Statutory access rights apply to farmland, but not to land where crops have been sown. There is plenty of guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code on taking access responsibly through fields of livestock and fields of grass, etc. Where crops have been sown you have the right to walk along field margins, or to use any tractor 'tramlines' or paths. You can also walk on any unsown ground, such as between rows of potatoes, as long as you do not damage the crop.
Statutory rights do not extend to farmyards, but many paths and tracks go through farmyards so land managers are encouraged to allow access or to provide an alternative route. If you do walk through a farmyard on the basis of custom and tradition, proceed with care and respect the privacy of those living and working on the farm.
Dog walkers should particularly take care when crossing farmland. Keep your dog under proper control and do not enter fields with young animals, or fields where fruit or vegetables are growing unless there is a clear path. See SNH guidance on how to avoid spreading disease through dog fouling.
While most people will recognise the need to Beware of the Bull, it is important to remember that all livestock can potentially be dangerous, especially cows with young calves. If you can’t use an alternative route through another field, keep a safe distance from farm animals and watch them carefully. If you have a dog, be prepared to let the dog go if cattle react aggressively towards you. Read guidance from the Health & Safety Executive on cattle and access in Scotland.
Some funding for access is available through the Scotland Rural Development Programme, whereby land managers can apply for funding for paths, gates, signage, etc. We have been working with land management interests under the auspices of the National Access Forum. We are helping to ensure that mechanisms for claiming funding for access provision are easier to use in the forthcoming review of the Common Agricultural Policy.
In recent years, outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD), avian flu and plant diseases such as ash dieback have all raised concerns about impacts on public access. In the event of a future outbreak of avian flu or FMD there is only a very small risk of the disease being spread by recreational access. As a result there is no requirement to restrict walkers, nor will there be any 'blanket' closure of the countryside that was so damaging in the 2001 FMD outbreak. The Scottish Government contingency plans for Avian Flu and FMD both state that the presumption in favour of access will be maintained.
We anticipate the same situation for any cases of plant diseases but will publicise government information sources and helplines on this website in the event of any outbreaks.