Hard-hitting words on access rights
Scottish Farming Leader, August 2003 page 6
The Journal of the NFUS
(Filed 28 July 2003)
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
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