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Call for Scotland's outdoor access code to be reviewed amid complaints about irresponsible tourists in the Highlands


By Ali Morrison

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In a recent incident, campers near Loch Ness were woken up and told to move on.
In a recent incident, campers near Loch Ness were woken up and told to move on.

Scotland’s outdoor access code should be reviewed as the growth of domestic tourism has put added pressure on the countryside, according to a Highlands and Islands MSP.

Conservative politician Edward Mountain feared an increasing number of visitors were unaware of the code’s importance and has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for it to be discussed.

But Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing believed naming and shaming those involved in illegal behaviour may be more effective.

It comes amid complaints about irresponsible tourists in the Highlands.

In one recent incident, the council’s access team moved on campers near Loch Ness after they had taken and damaged wood and trees and lit a fire.

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Edward Mountain.
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Edward Mountain.

Mr Mountain said: "Tourists are vital to our fragile economy but I am being contacted on a daily by constituents, from across the Highlands and Islands, who are increasingly concerned and upset by the minority of visitors who engage in irresponsible camping and tourism."

He did not believe Scotland’s access rights should be limited but said the code should be effectively raising awareness and promoting responsibility and good practice.

SNP MSP Fergus Ewing said he was not totally opposed to a review if there were a clear set of proposals and significant support from those impacted, but he did not see any clarity in what was being proposed.

Inverness and Nairn SNP MSP Fergus Ewing.
Inverness and Nairn SNP MSP Fergus Ewing.

He said a vague call was unlikely to solve the problems.

"I want to see a crackdown on what is basically illegal behaviour – where it can be proven – and believe that this approach plus more education is more likely to alleviate these problems than a general review," he said.

"Naming and shaming those involved in such behaviours may discourage others."

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston is seeking an update from Highland Council on how it is tackling the problem and also called on the Scottish Government last summer to investigate the possibilities for greater enforcement.

"Sadly, I don’t think enough is being done, and we are seeing rough camping taking place in locations where it should be prevented, not to mention waste disposal taking place outside of designated sites," he said.

Related story: Campers near Loch Ness woken up and moved on


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