Vehicle tracks in Scotland’s hills

Ramblers Scotland campaigns to get better regulation of vehicle ‘hill tracks’.

We’re taking action against vehicle tracks in the hills

Recreation and environmental bodies have been concerned about the growth in the number of ‘hill tracks’ in our remote and mountain areas for decades.

Many of these are badly constructed. This has led to poor drainage, peat damage and biodiversity loss. Tracks can  can damage the beauty of the landscape creating scars you can see from many miles away.


Planning regulations for hill tracks

There is no need for planning permission if landowners say that tracks are for agricultural or forestry purposes. Yet in reality the main reason many tracks are built is for grouse shooting and deer stalking. They help transport shooters uphill more easily.

A planning loophole known as ‘permitted development’ therefore applies for these tracks.  Instead, we believe land managers should have to make a full planning application. The planning system gives the public an opportunity to comment and for inappropriate applications to be refused.

Tracks built for hydro renewable schemes or for wind farms do need planning permission.


Why we are campaigning against hill tracks

Ramblers Scotland is campaigning against hill tracks as unregulated tracks can cause environmental and landscape damage. But this is also an issue relating to the public interest in land and the lack of local democracy.

For decades we have campaigned as part of ScotLINK Hilltracks group for tighter controls on vehicle tracks in the hills.

Our Track Changes report in 2013 (PDF, 5MB) helped us gain a minor victory  requiring landowners to notify local authorities before building or altering agriculture and forestry tracks. However, our follow-up Changing Tracks report in 2018 (PDF, 2.5MB) found that many problems remained.


Support Ramblers Scotland’s hill tracks campaign

The Scottish Government has recognised that hill tracks is an issue of high public interest.

It promised to hold a consultation as part of a wider review of permitted development rights starting in 2020.  Covid delayed this consultation but it is expected later in 2022.

Please email with photos of any new or upgraded upland tracks you come across. We are interested in tracks which are badly constructed or have a significantly bad impact on the landscape or environment. Please include an item like a person or poles in the photo to give scale. Remember that tracks for windfarm or hydro schemes already have planning permission, but if you see examples of bad practice in such schemes, we’d still like to know about them. 


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