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More balance needed in the right to roam issue

More balance needs to be felt between landowners and ramblers in the right to roam issue, says solicitor Gillian Gibbons.

Gillian, agricultural solicitor at Pagan Osborne,

said:

A petition was presented to the Scottish Parliament this week raising concerns from landowners on how access paths are ‘imposed’ and ‘impossible’ to appeal.

Landowner Wendy Barr has lodged the petition as she believes there is no support for those whose property is being accessed and, while she says she doesn’t object to individual access that there is inequality in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act (Scotsman, Apr 17).

These views echo what has been discussed for many years throughout the land owning and rural communities. ‘Right to roam’ has been controversial since the onset, with ramblers delighted to be able to explore more of Scotland’s countryside with some landowners worried about access to their grounds to the general public.

The over-riding concern from landowners is that they feel they are the losers in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act and feel they are losing rights to their own land. It is important these feelings are address and that the needs of both sides are adequately and fairly addressed.

There have been cases in recent years where landowners have tried to appeal decisions and have struggled to win their case. There have also been incidents whereby walkers have been injured and the landowner is held liable. It is vitally important landowners know the responsibilities they incur as part of this ‘right to roam’ legislation.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states people must exercise access rights responsibly and without causing unreasonable interference to others.  Just as landowners owe a duty of care to those exercising their rights of access across Scotland, walkers owe a duty of care to the landowners to use their common sense when crossing particular areas of land, paying attention to any potential hazards, as well as keeping dogs under proper control.

Landowners can take measures to protect themselves, and walkers, by putting in place measures such as warning signs or fencing off the public path.

Scotland is a beautiful place with beautiful countryside that people will always want to explore. Finding the right balance between freedom for explorers and the rights of landowners is vitally important to ensure that both feel that their needs and concerns are being fairly dealt with so that they can work together.”

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