The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC), which
is an integral part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, emphasises
the importance of responsibility both on the part of what is termed
"the land manager" and on the part of the access taker.
Many of the 1386 responses which Scottish Natural Heritage
(SNH) received to their consultation paper on access referred to
the particular problems of farmland next urban settlements (1).
However, SNH in its final recommendation to its boss - the Scottish
Executive - chose to ignore this issue.
"rights of way" already exist all round this silage
the public have made another path diagonally across it.
When the grass is shorter the field is frequently
used as a convenient dogs toilet.
Is this responsible access? If not, who is in control?
(to enlarge photo Click
In Perthshire Cultybraggan Farm has a number
of fields next to the large village of Comrie. One of these fields
is shown in Figure 1.
This particular field - believe it or not -
has "rights of way" all round it, and sign-posted by
Perth and Kinross Council to that effect. This would have been
reasonable many years ago when Comrie was a small rural community,
with most of its inhabitants having predominantly rural interests
- such as working on the land. In those days sign-posting would
not have been necessary, as the rights of way were established
to enable the local folk to get to work or to attend school, church
or cemetery. The workings of the land and respect for its livestock,
cultivations and wildlife would have been respected and few problems
would have arisen.
But now the situation is very different. Today
Comrie is a large village, bordering on becoming a town. Few of
its inhabitants have rural interests as their main occupation,
other than for their own recreation or as a ready convenience
as a toilet for their dogs. Many inhabitants are either retired
from the cities or use the attractive urbanised settlement as
a dormitory while working elsewhere.
In the absence of any great education of the
public on rural matters as promised by SNH during the consultation
period on the Access Code (or indeed since its establishment),
it is perhaps not surprising that the "landmanager"(i.e.
the farm) and individual members of the public may have somewhat
different views on what is "responsible" behaviour when
taking access to the farm's land.
Thus, as shown in Figure 1, the public have
created a path that goes obliquely through the field that already
has rights of way all round it.
The Access Code is so drawn up that the public
can have access to farm grass lands until such time as the grass
that is to be harvested has reached ankle height. But if a path
has already been created the grass will not grow there, due to
compression of the soil and killing of the young shoots. Last
year Perth & KInross Council access officers arranged for
a notice to be placed by the field after the grass in the rest
of the field had reached more than ankle height. But then of course
the damage had already been done, and the damage perpetuated by
walkers after the grass had been mowed and used for silage.
The dog is now recognised to be a definitive
host for the protozoan parasite Neospora caninum. Acutely
infected dogs can shed N. caninum oocysts (infective stage
of the parasite) in their faeces. It is not known how long these
oocysts can persist in the environment, but research into the
closely related parasite Toxoplasma gondii has shown that
the oocyst stage of the parasite can persist for several months
in the environment remaining a source of infection to farm stock.
Neosporosis is strongly associated with abortion in beef and dairy
cattle worldwide, with heifers being the most susceptible to acquiring
the disease via feeding. Transmission may occur from cow to its
calf in utero so that, once the infection has been acquired
in a herd, the consequences for the herd may be disastrous in
the long term. There is no known means of controlling the infection
once it has set in (2).
The Scottish Executive Environment and Rural
Affairs Department (SEERAD) recently put out to consultation a
draft of their Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill (3).
SEERAD would do well not to neglect animal health and welfare
issues when for their own political reasons it is convenient for
them to do so. The control of disease does not recognise political
preferences, such as open access to farm land next urban settlements.
It is all very well for the Scottish Executive
to claim that, through its legislation, Scotland has the widest
public access to the countryside. But this is a hollow boast if
this facility is so miss-used that those who try to farm next
urbanised settlements cannot do so effectively. After all, it
is the farmer (sorry "land manager") who has maintained
the countryside surrounding such settlements over many years.
Where an abundance of "rights of way"
already exist, surely it is not too much to ask that, in the vicinity
of urban settlements, people and their dogs should kindly keep
to these "rights of ways", and let the farmer farm.
1. Editorial (2003). Re-drafted
SNH SOAC pays little heid to consultation responses
See SCOTTISH OUTDOOR ACCESS CODE Homepage, filed 02 Dec
03, www.land-care.org.uk Click
Here to View
2. Innes, Lee (2005). Feature
article: "Neosporosis: a persistent problem in pregnant cattle?
3. Irvine, James (2005). Draft
Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill. Response to SEERAD
See ANIMAL HEALTH - GENERAL Homepage, filed 04 Jul 05,
Here to View