The importance of moorland management was highlighted at the Scottish Parliament this week as the Gift of Grouse campaign hosted an exhibition sponsored by Jim Fairlie, the SNP MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire.

The three-day exhibition showcased the benefits of moorland management for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, the economy and rural communities, and was supported by Scottish Land and Estates, Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups and BASC Scotland.

With the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill having just been introduced to the Scottish Parliament, there was no better time to raise awareness of potential impacts of the Bill, which include making moorland management unviable and putting jobs and investment at risk. Land managers are also concerned that their ability to protect crucial carbon stores and upland biodiversity could be compromised by the provisions. 

 Ross Ewing, Director of Moorland at Scottish Land and Estates, said: “This exhibition allowed us to engage in informal discussions with politicians to help raise our concerns about the Bill, whilst stressing the importance of the moorland management sector for the rural economy, jobs, communities, wildlife conservation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

“The uplands of Scotland are nationally and internationally recognised for their rare habitats and species. Moorland management for grouse shooting and hill-sheep farming helps to sustain and preserve this iconic landscape, while simultaneously providing vital socio-economic benefits for rural communities. Research commissioned by the Scottish Government suggests that grouse shooting supports more jobs per hectare than any other comparable moorland land use, while simultaneously providing among the highest levels of local and regional spending. The sector provides a lifeline for many rural businesses.”

Jim Fairlie MSP said: “I am delighted to be sponsoring the ‘Gift of Grouse’ exhibition in Parliament.  It is a great opportunity to highlight in Parliament the role of moorland management in supporting biodiversity, carbon sequestration, the economy and rural communities.

“The event comes at a time when Parliament is set to discuss the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, and as a MSP representing a constituency with a strong moorland management footprint, and with direct experience working in and managing Perthshire’s uplands, I think it is important to give colleagues that may be less familiar and less experienced with the issues involved the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of stakeholders representing Scottish Land and Estates, Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups and BASC.

“Nevertheless, this is a Bill that discusses several contentious issues and by hosting this event I intend to introduce some of these questions to a wider audience of colleagues beyond the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee where we will soon be starting our discussions.  We must as a Parliament work together to find a route towards a balanced bill that meets the policy objectives.

“I encourage my colleagues to check out their stall, to takeaway a pot of heather and other goodies and to learn about the effect of muirburn on heather, and wish every success for this week’s exhibition.”

Estates’ efforts in helping to mitigate wildfire were also on display, with heather boxes contrasting old woody heather versus rejuvenated heather after muirburn. Muirburn, the rotational burning of small patches of heather, removes the dense woody vegetation which provides fuel to a wildfire and produces favourable habitat for a plethora of ground nesting birds. Muirburn also creates firebreaks to help limit the spread of wildfires when they do occur. It is a crucial tool to help prevent the devastation caused by wildfire and the practice is supported by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.

150 mini heather plants, Calluna Vulgaris, the same species found on Scotland’s moorlands, are being  handed out to exhibition visitors as a reminder of the beauty of Scotland’s iconic purple heather habitats loved by people from near and far.  This heather plays an essential part in the production of heather honey including Struan Apiaries, Scottish heather honey which is also being handed out to exhibition visitors this week.

Nigel Robertson of Struan Apiaries has 500 hives feeding on heather at several estates in the Tomatin area. He moves his hives onto the grouse moors every summer and says the use of the moorland is crucial for his business.

“Managed heather is perfect for honey bees – young heather is great for the bees to forage on as the flowers are soft and don’t damage their wings. A well-looked after grouse moor is an ideal territory for bees. Heather honey is my best-selling product. I wouldn’t get the kind of crop that I do if I didn’t have access to a managed grouse moor, because there wouldn’t be the same percentage of young heather as a guaranteed source of food. Our business wouldn’t survive if I did not have access to these estates,” Mr Robertson said.

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