Political questions being asked about out-of-season muirburn licence issued to Leadhills Estate

Over the last few weeks a series of Freedom of Information requests has revealed that Scottish Natural Heritage (now rebranded as NatureScot) issued an out-of-season muirburn licence to Leadhills Estate, allowing gamekeepers to set fire to parts of the grouse moor in September 2020.

Four blogs have been written about it: here, here, here and here.

[Grouse moors at Leadhills Estate, photo by Ruth Tingay]

This licensing decision was astonishing for a number of reasons, not least because at the time muirburn had been banned across the whole of Scotland after emergency Coronavirus legislation was passed in April 2020, but also because Leadhills Estate is notorious as being at the centre of alleged wildlife crime investigations (approx 70) over the last 17 years and is currently serving a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed on the estate by SNH because Police Scotland provided ‘clear evidence’ of wildlife crimes having being committed by persons unknown in recent years. The estate is reportedly under further police investigation since more allegations have been made this year, so how come it’s receiving ‘special treatment’ from the licensing authority?

Well this is a question being asked by Claudia Beamish MSP, according to her Twitter feed today:

Claudia is very familiar with the recent history of Leadhills Estate as it’s in her south Scotland constituency. Claudia is also the spokesperson on Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform for Scottish Labour so she’s well-versed in these issues and has regularly supported and hosted events for the Revive coalition for grouse moor reform.

Thanks, Claudia, it’ll be interesting to hear what SNH (NatureScot) has to say about this particular licence.

There’ll be another blog, shortly, on another out-of-season muirburn licence that SNH issued to Leadhills Estate…..

4 Responses to “Political questions being asked about out-of-season muirburn licence issued to Leadhills Estate”

  1. 1 Alan Dickinson
    November 13, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    Money talks louder and always will until all of this gets the publicity it deserves it amazes me how many people know absolutely nothing about it.

  2. 2 Broonerz
    November 13, 2020 at 4:37 pm


  3. 3 Dougie
    November 13, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Alan Dickinson wrote :-

    “Money talks louder and always will until all of this gets the publicity it deserves it amazes me how many people know absolutely nothing about it.”

    That is part of the problem.
    Whilst most people will not have an intense interest like those on here I am sure that there is a very substantial untapped reservoir of support if a way could be found to tap into it.

    • November 13, 2020 at 11:58 pm

      When an application for planning permission or building warrant is submitted to a Local Authority in Scotland, the local representative is routinely notified of the proposal. This is just as important in terms of road safety, emergency services etc., and clearly has the potential to be politically sensitive. Wouldn’t it be courtesy to at least notify the local councillor’s office of the license application at the time of submission ?
      It may not be at the top of that councillor’s agenda but it would be a step towards a more transparent and trusted licensing system.

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