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Access in Scotland - calls for further investment

Friday 17th July 2020, 10:00am

The Chair of the National Access Forum of which Mountaineering Scotland is a member - has written to the Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP, to highlight the importance of adequate resourcing for outdoor access in Scotland. The letter outlines the challenges faced by both walkers and landowners in managing access arrangements to enable daily exercise under recent lockdown restrictions. The letter also raised the need for greater investment in infrastructure such as paths and car parks.

The COVID-19 Lockdown gave us all the opportunity to explore more fully our local area. This opportunity also threw up some recreational access challenges, mostly around urban settlements, with many more people than usual seeking to enjoy what the local countryside can offer, in areas not usually experiencing so many people out for daily exercise.

Landowners reported issues with gates, fences, and livestock being spooked, with walkers reporting new signage discouraging access and some locked gates. The access legislation and guidance still applied throughout the lockdown restrictions and these concerns were discussed at the National Access Forum meeting in June, where it was agreed that there were issues that should be raised with the Scottish Government:

  • providing advice and support for land managers experiencing recreational pressures;
  • making sure that walkers understand their responsibilities as well as access rights under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code;
  • and to maintain and to develop the necessary physical path infrastructure in both urban and rural areas.

The letter sent by the National Access Forum can be read here (pdf).

Read the response from the Cabinet Secretary on behalf of the Scottish Government here (pdf).

Since then, the easing of lockdown has thrown up the additional challenge of many more people than usual participating in countryside and outdoor recreation.  Many popular locations experienced the problems of managing this sudden influx in rural locations, with some parking places still closed leading to inappropriate parking, and the usual inconsiderate few who leave a mess behind.

Tourism and outdoor recreation are an important part of the Scottish economy and can be beneficial for all, and we wish to encourage responsible enjoyment of the hills, rivers, lochs and mountains. We also believe we should be looking to learn from other countries to ensure we provide a world class visitor experience for people who want to enjoy the outdoors.

Mountaineering Scotland is committed to ensuring that our access rights are maintained and that people using the countryside are aware of the responsibilities defined in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and what it means for outdoor recreation. 

This includes keeping our hills free of litter and wild camping with consideration for the environment and others, so we are continuing to ask everyone to #TakItHame and to leave your campsite as if you had never been there.  Camping mess is un-necessary and antisocial behaviour needs to be tackled.  We call for landowners, communities and local Councils to come together to discuss local solutions to specific problems where they occur.

We believe there is a need for long-term investment in, and support for, outdoor recreation so that everyone, everywhere, can enjoy all the benefits of being active outdoors in a way which respects the environment and nature, while continuing to support our economy and local communities.

Mountaineering Scotland is the representative organisation for Scotland's hill walkers, climbers, mountaineers and ski tourers, with nearly 15,000 members from all walks of life.

Membership of Mountaineering Scotland supports the work we do, from campaigning and protecting mountain landscapes and access, to promoting skills, responsible access and self-reliance for those who visit Scotland's hills, crags and climbing walls. 

Membership is excellent value at less than 3 a month for adults, and includes public and civil liability insurance, a range of member discounts and offers, access to great value mountain skills courses, quarterly Scottish Mountaineer magazine and more. Read more about our membership benefits.

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