As COVID restrictions begin to ease and Highland Perthshire prepares for more visitors, the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) has created an access hub online aimed at addressing the true cost of public access issues such as livestock worrying and wild camping.
This comes following organizations like NFU Scotland being ‘inundated’ with calls in 2020 reporting a range of issues.
NFU Scotland’s Head of Policy, Gemma Cooper said: “The pandemic has shone a spotlight on visitor management of the public in Scotland and the fact that there are currently major weaknesses. The result of this is that land managers are left to carry significant costs and that is a source of great frustration to NFU Scotland members.
“It cannot be denied that properly managed outdoor access has huge potential to benefit rural Scotland and the wider economy, but this cannot be at the expense of farmers and crofters who are trying to run a business. Access to our fantastic countryside in Scotland must be better resourced and a long-term strategic approach is a critical part of this conversation.
Access rights in Scotland is recognized as an example of a flagship piece of legislation with some of the most open access rights worldwide. The creation of a network of Local Access Forums staffed by Local Access Officers began with the intention of providing a conduit for local issues to a National Access Forum consisting of stakeholder organizations.
This, Gemma added, should have been ‘an ideal arrangement’:
“The reality is that since 2003, the vital role that access officers play in promoting responsible access has been eroded due to a chronic lack of resource allocation at local authority level. A previous FOI request submitted by NFUS showed that many access officer roles had been reduced to part time, enveloped by other duties relating to sustainable transport.”
The pandemic has also highlighted major weaknesses in visitor management in Scotland, providing a source of stress for NFU Scotland members and the need for better resourcing and a long-term strategic approach.
For further information on a range of access issues, please visit the NFU Scotland access hub at: https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/campaigns/access-information-hub.aspx