Outdoor Access Code
As a result of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003, access in Scotland is on a very much broader basis than in England and Wales. The Act gives a statutory right to be on, or to cross, all land, inland water and the foreshore. The power may be exercised for recreational purposes or to undertake a relevant educational activity and, unlike the CRoW Act of England and Wales, the Act gives a right to conduct activities with a commercial purpose provided that the events could be undertaken otherwise than commercially or for profit. This means that those activities most closely associated with open-air recreation, such as mountain guiding or instructing, may be conducted on a commercial basis.
‘Relevant educational activity’ is defined in the Act as an activity which is carried out for the purpose of furthering an understanding of natural or cultural heritage and would include activities done by DofE participants.
Activities Within the Statutory Right
- Activities such as walking, cycling, horse riding, rock climbing, hill walking, running, ski-touring, caving, canoeing, swimming, rowing, windsurfing, sailing, diving and air sports.
- Pastimes such as watching wildlife, sightseeing, painting, photography, and enjoying historical sights.
- Family and social activities.
- Overnight camping and wild camping.
Access rights do not extend to:
- Hunting, shooting and fishing.
- Use of a motorised vehicle or vessel except when used for disabled people.
- Anyone with a dog which is not under proper control.
- Taking away anything from the land for a commercial purpose.
Access rights extend throughout Scotland except for certain specified areas. These are some of the main exceptions:
- In houses and gardens.
- In non-residential buildings and associated land.
- On land on which crops are growing.
- On land associated with a school or used by a school.
- On sports or playing fields when these are in use.
- On land developed and in use for recreation.
- On golf courses except in order to cross the course.
- On airfields, railways, telecommunication sites or Ministry of Defence land.
- At visitor attractions or other places which charge for entry.
- On land where building, civil engineering or demolition works are taking place.
- In working quarries.
Provided that they are planned carefully, expeditions in Scotland can be undertaken with much greater freedom than before, and certainly with greater freedom than in England and Wales. It is crucial, however, for those planning and undertaking expeditions to be aware that the right of access is a right of responsible access and that everyone should:
- Take responsibility for their actions.
- Respect the privacy of other people.
- Help land managers and others to work safely and effectively.
- Care for the environment.
- Keep dogs under proper control.
- Take extra care in organising a group activity.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Those who undertake expeditions in Scotland should follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code wherever they go. The Code is based on three fundamental principles:
- Take responsibility for your actions: If you are exercising access rights, remember that the outdoors cannot be made risk-free and act with care at all times for your safety and that of others. If you are a land manager, work with care at all times for people’s safety.
- Respect the interests of other people: Acting with courtesy, consideration and awareness is essential. If you are exercising access rights, respect the privacy, safety and livelihoods of those living or working in the outdoors, and the needs of other people enjoying the outdoors. If you are a land manager, respect people’s use of the outdoors and their need for a safe and enjoyable visit.
- Care for the environment: If you are exercising access rights, look after the places you visit and enjoy, and leave the land as you find it. If you are a land manager, help maintain the natural and cultural features, which make the outdoors attractive.
Access to Forestry Commission Land/Campsites
The Forestry Commission manages almost 1 million hectares of forest, woods and open land across Great Britain much of which has public access under the Land Reform Act (Scotland) or The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW). As well as providing access for groups on foot, bike or horseback the Commission also manages many youth campsites and bothies. Groups are advised to contact the local office of the Forestry Commission for more information.