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Old January 21st 04, 10:45 PM
Duncan Gray
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Default Scottish Outdoor Access Code

"KRO" wrote in message

"Duncan Gray" wrote in message
The version of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code published today

the final stage of the process to enshrine the right of access to almost

land in Scotland. This is considerably better than having these rights
restricted to narrow rights of way which, in a Scottish context are


Duncan, I've read your post since posting my own reply (the negative one!)
can you explain what the original problem was that required the Access
Code in the first place? I was under the impression that, under the Law,
access was freely available? The problems I've encountered have all been
about vehicle access which I've just accepted as I can (semi) understand
that point. But I've not had anyone say, "You can't go there". I'm not
referring to the foot-and-mouth situation as that was unique. The code is
not published yet, so what problems can be expected right now in Scotland
regarding access? A genuine question as I'm not sure I've got the facts of
this debate.

You're right in that access has largely been problem free in Scotland, and
that situation remains today. There are places where access has been a
problem, the Riddell family of Glen Lyon represent an obvious example, there
are plenty more if you read through the pages of Angry Corrie.

In any case, the new Act isn't just about covering the access that you and I
enjoy, going onto wild land and mountains. It's intended to provide for the
whole population, to secure access for people in the urban fringe and

The foot and mouth situation was actually more relevent than you might think
to how the new law panned out.

As the f&m situation developed the government (in Scotland) saw the damage
that was being done to the tourism industry and took action to encourage
reopening of access in areas which were remote from the outbreak. Ministers
became exasperated as many landowners ignored this and fought to keep their
land "closed". The backlash which followed saw a major change from the
original draft of the Land Reform Bill, which was dreadful and held
advantages for the landowners, to what we ended up with, not perfect, but
pretty good.

Previously, no one actually knew what the law of trespass in Scotland was. I
was following the debates in the Parliamentary Committees, during the
progress of the Land Reform Act, and it was quite amusing to see the members
struggling to get a grasp of what what the current position is/was. Even the
Law Society input was rejected by the committee as nonsense. They appeared
to have resorted to stating a position based on conveyencing law.
Alan Blackshaw's article from 2000 gives quite a good background.

When the new Act finally comes into force, hopefully later this year, I feel
we will be better off in two ways.

1. The legal position of people taking recreational access in the
countryside will be clearly stated in law. Yes, the SOAC will contain a lot
of woolly definitions, but you can't legislate for every situation which
will develop. The whole thing is based on "you have the right of access
provided you act responsibly". . It can be amended as time goes on, to react
to any problems which come up in the future, while the original Act remains
unchanged. Hopefully without lawyers charging ridiculous fees in the

2. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is a guide to responsible behaviour. The
coming phase will see great efforts made to publicise it and educate the
populus on how to take a walk responsibly. There will be easy to read
summaries and such. Part of the government's intention is to get more people
to take some healthy exercise. With any luck most of them will keep to the
urban fringe and the planned "core path network" rather than annoy me by
appearing en masse on top of the Cobbler, or trying to find their way off
the top of Ben Nevis.

Duncan Gray

homepage -
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland