Scottish Water has confirmed to Wild Moors that its future will be burning-free to help protect fragile peatlands across its water catchments for the benefit of nature and the climate.

The utility company has notified its grouse shooting tenants that no new agreements for burning will be issued and asked that in the meantime they minimise any use of the environmentally-harmful practice. It follows a review of its policy on burning in November.

Previously, burning had been allowed to be used on Scottish Water’s moors for cultivating younger, more nutritious heather to be eaten by red grouse, which are controversially fired upon in shoots.

Scottish Water’s decision follows similar moves by other major landowners, including United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and the National Trust, all of which no longer allow burning to be used by shooting tenants on their moors.

Luke Steele, Executive Director of Wild Moors, said: “Grouse moors fan the flames of climate change by setting carbon-rich peatlands ablaze despite this making it difficult, if not impossible, to protect and restore these important ecosystems to prevent them from collapse.

“Scottish Water’s decision to phase out burning by grouse shooting tenants is to be commended and serves as an important step towards protecting and restoring peatlands for the benefit of nature, the climate and future generations.”

Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, locking in more carbon than all the forests in the UK, France and Germany combined. But grouse moor burning has become one of the biggest threats to these important conservation sites. Subsequently, it is estimated that approximately 80% of Scotland’s peatlands are damaged which is resulting in these important habitats converting from carbon stores into carbon emitters.

In recognition of the need to restore degraded peatlands to a healthy state, Scottish Water has launched an ambitious programme of regeneration across its water catchments. By stabilising these sensitive habitats the company aims to play an important role in tackling climate change, providing homes for wildlife and ensuring better quality water can be sourced from the uplands.

Wild Moors has welcomed the progress being made by Scottish Water and is encouraging other landowners to follow on.