for applications on 1st April but the project team would like to hear about proposed projects now. Updated application requirements and guidance are available from the Project webpage.

In this phase of the project, there is an emphasis on extending the geographical reach to the Western Isles, and for further contractor training. More information will be become available in due course through updates on the project's webpages and posts on social media accounts: @SNH_Tweets and @ScottishNaturalHeritage

The Scottish Government has issued a press release.

BBC News article includes a video clip with the voice-over provided by Andrew McBride, the Peatland ACTION Project Manager.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Conference: Newcastle, 17 March - Identifying the opportunities for and threats to the British Uplands

The full title of the conference is: "Identifying the opportunities for and threats to the British Uplands: what are the policy and research priorities?".  More information

Key aims are to:
  1. Facilitate an evidence-based discussion on the future of the British uplands in what can be a contentious policy and management topic;
  2. Establish the viewpoints of important stakeholders regarding the future of the uplands post-Brexit;
  3. Identify the top policy and research questions  by collecting data through facilitated discussion and to determine where there is consensus; and
  4. Use the workshop data to guide future BES policy work in the British uplands (potentially a first publication immediately post-workshop), and to consider a future event.
Lead organisers: 
Darren Evans (Newcastle University), Des Thompson (Scottish Natural Heritage), Jamie Newbold (Aberystwyth University), Davy McCracken (Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Monday, 20 February 2017

This Valentine’s Day, love your bog…

Photo: Scottish Land & Estates
See the blog post by Anne Gray of Scottish Land & Estates.  She provides some useful background to  why the appropriate management of peatland has become more important, recently.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Review of the Muirburn Code

The latest draft of the revised Muirburn Code is being circulated widely as part of setting up the practitioners' workshops, and it is available through the dedicated website.  This online version is continuing to evolve and some significant changes are likely as part of the development process.

The first workshop took place on 7 February (Lauder) (see the report on the Muirburn Code blog) and further workshops are planned on 16 February (Skye) and 21 February (Huntly).  A final workshop will take place at Battleby (Perth) on 14 march.  After which a version of the code to present to the Scottish Government will be developed.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Meeting with the Director Environment and Forestry

Lord Lindsay and I met Bridget Campbell, Director Environment & Forestry at Victoria Quay, this morning.  Keith Connal (Deputy Director, Natural Resources Division) and Hugh Dignon were also present.

We received a valuable briefing about the issues that the two Cabinet Secretaries are dealing with and discussed how the work of the Forum can support this activity.  We spent some time considering the development of the 'Working for Waders' programme of action, and this will be discussed further during the Chairman's Working Group meeting on Friday, 3 February.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Working for Waders

Working for Waders is the working title for a programme of action that the Forum is developing to follow on from the Understanding Predation project.

This is in the very early stages, but we are aiming to develop the concept and build momentum so that a programme of action can start, as soon as possible.

A small coordination group of volunteers contributed to a conference call on 26 January to help with the thinking, so that some ideas can be put to Forum members.  The concept will be discussed first at the Chairman's Working Group on 3 February, and then at the Forum meeting on 24 February. It is likely that we will be recommending that a series of workshops, possibly three, is held to capture ideas from a wide range of stakeholders, before we decide how best to address the issues.

We will welcome input to the development of this thinking from as many people as possible, but we are also aware that we want to get something started, while the messages that came from Understanding Predation are still fresh in our memories.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Muirburn Code Review

As the date for completing the review and the dates of the stakeholder workshops draw closer, the review is entering its final phase and the level of activity is increasing, as a result.

For more information about the review, see the Muirburn Code blog.  The latest post reflects the discussion that took place during the Steering Group meeting held on 25 January.

This is a link to the flyer for the workshops, which will aim to capture views from those with experience of muirburn, including cutting.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Draft Climate Change Plan & Peatland

The Scottish Government has published its Draft Climate Change Plan and this sets out the Government's ambitions for peatland restoration.  Long term funding is to be provided to deliver large-scale peatland restoration.  The members of the Forum may have a role to assist with the Awareness Raising policy, outlined below.

Peatland Restoration Progress
Since 2013, through the Peatland Action Initiative, around 10,000 hectares of peatlands have been restored through Scottish Government led action, working with public and private land managers across Scotland.

Ambitions for peatland
By 2020, 50,000 hectares of degraded peatland will have been restored, from a 1990 baseline, and by 2030 we will have increased this to 250,000 hectares – an improvement of valuable soils in around 20% of Scotland’s landmass. By 2050, Scotland’s expanded peatlands will be thriving habitats, sustaining a diverse ecosystem and sequestering more carbon than ever before.

Extract from the Draft Climate Change Plan - Section 13.4, p131
Our ambition – Peat 
13.4.3  By 2030, 40% of degraded peatland will be restored to good condition. This policy action will have considerable impact by converting peatlands from emitting carbon to acting as a carbon sink as well as reducing emissions from degraded bogs. The restored peatland will also help mitigate flood risk and improve water quality, as well as helping to increase biodiversity in restored areas.

13.4.4  As well as providing increased carbon storage, this large-scale peatland restoration delivery across Scotland will also produce multiple benefits for communities and the economy. The key sectors expected to see benefits are tourism, food and drink and the environment.

13.4.5  To make progress towards this ambition, we will focus on achieving a significant increase in the scale of degraded peatland restored, from a 1990 baseline to:
• 50,000 hectares restored by 2020
• 250,000 hectares restored by 2030

13.4.6  Our longer term ambition is that by 2050, Scotland’s expanded peatlands will be thriving habitats, sustaining a diverse ecosystem and sequestering more carbon than ever before.
Peat policy outcomes, policies, development milestones and proposals

Policy outcome 1: To enhance the contribution of peatland to carbon storage, we will support an increase in the annual rate of peatland restoration, from 10,000 hectares in 2017/18 to 20,000 hectares per year thereafter.

Policies which contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 1 
1)  Restoration grants: We will provide grant funding to support eligible land managers to deliver peatland restoration. Levels of funding will enable at least 20,000 hectares of peatland restoration per year from 2018/19.
2)  Awareness raising: Working through partnership, we will put in place tools and information to develop the capacity, skills and knowledge of land managers, contractors and others, to deliver peatland restoration.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Lecture on the Mountain Hare - 19 January

Lecture on the Mountain Hare - 19 January

Venue: Sportsman's Club, 11 Queen's Road, Aberdeen AB15 4YL

This illustrated lecture, presented by Glenn Iason and Scott Newey of the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, will explore the natural history, food, habitat and populations of the mountain hare and the issues currently affecting it.

Read more

(Reprinted from the Scottish Land & Estates Newsletter, 6th January 2017)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Roseanna Cunningham: Natural assets must be top priority

Photo: Getty images

Roseanna Cunningham is Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.  Her New Year message provides a framework for Moorland Forum activity in 2017.

She quotes Ban Ki-moon: “It is time to recognise that human capital and natural capital are every bit as important as financial capital”.

She comments that, "it is vital that we continue to develop and manage our environmental resources sustainably" and states that, "2017 promises to be highly significant for everyone who cares about our environment".

Read the full message as reported in The Scotsman.