Access - Are We Still Going Somewhere?

Two publications on countryside access have recently appeared.

(A) The MCofS Access Charter

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland's Newsletter Number 34 carries the text of a draft Access Charter as well as a background article by Nick Kempe which sets out the thinking behind the charter.

Improving access to the countryside is part of Government policy and it seems likely that the Scottish Parliament will consider the issue in the coming years. The MCofS has therefore committed itself to raising awareness of the issues and encouraging debate. As Nick Kempe rightly says "this is too important an issue to be left to civil servants''. So I make no apologies for quoting the charter in full.

(B) Care for the Hills

Comes from The Access Forum the collection of representative bodies for land management and outdoor recreation which brought us the Access Concordat.

All of which leads me on to the glorious new dawn of access heralded for England and Wales by Environment Secretary Michael Meacher's recent consultation paper. Like one or two other long-standing Labour commitments, the right-to-roam policy has now been watered down to a voluntary deal at the discretion of landowners. Although the paper does threaten the introduction of legislation if the voluntary principle fails, students of the Blair government's performance in office can hardly be optimistic. The Government's reforming zeal seems somehow to be a lot stronger when targeted against the most vulnerable groups in society than when those on the receiving end are tycoons or landowners.

So when it comes to electing the members of the Scottish Parliament, let's make sure that the access issue is well to the fore. A hundred years ago, Aberdeen MP James Bryce made several attempts to introduce access legislation but always fell foul of the landed interests who still carry far too much weight at Westminster. In the next few years we should have the chance to finish this uncompleted business.

Will Campbell, 15 March 1998

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