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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Megan Khanna

Minister hails 'world-famous' right to roam at event marking 20-year milestone

ENVIRONMENT Minister Mairi McAllan joined outdoor communities at Holyrood to celebrate 20 years of Scottish access rights.

Ramblers Scotland held the #OutdoorsForAll event to mark two decades of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which gives the public legal rights to access nearly all land and inland water in Scotland.

Campaigners from Ramblers Scotland who fought to win the rights were among those in attendance, including Ramblers Scotland’s president and mountain leader Lucy Wallace, and the charity’s former presidents, including former politician Dennis Canavan and naturalist Ben Dolphin.

McAllan said: “Scotland’s landscapes are world famous, so too is our right to responsibly access them.

“There are so many benefits to spending time walking in our parks, woodlands and hills, including improving our physical health, nurturing mental wellbeing, tackling loneliness and many more. We should all be able to access these benefits and ourworld-leadingg rights provide this.

“Going forward, we must prioritise action to address the barriers and challenges that some still face in accessing the outdoors. No-one should be prevented from benefitting because of their circumstances.

“Ramblers Scotland members played a leading role in campaigning for Scotland’s access rights and now much of their work is focused on upholding them. I wish to send my thanks to them and all their volunteers for their time, commitment and enthusiasm for countryside access – enthusiasm which I wholeheartedly share.”

The Act, which is often known as "the right to roam", established a legal right to be on land and cross land for recreational and educational purposes, and limited types of commercial activities.

The public access rights apply equally to walkers, cyclists, climbers, canoeists, swimmers and horse riders.

The #OutdoorsForAll event was hosted by Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess, and Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy was also present.

He highlighted how recent Scottish Government natural capital accounts place a value of £62 billion on outdoor recreation alone, pointing to it as greater than the oil and gas sector.

Paddy added: “The Land Reform Act 2003 is one of the stand-out achievements of Scotland’s devolved parliament, with our world-class access rights forming a cherished element of our national identity.

“The Act has delivered so much for the nation’s health, happiness and economy in the past 20 years, with booming numbers of people accessing our outdoors.

“This month’s anniversary also provides a useful moment to reflect upon how access to the outdoors remains unequal, with people in affluent areas considerably more likely to walk than those in deprived parts of Scotland.

“I hope that in the years ahead we focus even greater effort and resources upon ensuring that everyone – whatever their background, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability or age – benefits from Scotland’s amazing outdoors.”

The Scottish Household Survey 2020 found that 89% of people from Scotland’s 20% least deprived areas participated in walking, whereas 66% of those from the most deprived areas reported that they walk.

Ramblers Scotland continues to campaign at national level for increased investment in infrastructure, such as paths, rangers and low cost-campsites.

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