The Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, has approved the controversial extended wild camping ban proposed by the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority Convener Linda McKay, warmly welcomed the announcement: “This is tremendously positive news for all those who, like us, want to protect and enhance some of Scotland’s most precious natural places.
“These carefully considered proposals reflect the views of a wide body of interests and demonstrate the delicate balance that needs to be struck when caring for our National Parks. We firmly believe that the combination of improved camping facilities alongside management of camping pressures on our loch shores will encourage people to enjoy everything that’s great about Scotland outdoors, while protecting Loch Lomond & The Trossachs for this generation, and the next.”
The minister delayed implementation of the bylaws so that they will not come into force until 2017, allowing time for the provision of 300 low-cost camping places through new facilities and a system of camping permits to allow informal camping at ‘sustainable levels’. From 2017, between 1st March and 30th September each year, wild camping will be banned from near roadsides and lochsides in 3 areas of the park in addition to the existing ban on East Loch Lomond; the new areas covered are West Loch Lomond, Trossachs West and Trossachs North. The plans also ban use of public laybys by caravans and campervans in these areas.
The National Park Authority says the plans are needed to deal with serious problems ranging from widespread litter and fire-damage, to abandonment of entire campsites, which were continuing to blight the National Park’s outstanding natural beauty.
The ban had been strongly opposed by organisations representing those enjoying recreation in the National Park, including Ramblers Scotland and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, and by a majority of respondents to the Park consultation. Campaigners had called for enforcement of existing laws and improved camping facilities. Writing on Walkhighlands, outdoors broadcaster Cameron McNeish had said that the propsals would ‘drastically reduce the opportunities for public enjoyment of the outdoors’ and that the Park board was ‘not fit for purpose‘.
Jess Dolan, Director of Ramblers Scotland said “This is a sad day for everyone who holds Scottish access rights dear. The national park itself has admitted that most of the anti-social problems arising from some camping activities are caused by a lack of infrastructure and enforcement of existing legislation. Therefore we are disappointed that the Minister has decided to approve byelaws, albeit with a short delay before they come into effect.
“We are aware of very strong feelings on this matter from our members, visitors to the park and others enjoying outdoor recreation in Scotland. The vast majority of people who camp in the park and across Scotland are doing so responsibly and they will now be penalised by this byelaw. We don’t condone anti-social behaviour and believe that there is existing legislation which should be properly implemented to tackle any problems arising from any anti-social behaviour in the park.
“It’s important to ensure all visitors to our countryside understand their rights and also their responsibilities in terms of camping, whether in a tent on top of a mountain or by the side of a road in a campervan. We are therefore calling upon both of our national parks, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish government, local communities and recreation bodies to work together to devise a national strategy to promote these messages and stop the blight of litter and anti-social behaviour which has led us to this situation.
“We do not want to see any more byelaws restricting access in Scotland and will be working to ensure that these byelaws are not renewed in three years’ time when they come up for review.”
David Gibson, MCofS CEO, said “While the decision by the Minister to approve byelaws is most disappointing, she does acknowledge that steps must be taken by the Park Authority to manage lochside issues more effectively. We felt that Police Scotland and the Park Authority already had those powers and that the new byelaws were completely unnecessary.
“There is some positive news in that the Park Authority is required to accelerate the well overdue introduction of new camping facilities prior to the implementation of the byelaws. We believe that an outcome of the byelaws will be that they will criminalise those who would otherwise wish to exercise their rights to wild camp responsibly under the terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. As such, this decision goes against the rights to responsible access provided in the Act.
“While we do not consider this to be a positive day for access rights in Scotland, we will continue to work with the National Park Authority and others to protect the rights of walkers and climbers.”
Kim Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Sports Association said “On behalf of our Outdoor Pursuits Group (OPG) members, we are very disappointed that the Scottish Government has decided to approve camping byelaws over significant areas of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
“Our OPG members have always acknowledged that there are significant problems arising from certain roadside camping activities which take place along loch shores within the National Park. However, our OPG remains unconvinced that byelaws are the solution, and remains concerned that they will undermine Scotland’s much-prized access legislation. It is our OPGs’ belief that the major cause of these problems is the lack of sufficient camping provision and other measures to manage visitor pressure. Our Outdoor Pursuits Group, which represents Scottish Governing Bodies of sport involved in outdoor/adventurous activities, has called for investment in campsites, toilet facilities, litter collection, education programmes and traffic management, rather than the introduction of heavy-handed enforcement through byelaws.
“Our OPG will, however, continue to work with the Park authority, government, landowners, police and other recreation bodies to ensure that the new proposed camping provision is established and other measures are effectively implemented as soon as possible, so that the likelihood of the byelaws being required to be used is minimised. Our OPG remains passionate about Scotland’s world-leading access legislation and will continue to work to provide opportunities for everyone to realise and benefit from the opportunities this legislation presents.”