Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Strathspey Herald Article

There's an article in the Strathspey Herald which I'll reel off parts of ...

THERE is currently a petition on the Prime Minister's website which is calling for wild camping to be made legal in England and Wales, as it is in Scotland.


The new legislation quite clearly states that members of the public can wild camp anywhere there are access rights. And yet, in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, the booklet that offers advice on how to "act responsibly", it clearly says this type of camping should be "lightweight", but doesn't actually define what "lightweight" is.

The Land Reform Act (2003) opened the way for the legalisation of wild camping in Scotland, which came in under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The history can be found on at - the setting out of the Access Code is in Chapter 3 of the 2003 Act. So the Act and the Code are the legislation.

As to the legislation not defining "lightweight", this is true. For me, going 4 days in the Cairngorms with a 50 litre backpack is easy, but 2 years ago, I was taking a 70 litre pack out for a weekend. For me, the spirit of the law is that you aren't forming a human chain to pass canvas, suitcases, and the like up the hill for a session. Other definitions of lightweight camping are here: or read Ryan Jordan's book or any copy of Scotland's own TGO magazine.

Back to the article ...

I must confess I am concerned about the future of this part of the Scottish legislation, simply because it is so poorly defined in the Act.

I can't help but think that those who park their car on the roadside, then camp only a few feet from the verge, are abusing the new legislation, although I do appreciate there are some areas where this is ignored by the landowner.

Err, the Access Code is clear on this point, stating:

This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures.

See my previous post on the Landward program from June 2007 that the article writer referred to (wild-camping-thoughts).

At the heart of the article is the ePetition, and the writer raises points from the June 2007 episode of Landward that looked at wild camping, but in fact most was dealing with damage caused by people who ignored the Access Code and therefore lost their rights to access under Scots law.

If nothing else, if there was a serious discussion with politicians about the possibility of seeing genuine wild camping made legal in England and Wales then it could also help the situation in Scotland where that part of the Land Reform Act could be under threat because the wording of the law has been so poorly defined.

Sadly, it looks like the serious discussion has already taken place even before the petition is closed. Now, did someone somewhere write that only having 600 signatures was unDemocratic? Means that there's more work to do. In Scotland, over 1500 people were consulted for the Access Code - it would be nice if the same number of signatures were attached to the England & Wales document - then, maybe, just maybe, the democratically elected representatives of the people would at least consider consultations before just waving it aside in to the "too expensive" pile.

Oh, and one more thing, for all these folk who say that Scots law was "different" before the Land Reform Act came in, here's a wee piece of legislation that was amended by the Act - in other words, it was still valid pre 2003.

Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 Section 3 (which creates the offence of occupying or camping on land without the consent of its owner or occupier) ... source

Sounds similar to the comments in a magazine today "the laws regarding wild camping are a little complicated...". In my opinion, they aren't. The only complication is that people writing in print can't tell readers that what you are doing is against the law, even if the landowner's only redress is minor. Corporate lawyers would have something to say, I'd guess.


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Neil Cuthbert said...

The article is correct lightweight camping is inadequately defined in Scotland. What is needed is case law. If 'wild camping' (sic) continues in popular locations such as Glen Etive, Loch Earn etc then I expect legal action in time.

AktoMan said...

Is the problem with the lack of a definition for "lightweight" or with the "keeping well away from buildings, roads..."?

Parking a car at the side of the road with the intention of putting a tent up a few feet away for a couple of days camping - I don't see how anyone who has read the Access Code can even consider that being classed as "wild camping".

If it takes case law to drive home this to the people ignorant of their rights and responsibilities, then so be it. Personally, I'd rather have seen the Landward programme last year actually talking about the real wild campers, and not the balloons that say they have rights when they don't. Breaking the Access Code removes the rights under the code.

None of the people on the BBC tv piece or radio programme were arguing over the definition of lightweight: 70 vs 50 or 35 litre backpacks, tarps versus tents, or trail shoes versus boots. Now, when that gets defined in case law, that'll be worth reading the legal journals for ;-)

If the problem is so bad, the communities should be getting in touch with their local authorities Advertising campaigns are probably cheaper than court action, and a poster up in gear shops more of a reminder than a report on a court case. Buy a tent, and it comes with a free leaflet explaining what your rights & responsibilities are.

As to the text, sorry, I'd missed out the first sentence, and it should read:
Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight...

Neil Cuthbert said...

You have identified the problem. I doubt 5% of those people 'wild camping' (sic) in places like Glen Etive have even read the Access Code.

AktoMan said...

As we all know, ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. But it would be nice if people were informed of the Law of the Land in a useful format. There are some brochures out there, but, ones from the ScotGov sent to Blacks, Tisos, embedded with magazines, sent to Terra Nova, etc would be nice and pro-active.

Carrot and stick.

The stick is � you�re on my land without my permission, setting fires and with a big family tent out of the back of your 4x4, so you have broken this, this and this part of the Law � have an ASBO.

Or whatever the recourse is. Sadly the reality is overstretched and under-funded Police, land owners who may be scared of approaching "wild" people in case they get attacked or demeaned. One never knows how someone else will react. Especially if there is alcohol involved.

Oh, and maybe have a Landward programme that is really about wild camping instead of land managers complaining about people damaging their land. Not that it wasn't an interesting piece, but it wasn't "wild camping" (no sic), but a lot of people who lost their rights under the Access Code/Land Reform Act.