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25 April 2003

SLF accused of lack of fight over access

Andrew Arbuckle

The Courier, Friday 25 April 2003

(Filed 25 April 2003)

DESPITE ATTEMPTS by the Scottish Landowners' Federation to cool the temperature of some of its members on access rights across land, there are still a number of very concerned owners over the implications of the Land Reform Bill on their properties.

Yesterday in Perth Dr James Irvine, Cultybraggan, Comrie, claimed that his whole commercial cattle enterprise was threatened by increased public access to the fields where his pedigree beef stock are kept.

Dr Irvine did not believe that the SLF had fought strongly enough on behalf of livestock farmers faced with more people walking through their property.

He felt his "substantial investment over a long number of years" in developing his pedigree and commercial herds was now jeopardised by members of the public being allowed to climb over fences, over field walls and then go almost anywhere on his land.

However, Keith Arbuthnott, a vice-convener of the SLF and the chairman of yesterday's seminar on access, rejected the lack of fight allegation, saying he was also a livestock farmer and the SLF had fought hard to get more protection for those who keep cattle and sheep.

Commenting on the Land Reform Bill where the changes to access are included, he stated,

"We did not invent it. We have tried to defend our members' interests but there are some major, major players out there."

This comment was pointed in the direction of various pressure groups who are wanting to open up the Scottish countryside.

Mr Arbuthnott was supported by the SLF access adviser, Marian Silvester, who comes from the Dumfries and Galloway area.

This was livestock country, she pointed out, and if there were restrictions on walking on land where there were sheep and cattle then there would be very little access in some areas.

The meeting had been called to find out views on the consultation document on access which was published late last month by Scottish Natural Heritage.

This attempts to put into practical detail just how the new legislation will operate.

However, Andrew Mylius, St Fort Farm, Newport, who has stood resolutely against the new proposals ever since they were published by the Scottish Executive, pointed out that listing "disturbing wild birds, animals and plants" as a criminal activity was a very loose description.

It was, he remarked, one which could be used to deny access.

Another landowner expressed his worry that while access rights did not apply to farm buildings and private houses, there was little m the way of definition of what was meant by associated land going with these properties.

Ms Silvester said she thought the legislation was not particularly well worded but the SLF was now at a position of arguing the details and not the principles.

She tried to urge all farmers to become more pro-active and "try to generate a more positive approach" to those who wished to walk in the countryside.

She reminded members that it was not now a question of tweaking the basic format of the legislation

The consultation closes on June 30 and Mr Arbuthnott wanted individuals to put their responses in.

After these reactions are gauged, the proposal will be considered by ministers and it is expected that it will become law by early next year.

Andrew Arbuckle


Further Reading Recommended by Land-Care

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).

Will Access to Scotland’s Countryside be taken Responsibly?
(Filed 7 April 2003, 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).

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