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20 May 2003

Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code:
Comments on the SNH Consultation Document

 

(Filed 20 May 03)
www.land-care.org.uk

Land-Care intends to run a series of articles on the Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) which was published by SNH on 27th March 2003 (1). Copies of the draft SOAC can be obtained by e-mailing to: mark.wrightman@snh.gov.uk or from HMSO.

The consultation periods ends 30th June 2003, by which date any comments should have been lodged with

Bridget Dales, Recreation & Access Group, SNH, Battleby, Redgorton, Perth PH1 3EW
E-mail: soac-consultation@snh.gov.uk

 

General Comments

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) produced a previous document in 1998 entitled:

Access to the Countryside for open-air recreation.
SNH’s Advice to Government. SNH, pp. 1-58
(1998)

In response to this a number of comments/submissions were sent to SNH and to other bodies such as the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) and the Scottish Landowners Federation (SLF) who claim to represent some of the farmers and landowners of Scotland.

Among those responses was the article by Andrew Mylius entitled:

“Access: The Reality for Farmers, Landowners, Foresters and all Rural Residents” (2).

This article (as with others) was sent to SNH, NFUS and the SLF, all of whom seem to have paid remarkably little attention to it.

However, Andrew Mylius, St Fort Farm, Newport-on-Tay, Fife, articulates very clearly the concerns of farmers (especially livestock farmers) whose farms are close to urban settlements. Furthermore, he is in a particularly strong position to express his views as he has an outstanding number of visitors to his farm each year, has been greatly involved in conservation and won a major award for his woodland initiatives. He is also well known for his pedigree livestock.

As far as Land-Care is aware Andrew’s article has never once been mentioned in any of the in-house publications of either the NFUS or the SLF. Nor have these organisations, to Land-Care’s knowledge, provided any notice to their members that copies of this article could be obtained on request. Apparently, SNH, NFUS and SLF all just shelved it.

Both Andrew and myself have repeatedly raised the matter at NFUS and SLF local committees, but no amount of effort seemed to have any significant impact on the utterings of the senior officials within these organisations. The NFUS chose to concentrate on the issue of liability, while the SLF seemed to go out of its way to deny that there was a problem with such open access to farms next to urban settlements, especially where abundant rights of way already exist. Indeed, the SLF reported in their publication Landowning Scotland that they took government officials round their then president’s farm outside Dalkeith and around a previous convener’s farm near Glenrothes - neither of which in my view are representative of most farms that exist next to urban settlements. To Land-Care’s knowledge no government officials were invited to visit any farms not owned by SLF senior office holders.

Following the publication of Bulletin 19 by SNH in 2003 concerning Access to the Scottish Countryside (3), Andrew wrote a further article expressing his concerns as he saw them in February 2003 (4).

This too was given personally to officials of both NFUS and SLF. Again, to my knowledge this has never been referred to in any communication to their members by either of these bodies - either in print or on their websites. Sadly the SLF website has been essentially defunct for many months, so that the SLF is highly ineffective in its communication with the members (alleged to be some 3000) that it claims to represent.

In order to bring both Andrew’s articles to wider notice LandCare Scotland is publishing them in Volume 1, p 3, and Volume 4, p 3, respectively.

Both Andrew’s papers are published on the Land-Care website as follows:

“Access: The Reality for Farmers, Landowners, Foresters and all Rural Residents”
(Filed 11th Nov 2002, 2)

Land Reform and the Access Code: Problems and Unanswered Questions
(Filed 26th February 2003, 4)

Hopefully Andrew can be persuaded to contribute a further article following the publication by SNH of the Draft SOAC.

Others wishing to contribute would be very welcome.

The veterinarian Terry Raeside also responded to the initial SNH paper. His letter written in 1999 to the then Scottish Executive at Pentland House, Edinburgh - the home of what is now referred to as SEERAD - emphasises the importance of biosecurity on farms.

Land Reform: Response to Scottish Executive Proposals for Legislation
Veterinary Hazards to Open Access to Enclosed Agricultural Land
Terry Raeside (5)

Terry Raeside raises very important points about biosecurity on farms - and this was before the outbreak of FMD. What he refers to are the basic principles of hygiene on farms, that appear to have been overlooked by those drafting the Access Code.

As with the important points raised by Andrew Mylius described above, those made by Terry Raeside need repeating. Accordingly Terry’s letter is reproduced both on this website (click here) and in LandCare Scotland, Vol. 1, pp. 33-34.

 

Future Articles

It would appear that those who wrote the latest draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) seem to know very little about the practicalities of farming, especially livestock farming. For their benefit, and as part of the education of the public whom SNH encourage to act responsibly, Land-Care will run a series of short, simple articles attempting to explain

  • what gates, fences and dykes are for
  • why the care of the grassland on livestock farms is so important, and how it is so easily damaged
  • why biosecurity, especially on livestock farms, is so important
  • what is meant by a “closed herd”, and why it is so important not to get the breeding programme messed up by folks leaving gates open (even once)
  • why farmers' efforts at conservation of wildlife should not be thwarted
    etc

Visitors to this website are encouraged to contribute.

www.land-care.org.uk

 

References

1. Scottish Outdoor Access Code. SNH publishes consultation document.
(Filed 27 March 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

2. Mylius, Andrew (2003). Access: the Reality for Farmers, Landowners, Foresters and all Rural Residents. LandCare Scotland, Vol. 1, pp. 3-18.
(Reproduced, with permission, on Land-Care, 11 November 2002, click here to view).

3. Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. SNH Recreation and Access Update: Access Legislation Bulletin: News Letter No.19.
(Filed 21 February 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

4. Mylius, Andrew (2003). Land Reform and the Access Code: Problems and Unanswered Questions.
(Reproduced, with permission, on Land-Care, 26 February 2003, click here to view).

5. Raeside, Terry (2003). Land Reform: Response to Scottish Executive Proposals for Legislation. Veterinary Hazards to Open Access to Enclosed Agricultural Land. LandCare Scotland, Vol. 1, pp. 33-34.
(Reproduced, with permission, on Land-Care, 15 November 2002, click here to view).