Public Procurement and Property

Peatland ACTION – #ScotClimateWeek case study

September 27, 2023 by No Comments | Category climate change, Guest Blog

This Scot Climate Week 2023, we welcome a Peatland ACTION case study on how local contractors used a public procurement opportunity to take on a challenging first project and then go on to found a specialist business in peatland restoration. 

Excavators on site Two excavators work to reprofile areas of peatland at a Peatland ACTION-funded restoration site near Girlsta, Shetland Image credit: © Shetland Islands Council

Two excavators work to reprofile areas of peatland at a Peatland ACTION-funded restoration site near Girlsta, Shetland. Image credit: © Shetland Islands Council

Peatlands are vital in the fight to tackle climate change with Scotland’s peatlands holding the equivalent of 185 years’ worth of the country’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, more than three quarters of Scotland’s peatlands are damaged and instead of acting as a carbon sink, these areas are emitting carbon, contributing to the effects of climate change.

Peatland ACTION is a national programme to restore peatlands across Scotland providing funding, support and advice to deliver on-the-ground peatland restoration, aiming to put 250,000 hectares on the road to recovery by 2030. With such ambitious targets, and as a vital element in tackling the climate emergency, peatland restoration is a rapidly expanding sector with opportunities across the supply chain.

Here is one example of how new entrant businesses can bring new approaches to peatland restoration challenges and gain new skills through Peatland ACTION-funded projects which can inspire individuals to diversify into the sector to support Scottish Government targets.

Case Study: Shetland Peatland Restoration Services

Following a procurement process to bring contractors on board, new entrants into the peatland restoration sector David Murray and father-and-son team Magnus and Steven Johnson successfully tendered for peatland restoration works on the Taits Park and Lochend areas in Shetland. This was the start of what would later become a new specialist business that will help address the need for many more contractors to deliver on the Scottish Government’s peatland restoration targets.

As work commenced on the heavily degraded peatland near Girlsta, the contractors had to overcome challenges including the extent of damaged peatland and areas of very soft peat, which made access difficult for the incredibly heavy excavators needed to do the work. When commercially sourced matting used to spread the weight of heavy machinery failed in this challenging environment, the team needed creative thinking and ingenuity to solve the problem. The team came up with a unique and sustainable solution, sourcing waste plastic tubing from the local fishing industry’s old salmon cages, and repurposing these spent materials to construct strong, lightweight rafts which allowed them to move across the site safely with minimum damage to the peat.

Inventive bog mats made from repurposed materials from local aquaculture waste products. Image credit: © Shetland Islands Council

Inventive bog mats made from repurposed materials from local aquaculture waste products. Image credit: © Shetland Islands Council

As well as access issues, difficult ground works and harsh winter conditions resulted in slow progress. Re-vegetating areas of peat to hold carbon is a vital element of restoration works but due to a severe winter, sphagnum and other peatland vegetation could not establish. However, the group were commissioned to carry out another season of work, which gave them the opportunity to try more new approaches focused on further recycling of local by-products.

Alongside a number of different revegetation methods, they tried a novel technique, using waste salmon smolt nets as a geotextile to help stabilise areas of bare peat to avoid further erosion. Following earlier trials on a smaller-scale project, this proved a good alternative to commercially available geotextiles, creating a new use for an otherwise redundant material.

Sue White, the local Peatland ACTION Officer, supported the contractors throughout the project. Having worked across multiple projects she knows the challenges peatland work can bring and the importance of new ideas:

“Some projects bring unforeseen challenges and need a flexible and adaptable approach. We work with contractors to find solutions to issues that arise, and we work together to get the best possible outcome. New entrants to the sector who tender for peatland restoration work need to show skills and experience but learning on the job is a vital part and Peatland ACTION project officers are here to support throughout the process. The resourcefulness and new perspective of the new entrant contractors at Taits Park and Lochend are great examples of how innovation and determination can deliver successful projects.” Sue White, Shetland Amenity Trust Peatland ACTION Officer

Across the two sites, a total 122 hectares of damaged peatland has now been put on the road to recovery through gully damming, ground reprofiling and re-vegetation of bare peat. As well as adding to the important Scottish Government restoration targets, new approaches trialled on site also contribute to the ongoing best-practice learning and improved techniques in Peatland ACTION work.

Following a successful project, which gained the group a wealth of peatland-focused experience and new skills in peatland restoration groundworks, the trio of contractors have since put their new learning into action setting up specialist restoration business on Shetland.

“With strong and growing support from the Scottish Government for this type of work, we founded Shetland Peatland Restoration to enable us to work with the Scottish Government and other public bodies to help restore our peatlands, thus benefitting the environment and supporting the reduction of carbon emissions. After successfully tendering working on Peatland ACTION-funded projects and working closely with our local project officer, we were able to hone our skills in this area and build on our previous experience to launch a specialist business which can take advantage of emerging opportunities in peatland restoration” Steven Johnson, Shetland Peatland Restoration Services

To read more about Peatland ACTION restoration projects, visit the Peatland ACTION case study webpages

Peatland restoration continues to be a growing area of work providing opportunities for the creation and development of land-based jobs and skills across Scotland. Peatland ACTION helps facilitate opportunities across the supply chain and offers support and dedicated training to those considering diversifying into peatland restoration work. We use the Public Contract Scotland (PCS) portal to promote available contracts and, through NatureScot, we are a member Supplier Development Programme Scotland which provides guidance to those interested in public sector contracts.

The Peatland ACTION delivery partners alongside NatureScot are Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority; Cairngorms National Park Authority; Forestry and Land Scotland; and Scottish Water – Sustainable Land Management Team.

To find out more about Peatland ACTION, visit

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