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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 06:59 GMT
New access laws come into force
walkers
A new code for outdoor access has been drawn up
Scotland's new right to roam laws have come into force.

The Land Reform Act was passed two years ago but only came into effect on Wednesday, legally underpinning access rights across Scotland.

It guarantees a statutory right of responsible access to land and inland waters for recreation, crossing and for educational and commercial purposes.

It supporters hope it will end disputes over rights of way in conjunction with the new Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

The code provides guidance on responsible behaviour for recreational users, and on the responsible management of land, in relation to public access, by farmers and other land managers.

The days of landowners claiming that theirs is a private kingdom should be at an end.
Ramblers' Association Scotland

It will be the duty of local authorities to make sure the code is being complied with. They will also have to keep open and free from obstruction any route subject to access.

A media advertising campaign publicising the new code is also due to begin.

The new legislation also gives certain rural communities first refusal when land is put up for sale and even stronger rights to crofters to compulsorily purchase their land from the owner.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) carried out its biggest consultation ever in seeking views on the draft code holding more than 50 public meetings and sending out 20,000 copies of the document to interested organisations.

SNH chairman John Markland said Scotland now had some of the "most progressive access legislation in Europe".

Lewis Macdonald
Lewis Macdonald urged people to take advantage of the changes

He said: "The plea we make to Scotland's people is to 'Know the Code Before You Go'."

Deputy Environment and Rural Development Minister Lewis Macdonald urged communities and individuals to "think creatively" to turn the new rights into economic opportunities and secure environmental benefits.

He said: "For the first time in Scotland's history, we now have a clear and explicit right of responsible access to our countryside.

"Our land and landscape are not there only for the exclusive use of a few. They are there for the whole community to enjoy.

"It is important that communities and individuals think creatively to turn these new rights of access into new economic opportunities while securing environmental benefits."

The Ramblers Association urged councils and other public bodies to provide the funding to pay for pathways and match the ambition of the new laws.

Investment need

The association's Director in Scotland Dave Morris said: "The days of landowners claiming that theirs is a private kingdom should be at an end.

"We must ensure local authorities and other funding bodies in charge of forestry and agriculture, for example, make the necessary investment to provide more walking and cycling routes, particularly around communities where people live and work."

Access legislation elsewhere in the UK differs.

In England, Defra and the Countryside Agency are responsible for implementing the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The new right of access is being introduced regionally on a rolling programme, a process which started on 19 September 2004 and is due to be completed by the end of 2005.

The new right enables "open access", which means that people will be able to wander freely across "access land" and will not have to stick to paths.


SEE ALSO:
Land reform bill wins support
23 Jan 03 |  Scotland


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