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As part of the centralised legal clampdown on the countryside and islands of Scotland, muirburn is now in the headlights of the Scottish Government's environmental campaigning. 

And Scottish Land & Estates reacted following publication of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill at the Scottish Parliament.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive, Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We are disappointed that after so many years of deliberation on the issue of grouse moor management, the Scottish Government has introduced a draft bill that proposes to take a legislative sledgehammer to a community which delivers very substantial social, economic, environmental and conservation benefits – many of which are recognised by Scottish Ministers."

Muirburn will become illegal without a licence at any time of year.

Sarah-Jane Laing said: “This legislation was originally considered to address the issue of raptor persecution – even though Scotland already has the most stringent laws in place to deal with such incidents.

"This Bill goes well beyond that by introducing punitive civil sanctions for other types of activity without justification. It is deeply regrettable that the Scottish Government appears not to have taken on board the massive strides that have been achieved in tackling raptor persecution over the last decade, resulting in incidents being at an all-time low.

“We also have deep concerns about the restrictions on muirburn which plays such a vital role in preserving habitats and preventing the spread of wildfire – something that is recognised by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.

“We will be making robust representations to the Scottish Government and Opposition parties to ensure that the legislation is made fit for purpose.” 

Part 2 of the Bill deals with the regulation of muirburn.  In summary, the Part is arranged as follows:

  • Section 9 criminalises the making of muirburn unless it is done in accordance with a muirburn licence.

  • Sections 10 to 13 are about how licences are obtained, their contents and how, once granted, a licence can be suspended, revoked or modified.

  • A condition of every muirburn licence is that the person to whom it is granted must have regard to the Muirburn Code.

  • A further condition of every muirburn licence is that notice has to be given to site owners and neighbours before muirburn is made.

  • A stipulation of every muirburn licence that allows muirburn to be made for the purpose of managing the habitats of moorland game or wildlife or improving the grazing potential of moorland for livestock is that it only allows muirburn to be made for those purposes during the muirburn season.

  • The Bill, if passed, will largely replace the current legal regime for regulating the making of muirburn. That regime is set out in the Hill Farming Act 1946. Section 19 repeals (i.e. removes from the statute book) those provisions of the Hill Farming Act 1946 that Part 2 of the Bill supersedes and modifies remaining provisions of that Act so that they interface correctly with Part 2.