Lesley Riddoch Access Article in The National

Here’s an interesting article on land reform and access by National columnist Lesley Riddoch, and my letter in response.

Article LIVE or SAVED

Dear Sir,

Lesley Riddoch makes some very good points about Scotland’s lagging in the fitness stakes despite Team GB’s medal haul. Of particular note was when she observed that Norway has 43 national parks to Scotland’s pitiful 2, but at present I’m not convinced that is entirely a bad thing. In my view our national parks should be part of a national strategy to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors while allowing them to exercise their access rights to the full. We only have to look to Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park (LLTNP) to see that is not the case. 

In 2011 wild camping, a right enshrined in the Land Reform Act 2003, was banned on part of the eastern side of Loch Lomond. The national park pushed for this ban and spokesman Grant Moir stated at the time that they had no plans to extend the ban to other areas of the park. Fast forward five years and they have already broken that vow, having had legislation passed which will create a series of “Restricted Zones” where the access laws which Lesley acknowledged arrived around 50 years after progressive Norway’s, will be suspended and camping will be banned for the ordinary visitor, though notably these restrictions do not apply to the land-owners or their chums. 

The West Highland Way, Scotland’s premier long distance footpath which attracts hikers from all over the world, has some 29 miles within the boundaries of the LLTNP and bizarrely around 19 miles of this will be in the Restricted Zones!

What we are seeing in LLTNP is the privatisation by stealth of a healthy and growing outdoors lifestyle, and if there’s anything more likely to deter ordinary people from accessing the outdoors it’s by pricing it out of their reach, and all under the threat of a £500 fine if you so much as camp where you shouldn’t.

In the 1920’s and 30’s many people from the industrial heartlands of Scotland, such as the iconic outdoorsman Tom Weir, would take to the hills of Loch Lomond and Arrochar, camping by loch-sides, sheltering in caves and under old army capes, trying to escape the horrendous conditions and grinding poverty of the cities. Almost 100 years on we haven’t progressed at all if we are about to allow those rights to be criminalised, sanitised and privatised. The LLTNP could be the jewel in the crown of Scottish access, where like in Norway, people are encouraged to visit, where they can be educated in good practice and where they can grow and flourish. If the Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a fitter, healthier and happier place it would be a good start by ensuring that our two existing national parks have at their very core the charge to protect and strengthen our access rights, and that they remain open and accessible to all. That would be a small start which would still leave us trailing behind Norway, but in my view theirs is a path worth following.

Yours,

James Cassidy

Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Minutes of LLTNP Board & Committee Meetings

I’ve been looking at mapping out the structure of the LLTNP.  The LLTNP website lists the composition of the board as comprising seventeen members, comprising of a Convener, a Depute-Convener…

Source: Minutes of LLTNP Board & Committee Meetings

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Blog: The Loch Lomond & Trossachs Camping Ban

Get off OUR Land

Get Off YOUR Land!

The forthcoming ban on wild camping in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park has started to gather a bit of attention. There’s a lot to take in and a lot of credit has to go to the work done by Nick Kempe and Ross McBeth. Nick has detailed many of the arguments against the board of the LLTNP and their actions on his Parkswatch Scotland blog, while Ross has attended numerous public meetings and written numerous letters to try to elicit the real intentions behind the ban. I’m going to try to be more active myself, and to give this important issue the platform it needs I am going to be putting all LLTNP camping ban material on one blog, to keep it all in one place. The blog can be found at https://lochlomondandtrossachsaccessrights.wordpress.com/ and there’s a Facebook and email link on there too.

If you support protecting our access rights please “Like” the Facebook page, share the posts and follow the blog, and if you can do more please get in touch.

Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

LLTNP: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Loch Lubnaig and Surrounds

Loch Lubnaig and Surrounds

The campaign against the byelaws being introduced by the LLTNP, which are supported by the Scottish Government, is gaining momentum.

The LLTNP Board have repeatedly stated that only around 3% of the park will be affected by the ban. This figure has been reached with the crudest of maths, by taking the Parks 1865 square kilometres and subtracting the area where the ban will apply, which accounts for that 3%. By rights 97% of the National Park should be available for camping, right? Wrong! That 97% includes the largest body of water in Scotland, Loch Lomond, along with around a dozen more bodies of water of various size, from tiny Lochan Reoidhte to Loch Earn. That 97% doesn’t account for habited areas, gardens and numerous other places that people simply couldn’t wild camp anyway.

To look at it another way, where do people visit and where do they want to stay? Considering the lochs in the area have the best infrastructure already many people will want to be near the lochs, for fishing, canoeing or as a convenient place to stay before or after hillwalking. Looking at the central area of the National Park I found that of the eight main bodies of water, very little of the shoreline corridor will be free of the ban. Rather than 97% availability, it’s a 100% ban on Lochs Earn and Achray and Lochan Reoidhte, between 70% and 80% on Lochs Venachar, Drunkie and Voil, and over 60% of Lochs Doine and Lubnaig. Of the 40% remaining on the western shore of Loch Lubnaig, much is unsuitable anyway due to development, forestry and the terrain.

LLTNP are trying to corral people into places where they must pay for what is a right elsewhere in Scotland, and have contributed to the local clamour that “something must be done” by not investing in Ranger services, and the Scottish Government have not provided the level of policing that this area appears to require, a common fault in many rural areas.

With the departure of Dr Aileen McLeod we have a new Environment Minister in Roseanna Cunningham, and I hope that she will be more receptive to the concerns of the many individuals and organisations who see this as what it is; an erosion of the rights enshrined in the land Reform Act. As Ms Cunningham was previously the minister who approved the initial Loch Lomond ban in 2011 I fear she will however ignore those concerns. If so will it take a campaign of wilful disobediance of the legislation by responsible wild campers to bring this down? The courts have already indicated they are unwilling to prosecute, and if challenged in the European Courts I have no doubt they would find the ban to be unfair and unjust in addition to being unenforceable.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dr Aileen McLeod: Goodbye, and Good Riddance

Get Off YOUR Land!

Get Off YOUR Land!

Although Thursdays Scottish Parliament election saw a number of surprises, one in particular caught my eye. You may have missed it in all the coverage of the “apparent” Tory victory, but one result did catch my eye. The Environment Minister Dr Eileen McLeod failed to win the seat in Galloway and West Dumfries. For some reason Dr McLeod was only placed 6th on her party list, perhaps out of expectation of winning the seat, and with the Tories winning she became one of the few MSP’s who haven’t been able to gain protection from the list safety net. Dr McLeod was, as you may remember, the SNP Environment Minister who approved the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park plan to criminalise wild camping in many areas of the National Park. With all that free time on her hands she should be able to enjoy herself in the great outdoors, so long as she doesn’t try to camp on those Bonnie, Bonnie Banks…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hillend Quarry: Quarry Company Submit Appeal

Yesterday I received a letter from the North Lanarkshire Planning Department stating that an appeal has been submitted by the quarry company against the decision not to grant planning permission to reopen and extend the quarry. I’ll post more details when available, but it looks as though this fight is back on.

Posted in Environment | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Beinn a’ Chrulaiste

I managed to use the winter gear a few weeks back. Having thought I’d seen the last of the mountains of Glencoe I was pleased to find myself on one of the glens lesser trodden hills, and also one of its best viewpoints… 

Full Trip Report: Beinn a’ Chrulaiste

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment