SCOTLAND’S land managers have been left to deal with the filthy aftermath of irresponsible members of the public visiting the countryside this summer.

Due to the current pandemic putting a halt to many holidays abroad, more people have instead chosen to explore Scotland’s countryside, meaning rural areas are having to cope with increased numbers of visitors and the mess that some are leaving behind.

A new survey has found that a quarter of Scotland’s land managers have experienced anti-social behaviour from members of the public this year including witnessing fighting, people shouting abuse and noise from parties.

Findings were part of a report into responsible access to the countryside carried out by Scottish Land and Estates (SLaE) which surveyed almost 100 members this September.

SLaE found that 40 per cent of respondents had issues with the public lighting irresponsible fires in the countryside including chopping down trees and pulling up fence posts for firewood. Not only in some instances did campers leave behind burnt patches from BBQ’s and fires but 30 per cent of land managers reported broken glass and other mess, including human waste.

Over a third experienced members of the public parking irresponsibly by blocking gates and country roads, making it difficult for the emergency services and farm vehicles to pass. Two-thirds reported litter being left behind and 50 per cent had problems with irresponsible dog walkers letting their dogs off the lead near livestock and wildlife, as well as not bagging and binning their dog poo.

SLaE has stressed that it is the minority that are causing damage, but has called for a Scotland-wide education programme which better publicises the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and increased police support to monitor those causing problems in the countryside.

Chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, Sarah-Jane Laing, commented: “We want people to enjoy visiting the Scottish countryside safely and responsibly. Getting out and about and taking in the fresh air, nature and peacefulness of rural Scotland can be extremely beneficial for our mental and physical health. Sadly, there is a minority that is causing a great deal of harm to wildlife and livestock, the environment and other people who visit, live and work in the countryside.

“Our members who manage land work hard to ensure wildlife flourishes, to help the environment and to provide safe access for the public on land in rural Scotland,” she continued. “We would like to see a Scotland-wide education programme which better publicises the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to ensure people know how to behave safely and responsibly. We also want to see more support for the police to allow better enforcement of existing legislation to deal with those causing serious problems in the countryside. This way everyone can enjoy the countryside safely.”

SLaE is reminding individuals when they visit the outdoors, to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code which has three main rules: respect the interests of other people; care for the environment and take responsibility for your own actions.

This story first appeared in The Scottish Farmer.

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