A CONTROVERSIAL clampdown on “rough camping” in one of Scotland’s national parks has been the green light in a bid to prevent more damage being done to its environment.
New by-laws outlawing pitching a tent without a permit have been “unanimously” approved for a host of waterside areas in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
We believe our duty first and foremost is to conserve the environment of this special placeLinda McKay
Park officials insist action is needed as the area has been “severely degraded” by pressure from high volumes of campers in recent years.
They say action is also needed to tackle “irresponsible behaviour”, including littering, lighting of fires, cutting down trees and abandoning tents.
The new by-laws, which have still to be approved by the Scottish Government, would give park rangers and the police the power to move on campers unless they are in approved sites.
The parks authority has pledged to provide more than 300 new camping spots and insist only 3.7 per cent of its land will be affected by the proposed by-laws, which will give them the power to impose fines of up to £200 for littering or flytipping.
However, critics say the new rules could have a huge impact on Scotland’s historic right-to- roam laws and will effectively “criminalise” the long-standing practice of wild camping.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Ramblers Scotland have urged ministers to intervene to avoid the risk of law-abiding campers getting a criminal record simply for pitching a tent in the wrong place.
The two groups pointed out that just half of those who responded to an official consultation on the by-laws had objected. However the new rules are being backed by Police Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.
The parks authority insists “true wild camping” will be unaffected as the new by-laws are intended to clamp down on problems at busy roadside locations. The by-laws, which the parks authority hopes to introduce by next summer, are being introduced following a pilot project on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, which is said to have reduced antisocial behaviour incidents by 81 per cent.
Large swathes of the western shore of Loch Lomond will also be affected, as well as the northern end of Loch Long and the banks of a number of other smaller lochs.
Linda McKay, convener of the parks authority board, said: “We appreciate the range of views from many different interests. However, on balance, we believe our duty first and foremost is to conserve the environment of this special place for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
“We’ve sought to take a proportionate approach, introducing a range of measures designed to protect the special characteristics of this designated area of Scotland, while also striving to enhance provision for those who want to camp.”
Ian McEachern, convener of Luss and Arden Community Council, said: “We feel the proposed by-laws are essential and cannot come soon enough. Without them to manage camping, police are only able to act after antisocial behaviour occurs and they are limited in what they can arrest for.”