Access Legislation Should Be Reviewed, Says NFUS

NFU Scotland has fed its views into a discussion regarding the effective implementation of Scottish access rights.

In addition to this, the talks, which took place at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 25 April, also focussed on whether there is a case for the newly-formed Scottish Land Commission to consider a review of the access legislation within its first strategic plan.

The event, sponsored by Richard Lochhead MSP, was hosted by Ramblers Scotland and saw many stakeholders, including NFU Scotland, taking part in the round-table discussions.

In its submission, NFU Scotland agrees that it would be prudent for the Scottish Land Commission to consider reviewing the 2003 Act and the accompanying Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Gemma Cooper, NFU Scotland Policy Manager commented: “For the most part, NFU Scotland’s members recognise the important role that outdoor access plays in bringing money into the rural economy, and public access is now accepted as part of daily farming life.
“Many of the individuals exercising their right of access do so in a responsible manner, however it cannot be ignored that this is not always the case, and irresponsible access can cause very real difficulties for the land managers involved. It should be remembered that land managers are making a living from the countryside and access taking can cause practical difficulties which can have financial ramifications.
“The Union feels that there should be a requirement on all local authorities to maintain full time access officers, to ensure that they are able to assist with landowners and the public where issues arise.
“Funding should be available and ring-fenced for the maintenance of the path network, and a requirement placed on local authorities to implement this maintenance to ensure that paths are kept to a suitable standard for access takers. This will protect both access takers and land managers from potential litigation.
“The Union is hopeful that there will be further discussions on some of the issues which our members have reported to us, and which we have raised at this meeting.  Irresponsible access takes many forms, with the most commonly reported issues being livestock worrying, damage to standing crops, and cumulative impacts of access takers.
“The legislation and code have been in place since 2003, and we feel it is time for a review to take place.”

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