- Applause for the National Park
- The Cairngorms National Park Authority has been criticised for listening to the people living in the park and to local businesses while ignoring the concerns of 'communities of interest' based outside its boundaries. It is, after all, a national park. As will be seen from articles elsewhere in this edition of Mountain Views, the Park has actively engaged over the summer with the voluntary organisations which have major stakes in the wellbeing of the Park on two issues (the Cairngorm and Glenmore Strategy and the next Park Partnership Plan). This willingness to engage more widely is welcomed by NEMT.
- Parkwatch: a new initiative
- A new website (parkswatchscotland.co.uk), with blog, has been created which is dedicated to providing constructively critical comments on Scotland's two National Parks. Parkswatch has been developed by Nick Kempe (access and conservation campaigner and past President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland), with the support of others. Parkswatch aims to:
Contributions are welcome to the website and blog from people who wish to make constructive criticisms of Scotland's National Parks or simply to provide information that might not otherwise be available.
- increase awareness of where things are going wrong in our National Parks
- provide information which would not otherwise be widely available
- provide a platform for constructive criticism
- promote open and democratic decision making in our National Parks that is informed by evidence and values everyone
- Access Problems - What Should You Do?
- Ensuring that the access legislation is effective in practice has long been part of NEMT's remit and we are happy to raise issues with local government Access Officers. Nevertheless, we think that it is best if individuals or clubs do this themselves in the first instance as they will have full details of what the problem is and so are best placed to answer any queries the Access Officer might have. If this fails, NEMT would be happy to take the matter up. Problems people may experience include high or electric fences without stiles or gates at regular intervals, permanent notices suggesting that shooting takes place across a wide area all year long or signs trying to forbid access for no good reason.
The contact details for Access Officers are on each local authority website. The local information is as follows:
For problems in Aberdeenshire (excluding the National Park): contacts
For the National Park: contacts
- Satelites in Sutherland?
- Highlands and Islands Enterprise has commissioned a study to examine the pros and cons of a launch facility for commercial satellites on the Melness crofting estate near Tongue. This is causing concern to Anders Povlsen, now Scotland’s second largest land owner and the custodian of Glen Feshie, who owns the Ben Loyal, Kinloch and Hope estates. Mr. Polvsen has been systematically reducing deer numbers to allow regrowth; he is planning to invest in the estates and start running 'environmental type wilderness holidays'. If satellites ever take off from Sutherland will this lessen Mr. Povlsen's desire to invest?
- Land Owner Charm Offensive No 1: Muirburn
- With land reform back on the agenda, the change in legislation regarding hill tracks plus criticisms of control of deer numbers, it is little wonder that land owners are feeling the pressure to justify certain practices. Last spring, the 'Heath on Fire OK!' campaign was promoted by sporting estates and gamekeepers to explain the benefits of muirburn. The extent of muirburn and its value remains, of course, a source of controversy.
- Land Owner Charm Offensive No 2: Deer Management
- Excessive deer numbers and their impact on the environment led the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament to issue an ultimatum in 2014 to Deer Management Groups that they must implement more effective deer management plans. The South Deeside and North Angus Deer Management Group, a subgroup of the larger East Grampian Deer Management Group, published its plan and publicised it at a public event attended by a representative of NEMT. The Group also contacted NEMT directly to invite its views. NEMT welcomed this openness and made comments about deer numbers, accurate recording of densities and winter mortalities, the importance of estates utilising the 'Heading for the Hills' website and the need to for signs about shooting activity to be specific and up to date.
- Access legislation: electric bikes and drones
- Although ultimately only courts can adjudicate on access rights, the National Access Forum has been trying to make sense of electric bikes and drones.
The view of the Forum is that 'electrically assisted pedal cycles' are not motorised vehicles under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. It will be interesting to see what happens if the technology advances to the point where pedalling is no longer needed!
- The situation with drones is less clear. The use of 'powered model craft' is outwith access rights but this was based on model aircraft being used by groups at specific sites; the situation with drones is not considered to be directly analogous to this. It is not clear whether drones are 'vehicles'. In addition, drones can fly over land where access rights pertain but with the 'pilot' standing on ground without such restriction. Access rights must be exercised 'lawfully and reasonably' and the National Access Forum points to the various pieces of legislation and regulation relating to drones which cover matters such as safety, the need for the 'pilot' to keep the craft in sight and disturbance to wildlife. Will the hills soon be alive to the sound of drones? An NEMT member recently had his lunchtime sandwich disturbed by the whine of a little blighter zooming in an out of the pinnacles on the Quirang like a large, aggressive midge!
- Rio Tinto's land - a community buyout?
- With Rio Tinto Aluminium reviewing its Fort William operation, the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust has been formed to explore the possibility of a community buyout. The land assets are very significant, including the Mamores, the Grey Corries and the upper Spey valley, and, if successful, this would be the largest community buyout to date. Information is available at- www.eastlochaberlaggan.scot
- Grouse moors and raptor persecution
- At the same time as NEMT circulated to its members a Scottish parliamentary petition, launched by the Scottish Raptor Group, calling for the licensing of grouse moors, more news emerged regarding the disappearance of tagged eagles. RSPB stated that eight birds seemed to have simply 'disappeared' in the Monadhliath area in less than five years. The Scottish Government is reviewing tracking data to determine whether there is a 'pattern of suspicious activity'. In July, illegally set spring traps were found on the Invercauld estate.
- Hutting in the Hills
- The Mountain Bothies Association would like it made clear that the sentiments expressed in the last few sentences of the last paragraph in Ken Thomson's article on this topic in the previous issue of Mountain Views are those of the author alone, and not those of the MBA. The MBA only takes over existing buildings and then only after very strict requirements, whereas Ken was referring to an example of unauthorised bothy building looked at in some detail by NEMT a few years ago.
- NEMT now a SCIO
- NEMT is now become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. This provides better legal protection for Trustees and Members than our previous unincorporated status. Thanks to all individual members and clubs for bearing with us during the voting process - your patience and participation is much appreciated. There is, however, always a downside and, in this case, this involves our opening a new bank account. We will be in touch with individuals who pay by standing order in due course.
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