This website is no longer being updated. Please go to GOV.SCOT

Wildlife management on upland and peatland sites

Option closed to new applications


The Option aims to enhance the condition of upland and peatland habitats by promoting good soil management. It is available to land managers undertaking wildlife management on uplands and peatlands (managing populations of wild deer and Red Grouse).

Under this Option the specific objectives will be to:

  • protect and enhance wildlife and biodiversity
  • protect and manage fragile upland soils
  • support the achievement of good water status by reducing upland soil erosion
  • mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by maintaining and enhancing upland vegetation that forms peat soils and acts as a natural carbon store.
What this will achieve

This Option will encourage beneficial management of hill ground to conserve soils and restore any special features on these sites to favourable condition. This is required both to meet the Scottish Ministers target for bringing special features into favourable condition and to meet EU obligations for managing Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas for Conservation (SACs).

What you can do

This Option will be available on sites that are dominated by peat or thin upland soils that are sensitive to erosion.

All applications must be supported by a Moorland Management Plan (MMP). The MMP will provide an audit of the current extent, condition and management of the upland and peatland habitats on the holding. It will provide guidance on suitable grazing regimes, and any additional work required to secure their maintenance and recovery, with wildlife conservation as the key management priority. Its main aim will be to address in an integrated way all the impacts that can lead to erosion of peat and upland soils including: trampling by deer, tracking by All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), muirburn and peat-cutting. It will also consider the impacts of any woodland present on the site, and identify zones where tree and seedling tree removal or clearance would benefit the site's conservation value.

Where the land is also grazed by farm livestock the land must also be entered under the Management of Moorland Grazings Option. The management plan may identify additional management Options such as drain blocking - peat dams, woodland clearance and seedling tree removal. These are not mandatory.


  • trampling by deer can break up the ground layer of vegetation, exposing bare soil. Moderate levels of trampling can benefit biodiversity on heather moorland and grasslands but can lead to erosion of more sensitive peat and upland soils. Land managers should aim to balance the needs of the habitats on their land by avoiding excessive trampling on sensitive areas whilst avoiding the build up of dead plant litter elsewhere. This can be achieved by looking out for signs of moderate trampling in the most sensitive areas, e.g. around springs, bog pools or peat hags, and managing deer populations accordingly
  • away from hill tracks and re-seeds, use only low ground pressure vehicles, such as quad bikes or Argocats. Use them sparingly and for essential work only. Pick routes that use dry, hard ground and avoid wet areas, pool systems, steep slopes and exposed tops. In particular, avoid montane vegetation rich in mosses and lichens - even driving over it once can seriously damage this sensitive habitat
  • well-managed muirburn may be appropriate for drier ground. Muirburn can benefit nature conservation when carried out correctly but inappropriate muirburn can lead to soil erosion where the burn is too hot or in the wrong location. The following key points should help avoid soil erosion:
  • you should follow the latest edition of the Muirburn Code and the relevant Notes for Guidance on Cross Compliance ( GAEC 6)
  • if the land involved forms part of an SSSI, SPA or SAC, a muirburn plan must be agreed with SNH that details areas proposed for muirburn and appropriate burning rotation, fire-free areas and additional resources available to control fires
  • no muirburn to be undertaken between 16 April and 30 September inclusive
  • burning to be carried out in strips no more than 20m wide
  • peat has traditionally been cut by hand for domestic fuel and this practice can be compatible with maintaining the conservation interests of peatlands. Existing peat banks may continue to be cut by hand, taking care that the turfs are carefully replaced on the cut surface with the vegetation side uppermost. This will ensure that the vegetation cover survives and the peat forming process continues.
  • drain blocking: The Management Plan will identify any zones where ditch blocking would be particularly beneficial to the conservation value of the site, and detail the methods that should be employed. Ditch blocking is supported as a capital item.
Who can apply

All land managers are eligible for this Option.

Eligibility criteria

Priority will be given to land within an SSSI, SAC or SPA designated for its upland or peatland interests - vegetation, birds or plants. You can also enter adjacent land if your proposals will help to bring these interests into good condition.

Land receiving payments for similar management under other agri-environment schemes is not eligible under this Option.

You may combine this Option with the Muirburn and Heather Swiping Option.

You can combine this Option with the Management of Moorland Grazings Option.

Please see the Definitions of Land Types page for more details.

What costs could be supported

For a comprehensive list of Capital Items click here. Any cost claimed must be fully justified. The following are example of what may be claimed:

When completing your Proposal, you can select the appropriate capital item(s) from the dropdown list of standard cost capital items for this Option.

In addition to the above capital items, financial support of up to 100% of eligible actual costs is available in respect of the following:

Please note that these capital items will not appear in the dropdown list of Standard Cost capital items for this Option and will need to be entered manually in the box for Actual Cost capital items. Only costs for the types of capital works listed above should be entered in the Actual Cost capital items box for this Option. Any other costs entered cannot be considered for funding.

To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.

Rate of support

This is a 5-year commitment. We will pay you £0.70 per hectare per year. We will pay at the end of each year.


The inspector will check the requirements (as detailed above under 'what you can do') of the Option are being met, by a visual assessment on the day of inspection.

Beneficiaries must comply with the requirements of cross compliance and the minimum requirements for fertiliser and plant protection products. You must also comply with the requirements to avoid damaging any features of historic or archaeological interest, and follow Scottish Ministers' guidance for the protection of such areas or features (detailed in links below).

The following is a brief overview of the inspection procedures, for a full explanation please see links below:

Inspectors will check:

  • Sites are dominated by peat or thin upland soils that are sensitive to erosion
  • Prepared Moorland Management Plan is being carried out
  • No excessive trampling on sensitive areas
  • The Muirburn Code has been followed
  • If site is in SSSI, SAC, SPA a muirburn plan has been agreed with SNH
  • Burnt strips are no more than 20 m wide.
  • If peat is cut the turfs have been replaced on the cut surface with the vegetation side uppermost
  • Claimed capital items have been completed to approved amounts and scheme standards
List of links to relevant technical guidance