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Back to Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC)

Hard-hitting words on access rights

Scottish Farming Leader, August 2003 page 6

The Journal of the NFUS

(Filed 28 July 2003)
www.land-care.org.uk

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 will give everyone the right of responsible access to the nation's countryside. However, that new right will not come into force until the Scottish Parliament agrees the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC), the proposals for which are currently being drawn up. The Code will provide guidance on what is deemed to be responsible activity and what may fall outwith the new right.

The key starting point for the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) position was to achieve an aspiration of the Act - that farmers liability should not increase as a result of improved public access in the countryside. Therefore we took a strong line on the other side of the liability "coin" - the issue of public safety.

The submission says: "The countryside is not risk-free as has been recognised in the consultative document. The health and safety of those people taking recreational access must be safeguarded. With very much reduced employment on farms, following many years of low farm business incomes, there are too few people on the ground to be able to advise people about particular hazards. While land managers may be identifiable, they are few on the ground. Access takers can be numerous and their whereabouts are not easily identified.

"Therefore a total physical separation of the access-taking public from farm animals, from crops and from farming operations, is ideal. The NFUS recommends that the Scottish Executive should take responsibility explicitly - to ensure that all relevant parts of the government strive to put that ideal into practice."

NFUS Legal and Technical Chairman John Smith said:

"The new right of responsible access was one of the flagship policies of the last Scottish Parliament. The new right will affect every one of our members. NFUS has made it very clear that new paths are crucial to the success of the Act. Any potential problems for access-takers are likely to arise near towns where most farming activity is concentrated on enclosed land, not on Scotland's open hill ground.

"A path network around farm fields and away from farm buildings will provide direction for the public, ensure their safety and allow our members to continue to go about their day-to-day work with peace of mind. Where these paths are provided, the Code should state that walkers must use them".

Scottish Farming Leader