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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 16:34 GMT
Cautious welcome on right to roam
Ramblers welcome the countryside code
Scotland's landowners have given a wary welcome to plans underpinning the right to roam north of the border.

The right was enshrined in land reform legislation passed last year by the Scottish Parliament.

A proposed 66-page access code on the "right of responsible access" was submitted to ministers by Scottish Natural Heritage.

The code will have to be approved by parliament before the new public right of access takes effect.

Scottish Natural Heritage said the proposals took account of views submitted during a public consultation, and struck a fair balance.

But John Don, convener of the Scottish Landowners' Federation, said: "While we welcome the code in general terms, there remain a number of areas where we think fine tuning is required."

And he said landowners also had concerns that the code had the potential to cause damage to land by encouraging people to use unsown "tramline" areas between rows of crops.

This is important as it can stem the move towards a culture of litigation, an aspect which has made some land managers nervous in encouraging access to their land
John Don
Scottish Landowners' Federation
Mr Don added: "Tramlines do not provide a useful recreational purpose, and a greater focus on paths and tracks and adequate funding would provide better opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors.

"Emphasis also needs to be given to the conservation importance of field margins.

"We welcome the emphasis which the code places on people taking responsibility for their own actions, and that the countryside is not risk-free.

"This is important as it can stem the move towards a culture of litigation, an aspect which has made some land managers nervous in encouraging access to their land."

Scottish Natural Heritage said the draft code reflected changes suggested in the consultation process.

Key messages

These included clearer guidance to dog owners about how to act responsibly, more advice on respecting the privacy of people living in the countryside, and greater emphasis on the importance of following paths close to houses and in crop fields.

SNH director of strategy Andrew Bachell said: "For the first time, the new legislation will introduce formal access rights, accompanied by responsibilities set out in the code for both land managers and the public using the land.

"The proposed code reflects what people told us, and particularly focuses on the key messages of the need to respect the interests of others, take care of the environment, and take responsibility for your own actions."

However, the National Farmers Union Scotland said some aspects of the proposed code should be rewritten.

It is unhappy about provisions for walking on vehicle tracks through fields - believing there is potential for crop damage.

And it believes the code has not tackled the difficulties of making access for cyclists and horse riders compatible with the safety of others such as walkers.

Deputy environment minister Allan Wilson said he hoped the access rights could be brought into effect later this year.

He said: "Scottish Natural Heritage has consulted widely on their proposals and while I understand that some people may still have concerns, I hope we can work together to ensure that the new arrangements work in the best interests of the environment."

BBC Scotland's Louise Batchelor
"By the autumn we'll have a new access code"

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