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Stackyard News Jul 06

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    Land Managers Still Encountering Access Problems

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has released research findings from the first year of a three-year study into responsible behaviour amongst recreational users and land managers. The findings show that the majority of both recreational users and land managers are aware of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and its content, but that farmers are still reporting problems when it comes to access-taking on Scottish farmland.

Three quarters of all recreational users reported feeling very comfortable taking access in the countryside while the same percentage of land managers reported problems associated with public access in the last 2-3 months, on a range of problems.

Land managers reported that some problems had got worse over the last three years, most notably litter, gates being left open or closed inappropriately and trouble with dogs not being kept under appropriate control.

Recreational users were generally positive in their views of land managers, although they did express a desire that land managers conduct land management to minimise interference with people accessing the countryside.

Land managers themselves did tend to have a more negative view of recreational users and their behaviours, although these views have improved since earlier studies.

NFU Scotland Access Officer, Sue Hilder, said:

“Many of the problems currently encountered by land managers were already happening before access legislation came into effect and have continued to occur since its introduction. The problems don’t seem to be significantly affected by the legislation either way, and many farmers feel that there's no point in reporting some issues as there's no obvious solution.

“NFU Scotland is encouraging its members to work with their local authority and other bodies to help integrate access and land management. Contact information for advice on access planning is available from the Outdoor Access Scotland Website, We hope that farmers will also write to us describing incidents that have occurred on their land. This will assist in the process of keeping the Scottish Outdoor Access Code under review.

“Far and away the biggest issue concerning farmers is the mixing of people and dogs with livestock, and the potential for injury to the public or disturbance of the animals. The feedback I receive is mostly to do with worries about anticipated incidents, rather than actual incidents, but nevertheless the concern is significant.

“Farmers also feel that whilst people may know the Code exists, they may be more conscious of their rights than their responsibilities, and may not yet be aware of the detailed guidance about certain situations.

“It is vital is that the Code becomes part of the public consciousness and starts to inform their behaviour. It is also crucial that SNH’s public education programme continues to be given the highest priority, and that other stakeholders, including farmers, remember that they also have a role in increasing awareness and understanding of the Code.”

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scottish outdoor access code