Outdoor group marks 20 years of Scottish entry rights

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Minister praises impact of ‘world famous’ Land Reform Act 2003

Environment Secretary Màiri McAllan joined familiar faces from across the outdoor community in Holyrood last night to celebrate 20 years of the nation’s first-class access rights.

Ramblers Scotland’s #OutdoorsForAll event marked two decades of the groundbreaking Land Reform Act 2003 which gave the public the legal right of access to almost all land and inland waterways in Scotland provided they behave responsibly.

Environment Secretary Mary McAllan

Attendees included many of Ramblers Scotland’s original activists and partner organizations who fought hard for the rights often known as the ‘Right to Roam’.

Guests included Ramblers Scotland President, Mountain Guide Lucy Wallace, and the charity’s past Presidents, including former politician Dennis Canavan and naturalist Ben Dolphin.

Environment Secretary Màiri McAllan said: “Scotland’s landscapes are world famous – so is our right to access them responsibly.

“There are so many benefits to spending time walking in our parks, forests and hills, including improving our physical health, promoting mental well-being, fighting loneliness and more. We should all be able to access these benefits and our world-leading rights provide that.

“Going forward, we need to prioritize actions to address the barriers and challenges that some still face in accessing nature. No one should be prevented from benefiting from it because of their circumstances.

“Rambler Scotland members played a leading role in campaigning for Scotland’s rights of access and now much of their work focuses on upholding them. I would like to express my gratitude to them and all their volunteers for their time, dedication and enthusiasm for accessing nature – enthusiasm that I wholeheartedly share.”

The #OutdoorsForAll event was hosted by Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess, who has garnered bipartisan support for her motion calling for “funding for access management, ranger services and local access forums”. Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy highlighted how recent natural capital accounts from the Scottish Government attribute £62 billion worth to outdoor recreation alone, which is larger than the oil and gas sector.

ONS figures show Scotland’s natural leisure resources are worth more than oil and gas

Mr Paddy said: “The Land Reform Bill 2003 is one of the outstanding achievements of the decentralized Scottish Parliament, with our first-class access rights forming a cherished element of our national identity. The law has done so much for the health, happiness and economy of the nation over the past 20 years, with booming numbers of people accessing our great outdoors.”

He added: “This month’s anniversary also provides a useful moment to reflect on how unequal access to nature remains, with people in affluent areas walking far more often than those in disadvantaged parts of Scotland.

“I hope that in the coming years we will direct even greater effort and resources to ensuring that everyone – regardless of background, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability or age – benefits from Scotland’s amazing nature. ”

Scottish access rights apply equally to anyone traveling under their own power, including walkers, cyclists, climbers, canoeists, swimmers, horse riders, paddle boarders and others.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was passed by MSPs on 23 January 2003 and received Royal Assent on 25 February 2003.