The row over a national park’s ban on wild camping has intensified; the Ramblers Scotland and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland have condemned the proposals, and have urged the Government to take action.
The park authority has put forward proposals to create campsites along the banks of Scotland’s famous loch, to cut down on littering, fire damage, and even abandonment of entire campsites, all having an impact on the surrounding environment and wildlife.
If the proposals go ahead, new bylaws will be introduced, making it an offence to cause damage to the natural environment or wildlife in the park, as well as enable the park to regulate where visitors can camp.
However, The Mountaineering Council of Scotland argue that the ban would go against the right to camp responsibility, enshrined in Scotland’s right-to-roam legislation. Andrea Partridge, access officer with Mountaineering Council of Scotland, commented: “It is truly disgraceful that Scotland’s first national park, with a primary purpose to promote public enjoyment of the countryside, is now proposing to remove a right to camp for the responsible majority. The proposed bylaws totally undermine the workings of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, and will criminalise law-abiding members of the public.
Helen Todd, campaigns and policy manager of Ramblers Scotland, said: “We have lost confidence in the national park’s ability to resolve this dispute over camping bylaws.
“By criminalising camping and other activities, which are perfectly acceptable under Scotland’s right to roam legislation, the park authority would create immense public confusion over what is acceptable when taking access to our countryside.
Both organisations have called for the Scottish Government to help resolve the dispute with the park authority.
Todd continued; “What we need is the proper application of the criminal law to those who are causing problems, and then we can allow everyone else to enjoy the outdoors without fear of getting a criminal record.”
Gordon Watson, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority chief executive, said: “The National Park (Scotland) Act 2000 gives us bylaw-making powers for a reason: we are expected to protect the environment from damaging overuse and abuse.
“The package of measures we are proposing combines investing in more informal low cost camping facilities, continuing education initiatives, as well as introducing controls on the amount of camping.”
The ‘Your Park’ programme are currently producing a report which summarises the findings of a public consultation held in January, and will then be recommending a paper for the National Park Authority Board to consider.