05 November 1998
Right-to-roam pressure builds after Scots back access plans
By FWi staff
LANDOWNERS in England and Wales are being urged to abandon their opposition to a legal “right to roam” after their Scottish counterparts backed plans for access legislation in Scotland.
The Scottish Landowners Federation has endorsed proposals for the introduction of a right to roam across certain types of uncultivated land when the Scottish Parliament is set up next year.
John Grant, the SLF vice-president, was said to be enthusiastic about the plans which were passed to the Governments conservation advisers, Scottish Natural Heritage, on Tuesday.
Mr Grant is the SLFs representative on the Access Forum, a body comprised of landowners, ramblers and public agencies set up to resolve the long-running disputes which have dogged the right-to-roam issue.
His enthusiasm for a legal right to roam has yet to be endorsed by the SLF officials. But an SLF spokesman said the organisation recognised that a legislation was likely and wanted to be involved in crafting the necessary framework.
“Weve got to do that from the inside rather than the outside,” the spokesman said.
Ramblers representatives said the Scottish decision would come as quite a shock to the Country Landowners Association, which is opposed to a legal right to roam in England and Wales.
“This shows there is something to be gained for landowners from legislation,” said David Beskine, assistant director of the Ramblers Association. “It sets out the rights and responsibility of the public and makes the CLAs position untenable.”
A recent opinion poll found 80% of the population supported a legal right to roam in England and Wales. But the CLA, which has 50,000 members, remains opposed to the idea.
CLA officials have threatened to sue the Government for millions of pounds in compensation for losses which landowners say they will face on shooting, fishing and farming estates if a right to roam is enshrined in law.