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Back to Scottish Outdoor Access Code Homepage

Access to farmland next urban settlements:

does Robert Balfour speak for SLF members?

James Irvine

Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie, by Crieff, Perthshire

(Filed 28 July 03)

Andrew Arbuckle, farming editor of the Dundee Courier, wrote on Wednesday 16th July (1):

“A former convener of the Scottish Landowners’ Federation (SLF) categorically stated that farmers and landowners had now to accept that there was a change in allowing access to the countryside and it was necessary to make the new access code work”

These comments were made by Robert Balfour who stepped down from his post as convener of the SLF as recently as of 1st April 2003 and became a member of the East Areas Regional Board of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) (2). SNH is the body responsible for drawing up the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC). At present the SOAC is in draft form and has been out for consultation until 30th June (3).

According to a SNH spokesperson SNH has received come 1300 responses which are currently under consideration (4). Perhaps it is just a touch premature of Robert Balfour to state categorically that the it was necssary to make the new access code work. Perhaps as a SNH East Areas Board member it would have been more diplomatic to wait until the 1300 responses had been analysed, some 400 of which the SNH spokesperson stated were from land managers. One of the options open to SNH is that the draft SOAC may require to be substantially amended after SNH have considered the responses to the consultation. Indeed, once SNH present the Code in its final form to the Scottish Parliament the politicians have the option of rejecting it.

The Courier article went on to state that Robert Balfour made these comments at the start of a walk around part of his own holding at Markinch. Previously as convener of the SLF he took an influential party of politicians around his own holding. It is Land-Care’s understanding that the only other holding that the SLF formally invited influential parties to visit during the preparation of the draft SOAC was that of the then president of the SLF - neither holding being typical of Scottish farming (5, 6).

At open meetings organised by the SLF supposedly to listen to the views of its members (and others with an interest) the problems of livestock farms next urban settlements were repeatedly stressed (7, 8, 9, 10, 11). The same was the case when NFUS held a well-attended discussion meeting on the draft SOAC at the Dewar Centre in Perth (12, 13).

Yet Robert Balfour apparently found it appropriate to confine his comments to his own situation whereby he is reported as stating that

“although he (Robert Balfour) farms on the edge of a major town, there was no big problem with walkers”.

Should not someone who was so recently the convener of the SLF, and who continues to be Chairman of the SLF Land Reform Task Group and Chairman of the SLF Access and Tourism Committee (5), take more care to reflect the views of many of the SLF membership? Would it not be an idea for him as a regional board member of SNH to perhaps arrange visits to farms whose owner/managers have expressed serious concerns about walkers and livestock, especially next urban settlements?

To have such a senior SLF figure on a Regional Board of SNH could be regarded as a good opportunity to articulate the views of the SLF membership in SNH circles. However, from the above example this may not be what is happening as comprehensively as a substantial number of farming members of the SLF may like.

© www.land-care.org.uk



1. Arbuckle, Andrew (2003). Action sought on potential conflict.
The Courier and Advertiser, July 16, page 14.

2. Scottish Natural Heritage (2003). Appointment of Robert Balfour to East Areas Regional Board of SNH.

3. Scottish Natural Heritage (2003). Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code: a document for consultation.

4. Editorial (2003). Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code: preliminary comments by SNH on responses to consultation.
(Filed 28 July 03, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

5. Register of interests of Robert Balfour as listed by Scottish Natural Heritage.
(Filed 28 July 03, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

6. Irvine, James (2001). Scottish Natural Heritage's policy on access: is it being mis-sold in relation to enclosed farmland next to urban communities?
LandCare Scotland. vol 1; pp 19-23.
(reproduced by permission: Filed 7 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

7. Buglas, Dan (2003). Still deep divisions between landowners and access seekers. Farmers Guardian 2nd May 2003
(Filed 7 May 03, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

8. Arbuckle, Andrew (2003). SLF accused of lack of fight over access. The Courier, 25th April 2003.
(Filed 25 April 03, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

9. Mylius, Andrew (2001). Access: the reality for farmers, landowners, foresters and all rural residents.
LandCare Scotland. Vol 1; pp 3-18.
(Reproduced with permission: Filed 2002, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

10. Mylius, Andrew (2003). Land Reform and the Access Code: problems and unaswered questions.
(Filed 26 February 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

11. Mylius, Andrew (2003). Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code: response to consultation.
(Filed 17 June 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

12. Irvine, James (2003). NFUS access meeting, Perth 20th May 2003.
(Filed 22 May 03, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)

13. Hard-hitting words on access rights:
Scottish Farming Leader, August 2003; p6
(Filed 28 July 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, Click here to view)