To: Gordon Robertson,
Scottish Government, Forestry and Environment Directorate,
Natural Resources Division,
1C North, Victoria Quay,
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ.
Dear Mr Robertson,
The proposed legislation which has been agreed upon by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park (LLTNP) to put further restrictions on wild camping on the shores of Loch Lomond to clamp down on unacceptable behaviour by some users of the park will have a serious effect on others users, who by and large cause little or no trouble and indeed are a benefit to the area through tourism. In the main this will affect the through hikers such as myself, even though my activities are vastly different to the targets of the legislation; weekend roadside campers. These fair weather visitor who by all accounts combine fishing, fire raising and alcohol in various measures. The first of these, angling, is already controlled through the issuing of permits and bailiffs. The second is mentioned on the LLNP website, where it requests that open fires are kept small and under control, and asks that trees aren’t cut down. These are guidelines, not legislation. Local bye-laws should perhaps specify that fires should not be perhaps greater than 60cm in diameter and that only dead, fallen wood can be burned. This would allow fines to be issued to those who burn rubbish, plastic bottles, sleeping bags, and the like. That’s a reasonable rule which allows responsible behaviour and punishes irresponsible behaviour without a blanket ban. Likewise the consumption of alcohol in public is already banned with bye-laws introduced in 2011. In reality then, the LLTNP virtually has the powers it already needs, but is failing to implement them. Indeed FOI request show that ranger patrols on East Loch Lomondside are increasing, despite their success against the disruptive element, which would suggest that their aim is not to deter anti social behaviour and to promote responsible access, but is to discourage and even prevent responsible people from camping in the area.
We, as members of the public, should not have to come together to fight the National Parks, in fact National Parks should be at the spearhead of the campaign for better access right across the country. In the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003 we have some of the best legislation in Europe when it comes to outdoors access. But if we allow it to be eroded then all the work that brought it to pass is in vain. The Scottish Government and many local authorities around Scotland are all culpable in this respect. In Perth and Kinross for example, the Chesthill Estate has amassed a huge number of complaints against it for denying access, and as yet the local authority and the Scottish Government have failed to resolve the situation. Organisations such as Scotways, MCofS and Ramblers have taken up the challenge of protecting these rights, and it is to be expected that the vast majority of cases will be representing the rights of the individual against large private estates or smaller private landowners. It’s probably exceptional when they have to hold to account those who are charged with looking after national assets on behalf of the nation itself, in this case LLTNP.
As the former president of Glasgow HF Outdoor Club I can testify that our club has a long association with the LLTNP area going back 98 years. Our club was formed at a time when there were poor working conditions, poverty and poor health among many communities and clubs were set up by ordinary people to get away from the polluted cities. Society has come a long way in the 98 years of our clubs existence, but I am sure you are aware that unemployment and low wages are as much in evidence today. The outdoors should be, like the NHS, free at the point of use. I do not want to see these restrictions imposed creating a financial barrier to the unemployed and the working poor, for whom the bus fare to Balloch may be something they have to save up for without adding a “camping tax” to their strained budget too. Our outdoors must remain open to all, regardless of their income.
When LLNP issued it’s consultation I responded, as many others did, that a ban on camping was unnecessary. I felt, as did others, that the consultation was a paper exercise and that LLTNP would press ahead with its mission to ban wild camping. What are their intentions? To corral all those who want to spend the night under canvas (or in modern terminology proofed nylon) into sanitised areas where they will pay for the privilege? To squeeze every drop of profit from the through hiker who in many cases is already spending cash in the hotel at Rowardennan, the bar at Inversnaid, the pub at Inverarnan. Is it a way of directing money directly to LLTNP, rather than the indirect benefits it enjoys from the local economy. Is it NIMBYism? Or is it a genuine but ham-fisted attempt to crack a walnut with a truckload of slegehammers? Only those within the executive of LLTNP will know that. In any case they have chosen to override the 51% of respondents who called for no ban on camping, and have approved the plan to instead ban it. It seems to me that LLTNP are in part, unfit for purpose, if they are to continue on this course, and the Scottish Government must act to ensure that our access rights are protected.
I would therefore request that you reject the proposals put forward by the executive of LLTNP and encourage them to counter littering and anti-social behaviour using the powers which they already have by utilising their resources (such as the ranger service in conjunction with Police Scotland) to target the small amount of miscreants, not those who are currently abiding by the laws as they stand.
There’s still time to object, details are at: http://www.thisisyourpark.org.uk/your-park-application-to-scottish-government-ministers/