MCofS and Ramblers Scotland response to Loch Lomond camping byelaws consultation

Call for Scottish Government intervention in Loch Lomond dispute

Byelaw plans criticised by ramblers and mountaineers

Scotland’s rambling and mountaineering organisations today joined forces to express serious concerns over the recent consultation by Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Authority on proposed byelaws to ban camping from large areas of low ground within the park. 

Ramblers Scotland and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland together called for the intervention of the Scottish Government to help resolve the dispute with the Park Authority.

The call comes after a report in the  Sunday Herald in which Kevin Findlater MBE, a former Chief Inspector of Police in the Loch Lomond area, heavily criticised the Park Authority for its proposals, which he branded “unnecessary and draconian” in his submission to the consultation.

Helen Todd, Campaigns and Policy Manager with Ramblers Scotland said: “We have lost confidence in the National Park’s ability to resolve this dispute over camping byelaws. They listen to our concerns but make no effort to adjust their plans to take account of what is being said to them by outdoor organisations and experts. They are taking a much too narrow view of their responsibilities. 

“By criminalising camping and other activities which are perfectly acceptable under Scotland’s right to roam legislation, the Park Authority would create immense public confusion over what is acceptable when taking access to our countryside.  It is clear from the land reform legislation that secured our public rights of access to land and water that any byelaws introduced by national park authorities and other organisations have to be consistent with the access provisions approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2003. The latest proposals from the National Park fail that crucial test.  

“This dispute is totally unnecessary. As Kevin Findlater has indicated, what we need is the proper application of the criminal law to those who are causing problems and then we can allow everyone else to enjoy the outdoors without fear of getting a criminal record.” 

Andrea Partridge, Access Officer with MCofS said: “It is truly disgraceful that Scotland’s first National Park, with a primary purpose to promote public enjoyment of the countryside, is now proposing to remove a right to camp for the responsible majority. A right that was enshrined in law is being eroded by the very organisation that should be promoting and encouraging responsible access. 

“Since November we have made repeated requests to obtain data from the Park Authority which they claimed as evidence to support the introduction of the new byelaws. This included statistics on the number of reported incidents, number of warnings, number of fines / prosecutions etc in the area where the byelaws are proposed. We have not received this information and wonder whether it actually exists.

“The proposed byelaws totally undermine the workings of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and will criminalise law-abiding members of the public. The climber who sleeps in his or her car (or bivvies beside it) in order to get an early start, the cycle tourer who needs to stop for the night or the walker who gets delayed or has simply had enough that day, all currently have the right to camp responsibly under the terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Scotland’s first National Park will be removing these rights from everyone in order to provide a deterrent to the few who are carrying out criminal acts.

“We acknowledge there is a problem with damage and overuse at certain key locations at busy times of the year, but there has been inadequate provision of camping and associated facilities by the Park Authority to help address this problem.”

Ramblers Scotland and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland are now calling on the Scottish Government to help resolve the dispute by getting all parties around the table to determine what is best for the National Park.  Both organisations indicated that while they are opposed to the byelaws they nevertheless welcome proposals by the Park to increase investment in informal camping provisions and associated educational and interpretive facilities, building on the progress they have made on the east shore of Loch Lomond in recent years.