With a new right of responsible access to Scotland's countryside now in force, farmers are increasingly in need of guidance and advice on what the new law means for them. With that in mind, NFU Scotland has appointed an access officer to help farmers with everything from signposting to agreeing new pathways across farmland.
Sue Hilder has taken up the position of NFUS Access Officer, a three-year post, part-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage as part of its programme to work with a wide range of stakeholders to promote the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The Code provides guidance to the public and to land managers on their responsibilities under the new legislation.
Sue has joined NFUS from East Dunbartonshire Council following a spell as a member of its access team. Speaking after taking up her post with NFUS, she said:
“Countryside access has always worked very well in Scotland and, as a general rule, there is a good understanding between those who work the land and those taking access on it. The new right of responsible access should build on this provided that both those taking access in the countryside and land managers know what is expected of them.
“NFUS has members who sit on Local Access Forums and provide a local voice on access issues and I will be able to support their work. Disagreements will inevitably arise, but a compromise can usually be reached which satisfies the farmer's need to do the day-to-day job and the access taker's desire to enjoy the countryside.
“I will be out and about across Scotland in the coming months, speaking to farmers on the ground about the access support they need.”
NFUS Chief Executive Andy Robertson said:
“With nearly £7 million pounds to be spent on pathways under the new Land Management Contracts scheme, there is a huge amount of development work going on around the country to improve access. As a result, there is also a growing need for guidance and I know our members will benefit from Sue's expertise.
“The issue of access has always generated a huge number of calls to the Union, but even more so following the Land Reform Act. As a result, having a dedicated staff resource to help farmers understand the implications of the new right of responsible access will be a real asset to the organisation and its members. We are pleased to be working with SNH and are grateful for their support.”