Scottish Bracken Working Group minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 14 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jackie Hughes, Scottish Government


  • Alanis Maciver, Scottish Government
  • Alison Seton, Scottish Government
  • Eleanor Kay, Scottish Land and Estates
  • Fiona Napier, SEPA
  • Jason Hubert, Scottish Government
  • Juliet Caldwell Scottish Environment Link
  • Katrina Candy, Moorland Forum
  • Kirsty Hutchison, NatureScot
  • Louise Rodger, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Romy Strachan, Scottish Government
  • Simon Thorp, Bracken Control Group
  • Stephanie Davies, Scottish Government


  • Colin Edwards, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Darrell Crothers, SEPA
  • John Armour, Scottish Government
  • Sarah Cowie, NFUS
  • Vicki Swales, RSPB

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the first meeting. Introductions were provided from each member.

Review terms of reference 

The Chair reviewed the Terms of Reference and welcomed any comments from members, with the option of also sending these to the secretariat after the meeting. It was noted that if no comments are received by the end the week then the ToR will be adopted.

Bracken guidance and strategic framework 

Presentation: Kirsty Hutchison, Nature Scot

Discussion from members

  • a question on timing of the guidance and the strategic framework was asked.  It was confirmed that the guidance will be in place by May to June this year – it will be a living document, to be updated as and when is necessary. Aim is to have the new guidance online and the option to print out relevant sections
  • the strategic framework is a longer term piece of work – the tender for the project will go out by the end of this month, with the aim of the document being in place for 2025. It won’t include evidence trials but interested to hear of case studies that have been carried out. It will be important to gather local knowledge on things that work at low cost, for example NatureScot aware of a nature reserve that has made their own kit to cut bracken which is bespoke and works well
  • a questionnaire will be sent out as part of the framework consultation to gain feedback and views, this will be UK wide
  • the planned evidence review will take into account the existing material, and wont commission studies, but NatureScot are interested to hear of case studies and trials that have been carried out
  • it was confirmed that anyone with a bracken control element in a Scottish Government Agri-Environment Climate Scheme contract will be written out to offering flexibility to amend their contract without penalty
  • concerns were raised around land managers potentially trying herbicides not authorised for bracken control now that Asulox is not available. Being able to offer something as an alternative would be helpful, especially for this year
  • the Bracken Control Group indicated that amidosulfuron did not provide a viable alternative to Asulox and highlighted ongoing research in North York moors, which is currently on hold due to funding pressures. This is trialling mixture of Genoxone (2,4-D/triclopyr) and the adjuvant Validate under an experimental license, this needs two years of survey data and is currently on year 1
  • a member raised the impacts of mechanical control on upstanding monuments such masonry remains and deserted townships etc. Some mechanical control could have a big impact which needs to be looked at. Conference held in Exeter showed impacts of mechanical damage to proxy monuments
  • it was discussed whether use of drones would be included in the guidance. Confirmation was provided drones will not be included in guidance as there is no current permissions but that this was an area the BCG were pursuing

Bracken mapping layer 

A knowledge gap identified in the James Hutton Institute review of the implications of not controlling bracken with asulam in Scotland was that current satellite-based land cover maps do not provide a separate bracken category, and developing this would be beneficial to get a better understanding of the coverage of bracken across Scotland.

Scottish Government officials confirmed that this piece of work is being taken forward and updates will be provided when available.

Roundtable and next steps 

  • it was noted that discussions often focus on Asulox and that we need a ‘bottom-up’ approach to looking at bracken more generally. The importance of agri-environment schemes that provide funding, and encouraging people to engage in bracken discussions was highlighted
  • it was agreed that we should look to other countries with a similar climate to Scotland, as there may be other published studies that could help
    action: group members to email Kirsty with suggestions for inclusion in the evidence review, within 3 weeks.
  • it was noted that as bracken is on every continent (except Antartica), international research must be considered. For example, review into carcinogenic exudates (Ptaquiloside) will be published by a Brazilian led team later this year. NatureScot confirmed that the evidence review would consider relevant non-UK evidence sources
  • it was agreed that significant work was in progress, and that until this work is complete, particularly the evidence review, that it was too early to identify further next steps or evidence gaps, and this would be reviewed after these initial actions are closer to completion
  • it was agreed that the most recent BCG position paper would be circulated to this group with the minutes
  • Simon Thorp confirmed he’d update the bracken control group on what this group is doing


The Chair noted the intention to publish minutes from this group online. The next meeting is due to take place in June, it will be scheduled to coincide with key updates.

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