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Muirburn licensing

The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act 2011 introduced several changes to the legislation governing muirburn. One of these was to allow the possibility of carrying out muirburn outwith the legal muirburn season, under licence.

The muirburn season

In Scotland, muirburn is permitted between 1 October and 15 April inclusive, at all altitudes (standard season). This may be extended to 30 April only on the authority of the landowner.  The season exists to ensure that muirburn is only carried out during the time of year when the potential for muirburn to damage economic, social, and environmental interests is minimised.    The Muirburn Code external site sets out best practice for land managers carrying out muirburn.

Licenced out of season muirburn

However, there may be exceptional circumstances where muirburn has a specific purpose which can only be achieved by burning in the period from 1 May to 30 September in any year, and that specific purpose cannot be achieved by burning within the muirburn season. From 1 August 2011 it is possible to apply for a licence to carry out muirburn out of season for the following purposes:

  •  conserving, restoring, enhancing or managing the natural environment;
  •  research;
  •  public safety.

Examples might include burning to create a suitable seedbed at the appropriate time of year for natural regeneration of adjacent native woodland, or scientific research into the consequences for dry heath of muirburn in September.

Further guidance and application forms are available below:

Out of season muirburn - guidance for applicants  PDF document

Out of season muirburn - supplementary guidance for burning during the bird breeding season  PDF document

Licence application form - out of season muirburn  Word document

Please send your licence application to

Licence returns

It is a condition of each licence that a return is submitted. Please refer to your licence for the relevant return information required and send to clearly stating your name and licence number in the subject.

Licence amendments

If you hold a licence which you wish to amend your licence you can:

  • telephone 01463 725364 (please make sure you have your licence number to hand); or
  • email putting your licence number in the subject.

Note: The legislation covers the burning of all vegetation on moorland, including plants such as gorse. It does not refer just to the burning of heather.

For further information or advice please contact or telephone 01463 725364.

Last updated on Friday 18th March 2016 at 13:49 PM. Click here to comment on this page