Friday, 30 March 2018

Principles of Moorland Management - Guidance Published

I am delighted that it has been possible to publish the guidance on three PoMM topics today:

  • Heather Cutting
  • Mountain Hare Management
  • Worm Control for Grouse

This guidance can be found on the Forum's website in a separate Published Guidance page and there is a link to this page from the Home page.

This published guidance has had a long-gestation period but I believe that the effort has been worthwhile.  I understand that some members of the Forum will be happier with the guidance than others, but we should remember that this guidance is intended to be a summation of current thinking with a view to advising practitioners about how to manage in accordance with best practice. This will never be a static position and the intention is to keep all the guidance under review so that it continues to reflect latest information, regulation and experience.

My thanks go to everyone who has contributed to the production of this guidance.  It has not been simple to achieve this level of consensus but I believe this type of guidance provides a baseline to work from and it is likely to that the guidance provides a more flexible and a more effective approach to achieving best practice than the alternative of additional regulation.

I set out some suggestions about the further development of the PoMM project in the earlier blog post.  I hope this will trigger some support to produce guidance for more topics.  Some nice quick, easy wins would be welcome after these three, heavyweight topics!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Forum Meeting 23rd March - Highlights

The Forum met on 23rd March in Perth and the meeting was well attended. Full minutes of the meeting will be circulated to members of the Forum, but these are the highlights.

Guest presentations

Jo O’Hara, Head of Forestry Commission Scotland provided an outline of the changes that are taking place in the Forestry Commission to set up ‘Forestry & Land Scotland’ (management of the forestry estate) and ‘Scottish Forestry’ (regulation), which will both be independent agencies of the Scottish Government. An open consultation will be held regarding the development of a Forest Strategy.

Emma Goodyer from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme had been due to speak about the Commission of Inquiry Update that is in progress, but sadly she was unwell and unable to attend the meeting.


Briefings were provided before the meeting and they are available on the website, but the authors spoke to their briefings during the meeting:
  • Andrew Coupar – Peatland Update.
  • Hamish Trench - The Land Commission. As a result of his attendance it was agreed that the Land Commission would apply for membership of the Forum.
  • Will Boyd-Wallis - Cairngorms NPA forestry strategy review.
  • Duncan Orr-Ewing - Carbon-Neutral Farming.

Strategic Issues

Discussion centred on how the Forum could identify long-term objectives for moorland in Scotland with links to other strategies and as part of the development of a UK, post-Brexit framework. Engagement with the consultation over the Forest Strategy could be part of this, as well as input to the work strands identified by the Land Commission, principally Land Ownership and Land Use Decision-Making.

A short summary of the breadth of issues covered by the Moorland Forum could be prepared, as a way to highlight why the uplands are in need of careful consideration. Volunteers to refine this approach and assist with the production of a summary are being sought.

Summer meeting

It was agreed that the summer meeting on 1st June 2018 will take place at Carsphairn and it will be hosted by the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.

Principles of Moorland Management (PoMM)

Agreement was reached to publish the guidance on: Heather Cutting, Mountain Hare and Worm Control in Grouse. Much debate has taken place during the development of this guidance and although the topics have covered some contentious issues, it is to members’ credit that the Forum has been able to agree a common position on this guidance. Some final tweaks will be made, to reflect the discussion during the meeting, ahead of publication at the end of this week.

With the publication of this guidance, the focus can now shift to the production of other guidance. Suggestions for topics to cover will be welcome (see the Blog post).

Muirburn Code

A Development Plan to address the refinement and expansion of the Code’s supplementary information (See the Muirburn blog Post) is being considered by a small group. This will be circulated for input to the Muirburn Group, and more widely, before being finalised.

Working for Waders

Chris Wernham (BTO) provided an update from the meeting of the Facilitation Team that had taken place earlier in the week. Three Action Groups have met twice and a plan for further work during 2018-19 is being developed.

Chairman’s Succession

The Succession Task Group met after the meeting and a separate note will be circulated to Forum members.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Principles of Moorland Management

The Principles of Moorland Management (PoMM) project is funded by SNH and seeks to develop guidance with a practitioner focus.  It avoids re-inventing guidance that is already available but aims to draw all the information that relates to a particular topic together in one place.  Input from people with specialist knowledge who are not members of the Moorland Forum is encouraged to make sure that the guidance is as representative as possible of all views.  The Moorland forum will be responsible for reviewing any guidance that is published through PoMM on a regular basis so that the guidance is kept up to date.

Current Topics
The plan was for topics to be kept light and to link to other information wherever possible so that we could achieve a quick turn round between starting to prepare the guidance and then publishing it.  The  in-built ability within PoMM to refine the guidance after publication would allow the guidance to be refined and improved.

This laudable objective has not been achieved in practice.  However, we are now close to the publication of the guidance on three topics:
  • Worm Control in Grouse
  • Heather Cutting
  • Mountain Hare
The guidance for these topics has been made available for Forum members to review in advance of the discussion that will take place during the postponed Forum meeting on 23rd March.  Being an optimist, I am anticipating publication soon afterwards.

Future Topics
Having got the first three topics to the point of publication, I am now looking for topics for the next phase of work.  Current proposals include: 
  • Input to the development of a Trapping Code of Practice by SNH
  • Sheep Tick Control
  • Management for Waders
  • Monitoring of Mountain Hare populations
  • Fire Danger Warning System
My question to everyone with an interest in the Scottish uplands is what other topics should PoMM be providing guidance for?  The guidance need not be long and involved; it could be as simple as a side or two of bullet points that provide a summary of the key issues and links to other guidance, reports or information.  I see this sort of guidance being prepared by someone who has specialist knowledge of a topic, who might already have prepared more detailed information.  The PoMM guidance could be seen as a way to promote the report or other information to a wider audience.

Longer more detailed guidance can be prepared, but I would welcome suggestions for some 'quick-wins' as well.

The PoMM project has funding and provided any proposals meet the requirement of the PoMM Steering Group, funding may be allocated to support the preparation of more guidance.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

SRUC: Remote Data Capture in the Uplands

Hill & Mountain Research Centre.  Photo:SRUC

SRUC is trialling a remote data capture system at the Hill & Mountain Research Centre at Kirkton, near Crianlarich.

Davy McCracken is looking for thoughts on what sort of data obtained by sensors, either fitted to animals or in the environment, would be useful to help inform any management decisions in remote upland areas.  The presentation provides some background (see below).  The type of data collected is the type that can be transmitted in small packets (i.e. not streaming of videos etc) over a radio frequency network.

Technology exists to build sensors but it is not clear what type of data, and hence sensors, would be useful to upland land managers. Davy is trying to pull together thoughts on uses to inform discussions and any thoughts will be appreciated.  It does not matter whether a sensor exists or not, as the point is to think outside the box to identify the type of data it would be useful to obtain, which currently may be difficult (or impossible) to gather.

Note that the ‘masts’ are only about 1m long and they cost c. £1K, or less, to buy.  Each mast can form a 10 mile radius radio network in rural areas and theoretically can take data from 10,000 sensors! So it is possible to think in terms of an array of sensors and not be confined to single sensors located at single points

Davy cannot be at the Forum meeting on 2 March, but he will be happy to speak to anyone who would like further information.

The presentation about this is on the Briefings page of the Forum's website, along with a form to use to provide a guide to the information that Davy is seeking. Please contact Davy direct, or forward any e-mail traffic to the Forum.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Chairman's Working Group Meeting

The Chairman's Working Group met on 9 February, with thanks to BASC for hosting the meeting at Trochry, for providing lunch and a very nice cake!

These meetings are held in advance of each Forum meeting and allow an opportunity to plan for the following meeting and to discuss other issues of interest to Forum members in a smaller group.

I have summarised the agenda for the meeting below:

Programme for Delivery
Uplands Vision
Taking the Uplands to Government
Agenda for Forum meeting 2 March
Summer Meeting
Recent Activity
     WfW, PoMM, Muirburn
     Succession Task Group

There was support for the programme proposals that had come out of the Programme for Delivery discussion, most notably the view that the Forum should consider developing some form of 'uplands vision' perhaps with a focus on challenges & opportunities.  This will be discussed further on 2 March.

There was support for the suggestion that the summer visit, which had previously been proposed to take place in Galloway, should include a discussion about the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.  Proposals will be developed for discussion at the Forum meeting.

The PoMM Guidance covering Mountain Hare, Heather Cutting and Worm Control will be circulated to forum meetings with a view to being in a position to agree to publish this after the meeting.

Programme for Delivery 2018

The Forum's Programme for Delivery (PfD) is updated annually to make sure that it reflects the issues that Forum members want to address.

This year Julia Stoddart (SACS), Richard Luxmoore (NTS) and Alex Hogg (SGA) volunteered to provide some input to the review.  The SGA had submitted some proposals for issues to consider; Ronnie Kippen and Kenneth Stephen joined the discussion to address these.

In addition to a calendar of events, the PfD seeks to identify Priority Issues for the Forum to address during the year. It also provides a reminder of the standing commitments that the Forum has, for example, to support the Scottish Wildfire Forum.

It is not possible for the Forum to address all the issues that are raised for consideration.  The PfD provides a record of these issues and each year the review considers these alongside any new issues that are raised.

Finally, the PfD provides a record of the issues that have been completed or that will not be considered further.

The latest version of the Programme for Deliver is on the Forum's website.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Scotland's Moorland Forum: Searching for a New Chairman

Lord Lindsay has been chairman of the Moorland Forum since November 2007, but he has indicated that it is time to find someone to replace him in this role.

There is no deadline for the appointment of a successor, although there is a general view that succession should take place before the end of 2018.

A Succession Task Group has agreed a Role Profile for a new chairman, and with this agreed, it will be possible to move quickly to appoint a successor, before being snapped up for another role.  The process to be followed for the appointment will be agreed with the Succession Task Group and will depend on the number of candidates that are thought to be suitable.

The Task Group will meet again on 2nd March, after the next Forum meeting, to consider any candidates that have been put forward.  If the Task Group believes that a suitable candidate has been nominated, a decision may be made at that meeting to consider the candidate as a possible successor. 

Prior to 2nd March, suggestions for suitable candidates will be welcome from members of the Succession Task Group, members of the Moorland Forum, or from anyone who would like to nominate somebody as a suitable candidate for the role.

Please could initial contact been made with Anne Stoddart using the contact form on the Forum's website or the comment facility below.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Forestry in Scotland: New administrative arrangements

This is the text of a note circulated to Confor members by Jamie Farquhar (Confor - National Manager for Scotland). He has kindly agreed that I may repeat the text in this Blog to provide a pointer to the important changes that are being introduced.

On 5 February 2018, the Scottish Government issued a statement setting out how the Scottish Government will manage and administer its forestry responsibilities when the devolution of forestry in Scotland is completed.

The Government has responded to Confor’s requests for clarity on how it will protect and promote forestry expertise in future arrangements, while enabling forestry to be at the heart of future policy making across important areas like rural policy and climate change.

Confor had proposed that the division regulating forestry within the Scottish Government be given the title ‘Scottish Forestry Service’ or similar and that the post of Chief Forester, which we successfully championed, be the head of the division with a clear role to promote professionalism and continuing professional development. We also asked for clarity and confirmation, again, that staff in the division, and the land management agency, would be encouraged to spend time working in the other body, and in the private sector.

The Scottish Government’s statement addresses all these points.  The full statement, including a diagram of the old and new structures, can be read here.

Another important aspect of the arrangements is that Forestry and Land Scotland, which will manage the National Forest Estate, will remain a public corporation just as Forest Enterprise Scotland is at present. This is essential to ensure the financial flexibility to manage its forests professionally and commercially.

Grouse Moor Management Group - Report from the first meeting

Professor Alan Werritty has provided this report from the first meeting of this Group.

Photo: Adam Smith
The Grouse Moor Management Group held its first meeting on 16th January at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. At that meeting, the Chair (Alan Werritty) outlined the background and context for the Group noting the Cabinet Secretary’s statement on 31 May 2017, following the publication of the 2017 SNH Commissioned Report: Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland.   

Terms of Reference
The following Terms of Reference for the Group were agreed:
  • The Group will examine how to ensure that grouse moor management continues to contribute to the rural economy while being environmentally sustainable and compliant with the law. 
  • The Group will recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures, which could be put in place without new primary legislation.
It was noted that the Cabinet Secretary has also commissioned a socio-economic study to be undertaken in parallel with the work of the Group, with interim findings made available later in the year.

In addition to identifying a schedule for meetings, the Group agreed the following framework:

January to July 2018: gathering evidence and identifying key issues

Meeting 2. Evidence 1 (Environmental law relevant to grouse moors, current licensing systems and Codes of Practice, wildlife crime) 
Meeting 3. Evidence 2 (Predation/raptors and mountain hares) 
Meeting 4. Evidence 3 (Muirburn and medicated grit, call for written evidence) 

September to December: written and oral evidence, visit to estate(s), socio-economics

Meeting 5. Written evidence reviewed and oral evidence from key stakeholders 
Meeting 6. Visit to grouse shooting estate(s) 
Meeting 7. Review input from socio-economic study 

January to March 2019: drafting report and recommendations

Meeting 8. Review evidence and initial drafting of report and recommendations
Meeting 9. Finalise report and recommendations.

Presentations were given by Specialist Advisers to the Group:
  • Adam Smith (GWCT): Grouse moors and their management: an introduction
  • Ben Ross (SNH) Current regulatory system governing grouse moor management, and 
  • Des Thompson (SNH) Raptor persecution and driven grouse moors.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Mountain Hare Survey returns after 10-year absence

Photo: GWCT

After a ten-year absence, the Game and & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has announced that their Scottish Mountain Hare Survey is making a return.  This follows the recent announcement about the agreed counting methodology.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Land & Estates will be asking their Scottish members to take part in a questionnaire-based survey.

See the full article.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Sustainability of Driven Grouse Moors

This is the announcement that was published by the Scottish Government on 24 November 2017. I have edited this slightly to highlight the key sections.  The membership of the Group may be of particular interest to Forum members.  Adam Smith has input to the Group as one of the specialist advisers. 

Membership of an independent group to ensure grouse moor management practices are sustainable and legally compliant has been confirmed.

The new group will be led by Professor Alan Werrity, who previously chaired a Scottish Natural Heritage review into sustainable moorland management. It includes scientists, moorland managers, regulatory experts and advisers from SNH, Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

The group has been set up in response to SNH research that found almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances and that the majority of cases were where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

The group will look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“We have been clear that the continued killing of protected species of birds of prey damages the reputation of law-abiding gamekeepers, landowners and the country as a whole.

“This new group will look at what we can do to balance our commitment to tackling wildlife crime with grouse moor management practices, so it continues to contribute to our rural economy, while being sustainable and compliant with the law.

“The group membership reflects the complex nature and wide range of issues that need to be considered and I look forward to hearing their advice in due course.”

Professor Werrity said:

“This is truly challenging work given the traditions underlying moorland management and the concerns coming to light over some mal-practices. 

“My earlier work chairing the SNH Moorland review also sought to reconcile nature conservation interests with promoting the rural economy. I will be taking an evidence-based approach, and for this we have the right mixture of experience, expertise and knowledge on the group to get to grips with the subject. I look forward to getting started on this review. ”


Read in the birds of prey report.

Group Membership

The confirmed membership of the group includes:
Professor Ian Newton, Professor Alison Hester, and Professor Colin Reid 

Moorland Managers 
Alexander Jameson BLE MRICS FAAV and Mark Oddy MRICS CEnV MIAagrM. 

Specialist advisers to the group
Dr Calum Macdonald, SEPA; Professor Des Thompson, SNH; Dr Adam Smith, Director Scotland GWCT; and Susan Davies, SWT.