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Highland councillors call for more controls on irresponsible camping

By Gregor White

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There have been complaints about littering and worse by tourists visiting the Highlands this summer.
There have been complaints about littering and worse by tourists visiting the Highlands this summer.

Highland councillors have called for discussions about how to manage future visitors after complaints about tourist behaviour this summer.

Members of Highland Council's Inverness area committee raised some of the problems that have occurred around unauthorised camping this summer and discussed the possibility of the local authority creating by-laws to address the issue.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: "We need to talk about waste collections, camping and campervan waste and the availability of public toilets and, perhaps most needed of all, community wardens who can both welcome and also enforce by laws when and where necessary.

"We need to do this at pace with our colleagues in other parts of Highland while this summer’s experiences are fresh in our minds.

"As local councillor for the Aird and Loch Ness ward we have had a difficult time with litter and waste during the last few weeks.

"As a council we need to work with the Scottish Government to plan and deliver improvements that will make improvements to the vitally important Highland tourism economy.”

Ness-side member Ron MacWilliam last month suggested that local byelaws could be implemented in order to ban camping in certain areas but only as ‘one small piece of a very complicated jigsaw’.

He wants a range of measures to be implemented in time for next year’s summer season including feasibility work into provision of a motorhome service point network.

Councillor MacWilliam said: “I was quite horrified to see that this issue had been buried at the bottom of a long-winded committee report.

"Since the start of the pandemic the council administration has been busy bloating the bureaucracy with new and expensive structures with such lofty titles as the Tourism Committee, Recovery Board and local ‘recovery’ sub-committees but none of these bodies have progressed the most urgent issue affecting the Highlands.

“It is also a poor show that the Leader of Highland Council has done so precious little to take this difficult issue forward. I was however glad to get Councillor Davidson’s assurance after much prompting today that the issue would be driven up the agenda.

"We have known for years that our infrastructure is completely inadequate to cater for the numbers now coming north to camp and this year the situation has been nothing short of crisis.

"There is a role to play for all public agencies and the Scottish Government but someone needs to lead the way locally.

"There have been calls for a national taskforce which is all very well but the Highland area has been disproportionately affected and our council leader should be in the driving seat of this discussion."

He continued: “There are no easy answers and whilst there is anxiety about curtailment of the hard-won ‘right to roam’, it is exactly that right that we have to protect so that our very welcome visitors and locals alike can continue to enjoy the Highland environment in all its splendour.

"Our communities also have a right to live in peace without having to continually clean up after vandals.

"The council has to get serious about improving waste collections, providing infrastructure, and tackling the ghastly practice of fly untreated human waste disposal across our precious region.

“To that end it is imperative that as the summer season draws to a close that every community, public agency and interest group is involved in thrashing out solutions to make improvements over this winter and well in advance of next year’s influx.

"Some communities are coming up with local solutions and they need every help they can get but public cleanliness is ultimately a council responsibility.”

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