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7 April 2003

Will Access to Scotland’s Countryside
be taken Responsibly?

(Filed 7 April 03)

Central to the Access component of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill (1) and to the draft Code of Access to Scotland’s Countryside (currently out for consultation, 2) is that access to the countryside is to be taken responsibly. Most of the concerns of land managers, which had been expressed during previous consultations regarding access, have been ignored. This is especially so with regard to the concerns of land managers (such as farmers) who work next to urban settlements.

Some years ago at an AGM of SNH held at Battleby, Perthshire, when Magnus Magnusson was chairman and the main topic was Land Reform, I asked him from the floor of the meeting what SNH had done about educating the public as to how to act responsibly in the countryside. Prior to coming to the meeting I had failed to find any semblance of any tangible attempt to educate adults in the matter; either through SNH itself or through the Tourist Board or travel agents. He turned to his then chief executive, Roger Crofts, who assured the gathering that much would happen in this regard the following year. Nothing did happen.

Instead, SNH went ahead with "consultations" and politicians went ahead with pushing through the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. Problems repeatedly raised during "consultations" were largely ignored, and the politicians in power ignored the advice of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Committee and other voices. The cart was put before the horse, so that Law was formulated before the Rules were known - such was the political, rather than rational, force behind this Bill. No education of the public about how to behave responsibly in the countryside was undertaken.

Yet it has been sadly apparent that the British generally, and unfortunately the Scots are not exempt, behave badly in the countryside with much evidence of litter and disturbance. Wherever they go they seem to leave a mess - whether it be a football match or a picnic, whether it be the verge of a motorway or a country path. This is in marked contrast to other countries such as Denmark, Holland, Norway, Switzerland etc. where the visitor from the UK is impressed by its cleanliness and good order.

To illustrate the point an article entitled "Residents Crackdown on Lochearn Yobs" written by Andrew Welsh in The Strathearn Herald is reproduced with permission HERE.

In this particular instance the problem is not with regard to the management of farms next to urban settlements, but the much more general one of yob behaviour in one of Scotland’s most scenic areas which is part of a National Park. It is interesting to note that the landowner in question is encouraged by the community to take action, presumably at the landowner’s expense. In this instance the land is part of a large and well run estate. What chance has a farmer with fewer resources trying to work his farm next an urban settlement?



1. Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. As ammended at stage 2 by the Justice 2 Committee (2002). (Download PDF)

2. Scottish Outdoor Access Code. SNH Publishes Consultation Document - 27 March 2003
(Filed 27 March 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).


Further Reading as recommended by Land-Care

Supplementary Information from K Shade. Justice 2 Committee Agenda. 6th Meeting, 2002 (Session 1). Wednesday 13 February 2002. (Download PDF).

Editorial Comment. Land Reform (Scotland) Bill - SNH Recreation and Access Update: Access Legislation Bulletin: News Letter No.19.
(Filed 21 February 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Irvine, James (2003). Update 2003 on SNH Conference September 2000: Enjoyment and Understanding of the Natural Heritage: Finding the New Balance between Rights and Responsibilities. A Review of the Proceedings.
(Filed 22 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Irvine, James (2003). Scottish Natural Heritage’s Policy on Access: Is it being mis-sold in relation to enclosed Farmland next to Urban Communities? LandCare Scotland, 1: 19-23.
(Filed 7 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Mylius, A. (2001). Access: the Reality for Farmers, Landowners, Foresters and all Rural Residents. LandCare Scotland, 1: 3-18.
(Filed 15 November 2002, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Raeside, T. (2001). Veterinary Hazards to Open Access to Enclosed Agrciultural Land. LandCare Scotland, 1: 33-34.
(Filed 15 November 2002, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).