Back to Scottish Outdoor Access
Analysis of responses to
SNH Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie,
Editor LandCare Scotland and www.land-care.org.uk
(Filed 29 September 03)
In reply to my e-mail to Bridget Dales (1)
she kindly sent me a breakdown of 1362 of the 1386 the responses
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had received following the period
of consultation that ended 30th June 2003 on the SNH's Draft Scottish
Outdoor Access Code (2). The breakdown made available
to me by SNH was only in terms of type of respondent and how they
submitted their responses - not in relation to content. 96% of the
responses came from Scotland. 60% were submitted by post, 30% by
e-mail, 4% by both post and e-mail, 2.8% by fax, 2.4% online, 1.2%
by completing a form at a meeting, and 0.4% by telephone.
The largest group of respondents was from individual landmangers/factors
SNH's figures showed that the largest group of
respondents were from "individual land managers/factors"
at 32.9%. This group were defined as "including individuals
identifying themselves as farm, estate or golf course managers,
factors responding on behalf of specific estates, Open Gardens".
An additional 2.8% came from "Land management
interest groups - including NFUS, DMGs, DSFBs, gamekeepers, forest
A further 2.5% of responses came from "Land
management business, including forestry companies and factors responding
in a general capacity".
Thus 38.2% of the 1362 responses that were analysed
were from those who were involved with managing land, in contrast
to those who were interested in access to land without having financial
or managerial responsibilities for it.
The second largest group to respond at 26.2% was
classified very amorphously as "Other individuals - including
individuals expressing an affiliation to multiple interests, or
to no particular interest"
Individuals identifying themselves as "Individual
recreational users" amounted to only 9.6%. Community Council
accounted for 5%, and recreation and dog owning interest groups
a further 4.2%. All other groups individually achieved smaller percentages.
It is clear that the responses from land managers
and factors was by far the largest of all groups whose interests
could apparently be allocated with some precision.
When I visited SNH at Battleby by Perth I managed
to read over 500 of the responses in the order in which they were
submitted, thus obtaining a significant feel for the tone of these
responses. What came across loud and clear was the concern among
land managers and factors regarding night access, field margins,
biosecurity, fences and dykes, livestock, management of grass, horse
riders, group activities, overuse of paths for inappropriate purposes,
liabaility and rising insurance costs and of course dogs. There
was concern about maintenance and costs resulting from such open
access, and whether in reality there would be anything like adequate
funding forthcoming. There was concern that no distinction had been
made between the problems of land managers next urban settlements
that are so different from those experienced in the wide open spaces.
Access takers and land managers are likely to have differing ideas
of what constitutes responsible behaviour, and there appeared to
be no credible monitoring or system of control. There should be
no surprise that many respondents protested against the free use
of their assets for the commercial benefit of others.
Typical examples of repeatedly expressed views are:
"I worry about the effects of the Scottish
Outdoor Access Code. It has been drafted by persons not involved
in farming and my concerns are heartfelt and come from many years
"Farming is a livelihood and peoples
recreation has to take secondary importance."
"Field margins are for conservation and biodiversity".
The example of yellow hammers returning was well described by a
"The forty tenants of Eoligarry Township
are angered by the draft proposal because we have, over many years,
worked together with SNH to accommodate recommended walks and safe
access to our land. This will do nothing to strengthen the relationship
we have had with SNH" (This response was classed as coming
from "Recreation and Tourism Businesses").
David Mellor, Deputy Chief Constable, Fife Constabulary
- made it clear that no enforcement was possible in terms of the
"The Act throughout seems to take from the
landowner/farmer much of their management control, and creates a
situation where recreational access takes precedence over other
land uses. Why should land managers be responsible for extra costs
arising from the publics use of their assets?"
The Vice-Principal of the Scottish Agricultural
College submitted a thoughtful and relevant review of some of the
problems. The SAC has kindly given permission for this response
to be published on Land-Care - it will appear as soon as Land-Care
receives the electronic version from the SAC.
SNH has previously ignored representations to them
Over the years that preceded the production of
this Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code, SNH has been repeatedly
informed of the concerns of landmangers and factors: through numerous
individuals and organisations. Their concerns have been expressed
through the press and the literature and at numerous meetings. Indeed
they have been expressed at their own Access Forum only to be dismissed
as being in the minority of a group of persons that was grossly
imbalanced in favour of access takers rather than access providers.
Within SNH's Access Forum it was therefore possible for the chairman
(a lawyer) to declare that there was a consensus in favour of access
takers. Such a cheap trick does not however stand up to analysis
of the responses from the public to SNH's own consultation document.
The responses, although not in any meaningful
database, are all there for anyone to see by appointment in the
offices of SNH at Perth or Edinburgh. The risk of course is that
few (especially among farmers) will have the time to go to one of
these places and plough through sufficient of the responses to get
a true feel as to the degree of understandable concern among what
SNH hopes will be the access providers.
The irony of it all is why on earth was SNH charged
with doing this task when it has so little experience itself of
competent land management. A further irony is that SNH seems to
have abandoned sense in relation to what it is supposed to be good
at - conservation and biodiversity, which are at the centre of its
Will SNH take account of the large number of responses to their
consultation paper? Or will they continue with political manipulation?
The risk of course is that SNH, in trying to please
its political and financial masters at the Scottish Executive, will
use its position as progenitor and drafter of the Code as well as
judge and jury of the responses. By such transparent manipulation
they may well attempt to persuade the Scottish Parliament that all
is fine, and that the Code with either no or only cosmetic modification
can be accepted by the Scottish Parliament. That would be a serious
travesty of justice - a contradiction of democracy.
Let us now see what SNH - and indeed the Scottish
Parliament - is made of.
1. Irvine, James (2003). E-mail
to Bridget Dales, SNH: Responses to Draft Scottish Outdoor Access
Scottish Outdoor Access Code Homepage, Filed 23 Sept 03, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view)
2. Scottish Natural Heritage (2003).
Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code: a document for consultation.