28 June 2002

Responsible access proposal

RESPONSIBLE access to the countryside was the key theme promoted by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) at this years Royal Highland Show.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which could reach the statute book by the end of the year, includes proposals for a new public right of access to land. Walkers, cyclists and horse riders will be granted access rights on the condition that they behave responsibly.

SNH, the Scottish governments statutory conservation adviser, has been working with the Scottish Executive on an outdoor access code, which is expected to be promoted after the Bill becomes law.

The code will guide responsible behaviour by those who access land and those who manage it.

John Markland, chairman of SNH, said: "Many people are put off walking in the countryside because they are unsure if they are breaking the law when the access land, while others may cause problems for landowners by leaving gates open or blocking farm access.

"The proposed new access legislation and code will set out in clearer terms where people can go and how they should behave in the countryside, which is essential if we are to balance recreational and land management needs.

"The sooner people begin to understand the principle of responsible access, the easier it will be to implement the forthcoming reforms, which have the basic aim of encouraging enjoyment of our natural heritage." &#42