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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Land reform warning to ministers
General land picture
The bill has gone before the Scottish Parliament
A cross-party group has warned of serious flaws in plans for land reform in Scotland.

The newly-formed Scottish Access Campaign (Sac) said attempts by ministers to improve public access to the countryside could do damage lasting generations.

The body claims support from farmers, lawyers, landowners, bird protection bodies, hoteliers and access groups.

It has called for changes to the Scottish Executive's draft Land Reform Bill.

Ramblers
Proposals for greater access for ramblers
The bill was launched earlier this year and is now open to public consultation.

It proposes greater access and freedom for ramblers and plans to give smaller communities and crofters a legal right to the land they work and depend on.

It also proposes setting up local access forums representing a balance of interests and with the power to intervene in access disputes

But ramblers and landowners have criticised the bill for failing to address key issues.

Sac director Marcus Booth said: "The aims of the executive in trying to improve access for all are broadly right but the bill as it stands is so flawed that it will create a festering sore for generations unless it is changed."

Network of pathways

The campaign said the legislation should reflect more closely the recommendations of a forum that helped draft a code on which the bill's provisions were based.

The campaigners have called for a properly-funded "core" network of pathways and said the bill should take greater account of differences between the Highlands and lowlands and between open and enclosed land.

They said the bill also needs a better definition of privacy and the issue of the legal liability of land managers needs to be addressed.

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