Back to Scottish Outdoor Access
Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Response to Consultation
Fort Farm, Newport on Tay, Fife DD6 8RE
Tel 01382 541587
(Filed 17th June 03)
Recreation & Access Group
Scottish Natural Heritage
Perth PH1 3EW
1st June 2003
The draft code asks 4 questions on page
63. Does the code provide -- ?
- an acceptable reference point on access rights
- a balanced outcome in terms of responsibilities
on both land managers and users
or access takers.
- clear, sensible and helpful practical guidance
on access rights & responsibilities
that you can use to make informed decisions about everyday situations
- Is the code written in a way which reflects
the spirit of the legislation.
- It is clear that considering the legislation,
a code is required as a reference point
and SNH have delivered a draft code. I believe the code is essential
the purpose of the Bill and at the same time safeguarding the
legitimate needs of land
managers, safeguarding wildlife and safeguarding the environment.
- I believe the code attempts to be balanced
but in fact fails on several points which I
will deal with later in this response.
- Again an attempt has been made in the draft
to provide guidance, but once more
some of the advice is not sensible, is not practical and needs
- As I have not read in detail the exact wording
of the Bill I cannot comment on
whether the draft code reflects the spirit of the Bill.
My response is based on both my location and
occupation, as well as my 40 years
experience as a landmanager, farmer / forester.
St Fort Farm is situated in North East Fife close
to Newport on Tay. I am an owner-occupier and employ 3 full time
workers who live with their families on the farm, plus two part
St Fort farm has two closed pedigree herds of
Suckler Cows (Aberdeen Angus & Lincoln Red) a flock of 350 breeding
Ewes and grows a variety of cereals and various vegetables for both
human and animal consumption. A number of outdoor events are held
here mostly for equestrian competitions, but also cross country
running and scout camps etc. The Farm has invested in various facilities
for equestrian liveries.
I have won two major awards for amenity, forestry and conservation
in the last 15 years. I am a member of Fife Council's Access Forum.
Question two - on
The current draft must be amended because the
overarching thrust of the Access Code's text (in detail) will make
the following activities more difficult or even impossible to achieve.
Much of the current draft will also adversely effect the economic
viability with regard to the following headings.
livestock farming, especially near urban settlements.
- The maintenance
and preservation of wildlife habitats.
- Compliance by
farmers with existing IACS and other stewardships schemes.
on farms. Human and Animal health
- Safety and privacy
for farm dwellers and their families.
Why are these six headings so important?
Can these six topics be addressed in ways
which allows them to be successfully covered so that the access
Bill can deliver its purpose whilst at the same time delivering
access to everyone in a sensible
The third question SNH ask is about sensible
guidance, ---- is it clear, helpful and practical? So the key to
this is the word sensible
Practical advice is usually balanced advice and
some parts of the code fall short on these points. Practical advice
is also usually acceptable to most people, including access providers
and access takers.
Why are the six principles (above) so important?
I could write at great length on these six headings, but SNH are
aware of the importance of farming and livestock production to the
Scottish economy, they are aware of the importance of Wildlife habitat,
and they are aware that current IACS schemes and rules must be brought
into line with legislation on access through the Code. SNH is also
aware of the current concern with animal biosecurity and the risks
to human health and safety.
SNH should also be aware that farms and farm dwellings
pose different questions on safety and privacy because of their
locations. What may be sensible advice on a remote hillside visited
by long distance walkers, will require different advice on a lowland
livestock/arable farm near to an urban settlement where the visitors
are mostly dog walkers.
In short the code can be amended to deliver satisfactory solutions
to the six key points, by offering practical and sensible ways to
guide the public when in the Countryside.
It is unfortunate that the Code makes no attempt
to offer different solutions to upland and lowland access. I am
sure that SNH is aware that most of the problems from a Landmanagers
point of view stem from lowland farmland, and especially farmland
near urban settlements.
My view is that SNH should even at this stage, find slightly different
solutions for these two main types of countryside. SNH MUST make
an effort to go down this route if the Access Code is to be adhered
to by both providers and takers.
Failing a will to attempt to go down this route, it may be that
Councils may be able to offer a way forward. I am aware that from
my experience with Fife Councils Access Forum, that they have an
understanding of some of the problems that relate to Fife,s predominantly
From a farming perspective what are the key
issues that require amendment, or attention in the final draft of
the Access Code?
- A definition of responsible behaviour that
safeguards Farmers and Growers
- The Code must not increase Landmanagers liability.
- The Code must separate people from Farm Animals
and farm crops especially on
enclosed grassland (fenced fields and walls/hedges around fields)
at all times
- The Code must exclude people from taking access
on (enclosed) field margins such
as headlands or endrigs or grass margins, unless specifically
allocated for general
- The Code must reflect the stringent necessity
for increased demands of biosecurity
from the health & Safety executive, SEERAD and end users such
- The Code must be amended to stop all access
both within the curtilage of and also
on/in the water itself on man-made ponds & reservoirs/lagoons
etc. As these are
often used for irrigation of crops for human or animal feed consumption:
as to safeguard the quality of water.
- The Code must be amended to encourage the diversion
of all footpaths or riding
routes etc around farmyards, irrespective of whether they are
rights of way or not.
- The Code should make it irresponsible to be
taking nightime access on lowlands.
- The code should make it irresponsible to climb
stone walls/dykes and farm fences
at anytime. (After all farm staff do not climb their own walls
or fences because of
the weakening and destructive effect it has on these structures,
which are there as
part of our heritage and or to enclose livestock; and maintained
at the farmer's
From a Wildlife and Habitat perspective: The
Code needs to be amended so that:-
- The Principles set out in the code
show extra care for wildlife and historic places
(for example) need to be in line or agreement with other texts;
for example it says
on page 22 that disturbing wild birds and animals is a criminal
- The Code gives more effective protection
to wildlife habitats, especially on:
Enclosed farm land.
and wind breaks.
Rough ground on lowland farms
Small (1.5 hectares or less)
water features, such as reservoirs, lagoons,
man-made ponds and private fisheries.
Especially when such
areas have no protection from existing policies: e.g. SSSI's
Land Management/farming/forestry and growing.
The Code is not helpful in a number of ways to
The Code must be amended so that :-
- It is easier for landmanagers to discuss exemptions/
re-routing and other aspects of
access directly with their local Council. The local Council should
in turn not have to
refer to Ministers, even for longer periods of exemption or even
- Landmanagers must be able to notify the public,
by putting up signs or by other
means of their activities/warnings/recommendations regarding specific
places, situations, events without being in any way in contravention
of any part of
- Landmanagers should be recommended to offer
alternative routes so as to avoid
farmyards, fields with livestock in them and special areas of
conservation on their
land. (These may be habitats under a scheme or simply created
at the owners
expense/management) Usually the effect of people on foot or horse
and cycle is
detrimental to safe nesting and wildlife retention.
Landmanagement and multi use or paths/routes.
The code fails to offer solutions to the well
understood problems of multi use of paths.
The attempts to deal with this tricky problem are not sensible or
practical. SNH has accepted that universal multi use will present
many difficulties on many occasions as well as in many situations.
The difficulties are spread between access taker and access provider.
The overriding issue is whether a path or route
or corepath is capable of multi use,
and if not, how can this be assessed and can it be designated for
specific use by one or more types of activity.
The code must give recommendation to both Councils,
and Landmanagers to pursue the concept of grading and the public
in turn would almost certainly be happy to concur with reasonable
At Fife Council's access forum we have discussed
the merits and negative aspects of multi use and it is more or less
agreed that some system of user identification is necessary. It
would be helpful if the Access Code gave support to this concept.
What types of track are suitable for multi-use.?
At present it can be summarised that a track which is wide enough,
does not poach or become waterlogged, and is well maintained meets
the criteria. Such roads can be found on current public highways/minor
roads/forestry commission standard tracks and a few others.
It is clear from historical records that highways/drove roads/ turnpikes
laid down to exacting standards from about 1780 onwards, simply
so that they could take multi use traffic and stand up to the rigours
of the weather.
The number of such routes in Scotland are limited,
so it is obvious that an expansion of routes is required, if multi
use is to be promoted. Clearly this requires considerable funds.
What is also certain that if multi use is promoted without the infrastructure
in place then there will be problems for landmanagers and access
It is worth my time to
write more on this as it so important to get it right. Take access
for horse riders or even carriage driven horses. As an event organiser
of long-distance riding, using farm tracks, field margins and roads,
my experience tells me that in the summer months, about 120 horses
is the maximum that most ground can take. That means that the ground
can recover, by grass harrowing or rolling without reseeding or
great expense. Once poached, as in winter the damage may be irreparable
without major expense. From this very simple fact it is clear that
the current proposals are not really workable and that whilst the
Land Reform Bill may give horse riders a right of access, the
responsible and therefore the recommended view should be rather
The solution lies in Landmanagers
liaising closely with their Councils to establish not only where
a route may be drawn up, but also what activity that route should
To achieve this
sensible way forward the Code needs to promote the structured concept
of multi use where appropriate, and separate use where catered for.
It is not acceptable to
me and I presume many other farmers/foresters that their property
may be subjected to commercial activities. I refer to activities
that commercial operators will benefit from and which could involve
the use facilities or features that I have paid for and maintained.
I am not at all happy that someone who has not contributed to the
creation of these facilities may use them for business gain. However
The solution to this problem
may be found in the identification of routes suitable for multi
use. In other words it may be reasonable that routes suitable for
multi use could be the criteria required to be met before commercial
use or activity can take place.
The logic to this solution
lies in that: the routes suitable are probably already funded or
will be funded by public funds, and will be maintained by
such funds. These same routes are capable of taking the additional
wear and tear that commercial activity would generate. I believe
that SNH have a duty to take into consideration the points made
here. I believe the points are practical and sensible and therefore
acceptable to both access takers and access providers.
I believe the Access Code could go further than
it has attempted to do in the first draft by offering recommendations
to those taking access. The concept of recommendation, especially
in shorter edited versions of the Code, would be both positive and
I am grateful for having the opportunity to have
attended various road shows organised by SNH on access and now for
having an opportunity for giving my written response.
Further Reading recommended by Land-Care
Mylius, Andrew (2001). Access: the Reality for Farmers, Landowners,
Foresters and all Rural Residents.
LandCare Scotland. vol. 1 p 3 - 18.
(also Filed 2002, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
Mylius, Andrew (2003). Land Reform and the Access Code:
Problems and Unanswered Questions.
(Filed 26 February 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
click here to view).
Irvine, James (2003). NFUS Access Meeting Perth 20th May 2003.
(Filed 22 May2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
Editorial (2003). Why no QMS response to the draft Scottish Outdoor
(Filed 16 June 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
click here to view).
Editorial (2003). Woman in coma following an attack by beef cows.
Editorial (2003). Draft Scottish Outdoor
Access Code: Comments on the SNH consultation document.
(Filed 22 May 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
(Filed 20 May 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
Buglass, Dan (2003). Still deep divisions between landowners and
(Filed 7 May 2003,
here to view)
Arbucle, Andrew (2003). SLF accused of lack of fight over access.
(Filed 25 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
Editorial (2003). Will access to Scotland's countryside be taken
(Filed 7 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,
Raeside, Terry (2001). Veterinary Hazards to Open Access to Enclosed
LandCare Scotland. Vol 1: p 19 - 24.
(Reproduced by permission of LandCare
Filed 2002, www.land-care.org.uk, click
here to view).
Irvine, James (2001). Scottish Natural Heritages Policy on
Is it being mis-sold in relation to enclosed Farmland next to Urban
LandCare Scotland. Vol 1: p 33- 34.
(Reproduced by permission of LandCare
Filed 7 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click
here to view).