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Changes to Muirburn Practice

The Muirburn Season starts on 1 October 2011 but this year there have been some changes to the muirburn legislation that all those involved with muirburn need to be aware of.

Changes to the legislation
The Wildlife & Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 (W&NE Act) introduced some important changes to the muirburn legislation on 1 August 2011. The changes are explained in the attached notes that have been prepared by the Scottish Government. In summary the changes are:
• the removal of the ability to burn in May above 450 m (1,500 feet);
• the introduction of a licensing system to allow burning out of season for specific purposes;
• changes to the neighbour notification requirements; and
• a broadening of the purposes for which Scottish Ministers may vary the dates of the muirburn season.

The muirburn season is now the same everywhere: it starts on 1 October and ends on 15 April, but it can be extended to 30 April with the permission of the landowner.

Revised Version of the Muirburn Code
The changes to the legislation have been incorporated into a revised version of the Muirburn Code that can be downloaded from the Scottish Governments website at:

It is recommended that those involved with muirburn obtain a copy of the revised Code. Revised copies have not been printed, but if required, locally printed copies can be requested from SGRPID offices.

Other Possible Changes
The Muirburn Group will be advising the Scottish Government about other changes that were introduced by the W&NE Act.

The Act broadens the purposes for which Scottish Ministers may vary the dates of the muirburn season. This should not be confused with the introduction of out-of-season muirburn licenses; licences were introduced to allow muirburn to take place for some specific purposes, particularly research and restoration of heather using the spray-burn-reseed technique.

As an example of how dates may be changed, the Muirburn Group is keen to see consideration given to the issues associated with extending the season into September. This may not suit all areas of moorland, for example where stalking or grouse shooting enterprises are important, but if it is possible to carry out any burning at this time and conditions are suitable, it would take the pressure off spring burning, which is often a more sensitive time of year.

The Muirburn Group has recommended to the Scottish Government that the Muirburn Code should be reviewed to adapt it to meet the current needs of those carrying out muirburn and the agencies that need to regulate this activity. As the Group is formed from practitioners, landowners, advisers and regulators, it is ideally placed to carry out this work for the Government.

Encouragement for Muirburn
The Muirburn Group promotes muirburn as an important management tool when carried out properly by skilled practitioners in the right conditions in an appropriate area. The Group believes it is important that the whole season is used and that all the planned muirburn is not left until the spring. It may be possible to burn in October, or even in mid-winter in a dry spell.

The catastrophic wildfires of April and May 2011 across the UK served as a reminder of the wildfire risk associated with dry conditions, especially in places where there is rank vegetation. Muirburn can be effective at reducing the fuel load and the risk of a damaging wildfire.


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