Extensive fire damage from Moy grouse moor ‘hair cut’

The muirburn season has re-opened (1 Oct – 15 Apr) and it hasn’t taken long for the grouse moor hairdressers to splash around the fire accelerant and bring out the blow torches.

This is a photo of a fire on the Moy Estate grouse moor at 21.43hr on Wednesday night (5th October 2016). For perspective, the photo was taken from 5km away in Daviot. A pretty big fire then.


And here’s a photo taken the following day showing the extent of this fire. The area burned was huge and this image only shows part of it as the damage extends over the hill. Doesn’t look much like small ‘patch’ or ‘strip’ burning, does it? Perhaps it wasn’t muirburn after all?


The fire wasn’t properly extinguished and was left unattended. Isn’t that against the muirburn code?  This photo was taken on the afternoon of Thursday 6th Oct at 17.10hr. Here the fire has engulfed one of the estate’s middens (stink pits) where the rotting carcasses of dead wildlife are dumped and the area ring-fenced with snares to catch any animal that comes along to investigate the putrid remains.


This photo was taken at 17.35hr on Thursday 6 Oct. The fire was still unattended and creeping towards the FCS forestry block, 200m away.


It’s ok though, nothing to worry about because “burning heather is the same as getting your hair cut“.

25 Responses to “Extensive fire damage from Moy grouse moor ‘hair cut’”

  1. 1 pauline hoodless
    October 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    This is disgusting, how can you justify this.

  2. October 7, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    How can this be justified; when arable farmers are quite rightly prohibited from burning straw. This burning,which does far more damage to the underlying peat,and surely contravenes the clean air act is allowed to continue.When will the laws of this nation be upheld?

  3. 3 walter
    October 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Dont worry SNH will deal with this in the firmest possible way……………..they treat damage to sssi,s very seriously

    And do precisely NOTHING about it

    • October 8, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Is the land notified as SSSI?

    • 5 Jack Snipe
      October 8, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      Believe it or not, SNH still recommends muirburn for Hen Harrier SSSIs. In fact they make it compulsory within the terms of management agreements with landowners! They accommodate the wishes of landowners so much nowadays that it amounts to a form of servility. It’s time our wild lands were nationalised, not left in the hands of those who own them due to an accident of birth. It’s hard to believe that these already wealthy private landowners are delivered generous subsidies for simply owning land classified as farmland, whether or not they do any actual farming. We live in a society that has its priorities all wrong, and I get the feeling things are going to get worse under the new Tories. The Scottish Government is also planning further cost-cutting changes which may involve merging FCS and SNH. I believe this will almost certainly lead to a further diminishment of the societal value placed upon nature conservation.

  4. 6 Brian
    October 7, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    No doubt they will blame it on arsonists/vandals/joe public or alien spacecraft !!

  5. 7 Chris Roberts
    October 7, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Disgusting way to treat the land. They should most definatly be punished fir allowing it to burn out of control, but I can’t see Police Scotland or SNP ministers doing anything about it.

  6. 8 nirofo
    October 7, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    The turtles did it M’lud.

  7. 9 Nimby
    October 7, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    “Nay laddie its ‘traditional’

    All grist to the mill an useful contribution to the Westminster Inquiry on Driven Grouse Shooting.

  8. 10 Dylanben
    October 7, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    And what is it all in aid of? I’ll tell you. It’s manipulating, exploiting and killing a wild, indigenous species which no more belongs to them than it does to you or I. They are shooting the surplus birds which, before DSG developed in the mid-1800s, were the naturally occurring food supply for species such as Hen Harrier, Peregrine etc.. They’ve stood the balance of nature on its head. It’s high time that this was reversed

    • 11 Michael Whitehouse
      October 7, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      I could not agree more with your comments. Quiet, articulate, reasoned and factual arguments will come out on top in the end and the shooting lobby now know this as well as we do. This is a brilliant website. Keep going because ordinary people who care for wildlife and how the countryside is managed will decisively win this argument with you, sooner rather than later.

  9. October 7, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    A quick walk over the moor will reveal the burned lizards, snakes and voles. I did not know that setting them on fire was a legal way of killing them….and I’m sure its a special type of painless fire they use… But its not mentioned on the General Licence…???

  10. 13 boaby
    October 8, 2016 at 12:25 am

    Anyone got details who we can direct our complaints to……….

    I am unaware of any instances where any action has ever been taken (by SNH or any other agency) in instances where the laws controlling muirburn have been broken.

    SNH obviously are hoping to govern land management by giving land owners money and when they break the law …..give them more money.

    • October 8, 2016 at 7:57 am

      Report as soon as possible to SGRPID.inverness@gov.scot with as much detail as possible. There will of course be the usual excuses. Its the same problem as pinning wildlife crime on them too.

    • 15 George M
      October 8, 2016 at 11:31 am

      I complained to Tayside Fire Brigade about the burning practises on Millden, Glen Esk in the early 2000’s. (Correspondence retained) This was because they, the Fire Brigade were frequently called out to put out fires which had gone out of control. Representatives paid me a visit and informed me they were going to issue the estate with a warning. Next day my wife and I went on to the hill to watch the heather burners at work. After concealing ourselves we saw them start small fires and then jump in their vehicle, drive a 100 yards or so and start another fire. At one point there were 5 different fires on the go. It was common, in our experience, to see them set fires on windy days, on wetlands and on very steep terrain. Simply put. they are a law unto themselves once their vehicles hit the hill tracks.

      • October 8, 2016 at 9:36 pm

        They are not shy about this sort of irresponsible rule breaking…. they are happy to do it in the full view of the A9… and expect to get away with impunity..
        The trouble is that the Muirburn Code is only really a sort of guidelines which have no weight and can not be in forced. Everyone knows that the code needs revamping and work is under way. The only thing is that Scottish Government have asked the Moorland Association to draft up the replacement! The lunatics are being asked to design the asylum! You couldn’t make it up.

  11. 18 Northern Diver
    October 8, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Wait a moment. If the area burnt was huge, isn’t this counter-productive for producing a surplus of red grouse? What are the grouse going to eat over the winter period? It will take some time for the heather to re-generate. Assuming gamekeepers started the fire and through accident or negligence it got out of control, haven’t they ruined their own shoot?

  12. 19 Peter Robinson
    October 8, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    If I went into a field and started a massive fire I’d be charged with arson. Why aren’t these idiots?

  13. 20 Neil procter
    October 8, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Somewhat suspect me thinks why burn your grouse moors down in the middle of the seaon

  14. 21 alan
    October 10, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Your being a bit disingenuous re heather burning.
    Much as my instinct is against heather burning, if you look at any area where wildfires can and will happen.
    The one thing you don’t want is a fire every 30 years or so.
    By this time the heather will be huge, and the area the fire can spread to will be massive.
    Look at the wildfires behind Fort William a couple of years ago in the exact circumstances.
    These moors will burn at some time what ever.
    There is certainly a case for small and often, in a season when least damage is done to the wildlife rather than massive in infrequent and often at the worst possible time for wildlife.
    Not having controlled burning is probably the main negative in rewilding for me.

  15. 22 Greg McShane
    October 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Still lots of smoke and burning over a considerable area visible from the A9 yesterday evening. (11/10/2016)

    • 23 Jack Snipe
      October 12, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      Reporting such incidents to the emergency services should help reveal whether the fires are deliberate muirburn by gamekeepers or acts of vandalism. Fires on that scale should be extinguished by the Fire Brigade.

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