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What Is Muirburn?

Muirburn can be defined as the intentional and controlled burning of moorland vegetation. Most commonly it is the burning of heather but gorse bushes and grasslands are sometimes burnt. When burnt, heather moorland regenerates to provide fresh growth for game and livestock.

The aim of muirburn is to create a mosaic of heather at different ages to provide a range of habitats to suit different wildlife and stock groups. For example, longer heather nearby to short fresh growth gives grouse somewhere to shelter.

The Muirburn Code

A new version of the Muirburn Code was produced for the Scottish Government by Scotland’s Moorland Forum and launched in November 2017. Please ensure that you are using the revised version of the code: Available here.

The code provides good practice guidance for burning and cutting of vegetation, and sets out the statutory restrictions that apply. Under cross compliance, recipients of direct support payments (e.g. Basic Payment Scheme) have to meet the requirements of Good Agricultural and Environment Conditions (GAECs), some of which relate to the Muirburn Code.


Key Information

We advise that you read the muirburn code in its entirety to get a clear and complete understanding, however here are the key developments in the 2017 update.

  • Burning should not take place on peatland (land with a peat depth of more than 50cm).
  • This is consistent with current thinking on the importance of our peatlands as a carbon store. Burning on peatland can, however, be carried out as part of a peatland restoration plan approved by NatureScot. This will normally include measures to raise the water table
  • Introduction of fire-free buffer zones adjacent to water courses and water bodies
  • Specific guidance on burning for grazing
  • Greater emphasis on the potential role of cutting, in addition to, or as a replacement to burning.

The Code is supported by Supplementary Information which provides more detail on a range of topics, including guidance on

  • Muirburn planning
  • Ignition patterns and techniques
  • Fire control equipment
  • Advantages and disadvantages of burning and cutting


Muirburn And Agri-Environment Schemes

If you have areas of approved muirburn in any current agri-environment scheme contract, (SRDP – Rural Priorities or AECS), you must adhere to the revised Muirburn code to meet the scheme requirements. In some instances, areas proposed for muirburn will now fall out-with the provisions of the revised code. If you find that your contract includes burning on areas of peatland, for example, you must not undertake muirburn on these areas and if you are claiming the Muirburn and Heather cutting capital item, you must reduce your capital claim area accordingly.

Fire Safety

Eurofire have produced a range of resources that those looking to undertake muirburn should review ahead of time:



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