Sir, RSPB Scotland’s claims pertaining to muirburn ('RSPB targets muirburn's carbon footprint', The SF, 8 October) are misleading about the impact of muirburn in Scotland on net zero and peatlands, and about the adherence to the Muirburn Code.

They also confuse different types of muirburn. Properly conducted muirburn as practised on grouse moors is a carbon neutral exercise over the rotation as vigorous new heather and moss growth replaces the carbon lost by burning, and some recent research shows that it may even enhance carbon storage. Practitioners are experienced and well equipped, and that equipment is often used to help the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to extinguish wildfires.

Far from causing nature to ‘go up in smoke’, the habitat provided by rotationally burned heather is home to many rare species from red grouse to golden plover and mountain hares. Without muirburn, those and many other moorland specialists would be lost.

The Muirburn Code provides authoritative guidance for land managers on how to conduct heather burning. For the avoidance of doubt, peatland is not burned – the practice only removes the upper layer of vegetation and does not affect the underlying peat before being quickly extinguished. A Mars Bar laid on the underlying peat will remain unmelted as the fire passes over the top of it.

Muirburn is also crucial in the prevention of wildfire for two reasons – firstly by creating regular fire breaks on moorland and secondly by reducing the fuel load available to burn in a fire. That is why the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service has endorsed controlled burning as a tool to mitigate the spread of wildfires. We have seen some huge wildfires across Scotland in recent years, including the Flow Country – and within that RSPB’s own Forsinard reserve – a wildfire which is estimated to have released carbon into the atmosphere equivalent to six days’ worth of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The RSPB will be aware that work has already started to implement the recommendations of the Werrity Review commissioned by the Scottish Government – this work is being led by the Moorland Forum. It would be cynical to use public concern over climate change to call for measures that Scottish Government has already announced, and which are already being worked on.

Tim Baynes

Moorland Director, Scottish Land & Estates

Stuart House, Eskmills Business Park

Musselburgh, EH21 7PB