By Bruce Russell, GWCT Director Scotland
You may be very disappointed with this announcement after all the hard work which the GWCT has devoted to the 'Werritty Review', and multiple representations to policy makers. As the recently published GWCT blog on the issue states, we are deeply concerned that what is required is solutions, not another layer of bureaucracy.
Our main concern is that the proposals by Scottish Government do not follow the Werritty review's own well-researched and balanced recommendations. However, the policy direction has been stated and you will want to know what GWCT's next steps will be.
Firstly, we will continue to work with the sector bodies such as BASC, Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Land & Estates (members of the Rural Environmental and Land Management (RELM) group), to ensure they have the best possible research evidence and advice on management.
Secondly, we will continue with our commitment to work very much with, not against, NatureScot (formerly SNH) as it is this body that will now define the terms of any licensing regime. They too need the best possible advice from GWCT. What might this mean in practice? Taking muirburn as an example, we will be working to keep rotational muirburn part of the grouse keepers’ toolbox. A muirburn licence is proposed and we will seek that this is a General Licence to make compliance and administration as simple as possible.
We will also work to ensure NatureScot understands the science behind the depth of peat vegetation that can, or should not, be burnt over as this is widely divergent. We will also continue to research and demonstrate that not burning may be more damaging to carbon storage and biodiversity than cool managed fires.
Thirdly we will pursue our approach of 'Best Practice with Proof'. This is our offering to land managers who will increasingly need cheap, easy to use and effective ways to show they are making a net contribution to biodiversity and are managing their ground legally and to best practice standards.
It may seem ridiculously positive, but there is still much room for making the best of what appears a poor public strategy for Scottish Government to have adopted. We are into a game where GWCT has its skilled role to play; technical implementation. Your support for us is more important than ever.