Scottish access rights during COVID-19

We strongly support the Scottish Government's approach to access during COVID-19

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham released a statement on 9 April stressing the importance of using access rights responsibly during the coronavirus outbreak. Read it here.

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy says: “Ramblers Scotland strongly supports the approach taken by Scottish Government, which is based on the principles of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. In these extraordinary times, exercising access rights responsibly is more important than ever. Walkers should make extra efforts, including responding to reasonable requests from land managers, to help keep everybody safe and avoid disruption to food production.”

Meanwhile, our #RoamSweetHome campaign is helping inspire everyone to stay active indoors, in gardens and in local neighbourhoods at this difficult time.

COVID-19 and Scottish access rights - in detail

The COVID-19 legislation in Scotland sets out the reasons that the public is able to leave their homes and this includes exercise.

We are pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the importance to both physical and mental health of getting outdoors and enjoying fresh air and exercise.

Scottish access rights only apply if the person is being responsible. In this current situation when there are strict guidelines on social distancing and we are being urged not to put additional pressure on the emergency services, including mountain rescue, we should consider what being responsible now means.

Scottish Government guidance in April called for us to stay close to home and not go out for exercise more than once a day. (*This was updated on 10 May to remove the once-a-day exercise limit.) 

Being responsible means enjoying the opportunity to explore local paths around where you live and not driving long distances to head to the hills, you are reducing the risk of spreading or getting the virus. We should avoid busy paths or popular parks at times when it is not possible to stay two metres away from people.  

There are mechanisms for removing statutory rights of access to land under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, but we are not aware of any places where these are currently being used.

The Scottish countryside is not closed, but our responsibilities as walkers mean we should respect the interests of all people who use the outdoors, especially farmers and other land managers who are continuing to work during this time.

It should also be remembered that we are now in the lambing season, which is already a sensitive time for farmers. Remember to try to avoid touching gates and railings with your hands and take account of any reasonable requests to avoid certain areas due to the risks of spreading the virus.

However, if you come across any signs which suggest that an area of land is closed to access and feel that this is not reasonable, even with the current public health crisis, please report this to your local authority access officer and let us know.

  We will continue regularly updating our members, volunteers and supporters at ramblers.org.uk/coronavirus.

The Ramblers will continue to encourage walkers to access the outdoors in ways which are safe, in keeping with the latest government advice, and respectful to others.