A leading access campaigner has sent an open letter strongly critical for the Loch Lomond camping ban to the Scottish Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr Aileen McLeod.
Nick Kempe is a former board member of Scottish Natural Heritage as well as former president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. In the letter he slams the case made for the ban, noting that although press releases by the Minister and the National Park claim that the restrictions only cover 3.7% of the Park, this 3.7% actually covers most of the locations in which people would wish to camp.
Mr Kempe says that the National Park’s own ranger patrol records do not back up the claims that all the areas covered are hotspot areas, pointing out that on the west side of Loch Lomond only a moderate level of camping activity had been found. Mr Kempe also attacked the idea that the ban was needed for conservation reasons, pointing to a lack of evidence, and asked why an alcohol ban – like that implemented on the east side of Loch Lomond – had not been considered in other areas.
His letter carries a detailed analysis of the photographic evidence provided by the Park as backing up the need for the ban, which included 225 photos showing “anti-social behaviour/camping”. He points out that a large proportion of these photos are taken from the same sites, with many being taken by the Park Convener’s own property, stating that the “Park Convener has played a key role in driving forward the bye-law proposals. How many people seeing this will believe that she has not been influenced by what happens in her backyard?”.
He goes on to point out that some photos include areas already covered by the existing ban, whilst others show areas where a ban is not proposed. Further photos appear to show fly-tipping, driving offences which may be unconnected to camping, or of an overflowing rubbish bin which could be taken as evidence of inadequate collections by the authorities rather than irresponsible behaviour. He asks why the Park has delayed its litter strategy and not pushed for better facilities on litter from councils, as well as better public toilet facilities.
The letter claims that the resources needed to to police the ban may be greater than those needed to deal with the existing problems. “On east Loch Lomond… the number of ranger patrols has gone up, not down, because rangers now spend their time chasing away pesky campers, including those backpacking the West Highland Way… Whatever the case, resources would be far better invested in facilities that would benefit all visitors, whether toilets or litter bins, and in providing consistent messages to the public about how to reduce their impacts on the countryside.”
The full text of Nick Kempe’s letter can be read here.
Willie McLeod, an outdoor educationalist who has helped disadvantaged communities to enjoy the great outdoors, has started a petition against the decision which has gained 2,000 signatures in a few days.