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'Time to stop pussy-footing about with dirty camping in Highlands'


By Scott Maclennan

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There was a big rise in uncontrolled camping at Glenmore caused by the end of lockdown and the closure of Glenmore Campsite. Pictured are cars parked late one weekend by Loch Morlich despite a ban on overnight parking.
There was a big rise in uncontrolled camping at Glenmore caused by the end of lockdown and the closure of Glenmore Campsite. Pictured are cars parked late one weekend by Loch Morlich despite a ban on overnight parking.

Highland Council has been urged by some of its own members to get tough on tourists who flout rules and make life difficult for locals through dirty camping.

Two of the measures considered are bans on overnight parking and by-laws prohibiting alcohol consumption in certain areas.

The lack of public toilets was also raised amid support for more investment from a senior council officer.

Following a wave of complaints about bad behaviour, locals in some hotspots have demanded a response.

Loch Morlich and the wider Glenmore area was one of the worst hit places in the whole of Scotland with many local residents' lives made a misery during the height of summer.

Restrictions on travel overseas led to the beauty spot being inundated with campers and problems including littering, camp fires being lit with trees even being chopped down for fire wood and people defacating in the woods.

At their latest meeting, members of the council's tourism committee considered some of the options to deal with the blight of dirty campers in the Highlands.

Among the options hotly debated was a blanket ban on alcohol for dirty campers combined with possible fines for those who became too intoxicated.

Councillor Andrew Baxter, member for Fort William and Ardnamurchan.
Councillor Andrew Baxter, member for Fort William and Ardnamurchan.

Councillor Andrew Baxter believes that too many fellow councillors were becoming a soft touch and demanded an appropriate response to unacceptable behaviour.

“I think we are being too charitable and we are pussy-footing around when it comes to the behaviour of some visitors to the Highlands," he said.

"I am going to underline that I think the vast majority of visitors are responsible and extremely welcome.

“But there is a small minority who are spoiling it for everyone else.

“I have communities that support the prospect of alcohol by-laws to sort part of this problem and the stumbling block was the procurator fiscal’s office who were not prepared to support these cases coming to the sheriff court.”

In what appears to be a change of position, council leader Margaret Davidson she voiced her apparent support for investment in public toilets despite backing closures in 2018 that were hugely unpopular.

Tourism committee chairwoman Councillor Maxine Smith welcomed some creative suggestions to engage landowners to provide space for Air B'n'B style service for campervans.

She said: “The council is also open to hearing from landowners who are interested in providing simple short stay facilities known on the continent as Aires.

"Primarily these provide short overnight basic stopping facilities for people on longer journeys that bring economic benefit to local businesses from those overnighting at an Aire.

"It may be that you are a farmer with a spare field or someone with an extra-large garden, but we need to start thinking more commercially as well as trying to alleviate any issues caused by motorhomes.

"We welcome tourists in the Highlands, but we need to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place for them."

Access issues in Badenoch and Strathspey are the responsibility of the Cairngorms National Park Authority.



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