Scotland’s moorlands – be it the heather clad hills that turn purple in late summer, to the vast areas of blanket bog rich in sphagnum moss and cotton grass – are famous the world over and it’s imperative they have a sustainable future.

A new report published by Scotland’s Moorland Forum ‘Valuing Scotland’s Moorlands’ (February 2020) lays out collaborative cross-sector thinking about the value of moorland habitats to Scotland’s future and how land use, land use change and the regime that supports it should develop in future.

Moorland is characterised by low-growing vegetation much of which is considered high nature and carbon value for the habitats themselves and the wide range of wildlife they support, hence their protected status. Covering over half of Scotland’s land area, it is therefore essential that the wide range of outputs moorland habitats produce are regarded when decisions are being taken that affect land management practices and land use change in Scotland.

The report sets out how moorland habitats – as part of a diverse uplands – can contribute to tackling the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis and continue their vital role in the rural economy of Scotland.  It points the way towards integration of habitats and management and suggests policy reforms for land use and management support.

Moorland has a crucial role in climate stability, flood regulation, water quality, wildlife abundance, and retaining a working population in upland and often very remote rural areas of Scotland. Depicting a future where these multiple benefits are supported by both public and private investment, the report sets out how the Forum seeks to work with government to realise this vision and to take forward it’s call to explore, trial and demonstrate fully integrated approaches and the options that might fund them.

The report sets out that Scotland’s Moorland Forum wishes to see:

  • moorland habitats used and managed in an integrated and sustainable way to deliver both public and market goods
  • that best practice moorland management skills are maintained and developed to achieve this
  • that a rich and varied mosaic of land uses successfully coexist in Scotland’s uplands and rural areas, supporting moorland habitats
  • that moorland habitats are supported and valued for the many benefits they provide
  • that their intrinsic and cultural value is fully appreciated

The report asks that:

  • Government set a clear direction and articulate end goals for sustainable land use and management over the next 25 years
  • The value of Scotland’s moorland habitats to people and nature is fully recognised.
  • Moorland managers are supported to provide a strong contribution to climate change mitigation and management, to reverse declines in biodiversity and to enable public enjoyment of moorland and uplands areas
  • Government recognise the need to retain skilled moorland management practitioners in our rural communities to enable public and responsible market goods delivery
  • Government support the further development of the Moorland Management Best Practice guidance series and the associated recognition for learning and skills development the Forum would like to take forward
  • Scottish Government support a pilot or demonstration moor or moors that fully explores the practical delivery of the type of multiple goods model outlined in the report

The Forum supports:

  • The development of future land use and management policy that seeks to balance the public and private interest in moorland, based on a sustainable, integrated, multiple benefits model
  • The implementation of fully inclusive regional land use partnerships that will set out how regions can contribute to national objectives
  • A future, targeted rural support funding mechanism that is linked to the work of regional land use partnerships

Formed in 2002, Scotland’s Moorland Forum has developed into a unique partnership that robustly engages with matters influencing the uplands of Scotland, and actively promotes improvements in policy, practice and management. The forum represents the many wide and varied interests in Scotland’s moorlands and consists of 27 member organisations all with the same shared aim – to have a sustainable future for moorland through collaborative work.

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