Access and walking on farmland in Scotland

A summary of the Ramblers position on issues relating to access on Scottish farmland for walkers

Access and walking on farmland in Scotland

About 80% of Scotland’s land is agricultural, and most people live in lowland areas near farmland. As a result, agricultural land is often where we go walking. It provides a valuable link between people and the environment. Therefore we view public access to Scottish farmland as a public good, delivering positive outcomes to society. Benefits include boosting the nation’s health, wellbeing, economy, connectivity and education.  

In this article we will outline your rights when walking on farmland and explain why and how we are calling for better funding for paths on agricultural land. 


How access rights apply on agricultural land 

Scottish access rights include access to farmers’ fields, provided you are responsible. Use our Scottish walking guide to learn about your rights as a walker north of the border.  For more detail information on responsible access on farmland, see the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.


Why we are calling for better funding for paths on agricultural land

Paths help us walk responsibly through farmland. Paths also help farmers manage land, predict where people are likely to be and plan their work accordingly.

We recognise that there is little individual incentive for most land managers to invest in paths because paths generally benefit society, local businesses and individuals, rather than the landowner.  Some land managers have developed ways to benefit from people using their paths, such as by running farm shops, cafes or tourism businesses.  Yet infrastructure like paths, bridges and signs is expensive to maintain and install so most land managers will need to look for external funding


How we are working with Scottish Government to ensure funding for paths

In the past, the Scottish Government has recognised the importance of investing in access through agricultural funding, thanks to sustained lobbying from Ramblers Scotland and our partners. The Scottish Government is still developing its agricultural support programme post-Brexit, which will start in 2024. We are working to influence this programme as follows:

  • We are working with members of Scottish Environment LINK, an alliance of more than 40 leading Scottish environmental organisations, to ensure that the programme will better reflect the principle of using public funding to support the public good.  This is LINK’s full response to the government’s consultation
  • We continue to work within the National Access Forum to make the case for funding to continue, potentially along the same lines as the existing Improving Public Access scheme. This scheme supports path infrastructure and promotion including path resurfacing works, benches, signs and leaflets.  

As a charity, you can support our work to protect and improve our paths and green spaces by donating or becoming a member.  Together we’ll increase access to green spaces, open up more places to walk and boost Britain’s wellbeing one step at a time.