Hundreds of people have been handed warnings and ten have been reported to prosecutors for breaching new laws on camping in a national park.
A report prepared for ministers revealed 828 people were issued with warnings by police or Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park rangers for alleged contraventions of the new restrictions.
During the first year of the controversial byelaws, ten cases were reported to the Crown Office relating to unauthorised camping, fire-lighting, refusing to provide details and refusing to leave when asked to do so.
The byelaws, in place between March and September, restrict camping along much of the shores of Loch Lomond as well as busy loch shores near Aberfoyle, Strathyre and Lochearnhead.
Park authorities say the four camping management zones – which cover less than 4 per cent of the park area – are needed to tackle long-standing problems with antisocial behaviour, litter and environmental damage, but they were fiercely opposed by outdoor recreation groups and campaigners for access rights. Those wanting to camp have to buy a permit or use official sites, with the report revealing more than 16,000 people did so. But the average occupancy rate across all of the camping permit areas was only 15 per cent, and 22 per cent at Loch Chon campsite.
Challenges identified by the park for future years include the monitoring of potential displacement of campers to other nearby areas, the level of resources needed to maintain the byelaws in the long-term and continuing problems with litter and human waste.
Helen Todd, of Ramblers Scotland, said: “This new report shows these costly byelaws are deterring people from camping, criminalising responsible campers and failing to resolve many of the issues they were designed to tackle. It’s a great shame more than £1.1 million has been spent on a strategy that has led to an average of just 15 per cent of camping permit sites being used each night.”
Gordon Watson, the park’s chief executive, said: “The seasonal camping byelaws were introduced to protect the park’s precious loch shores and improve the experience for visitors. From the positive feedback we’ve gathered through the visitor survey, to what our rangers have experienced by talking to campers on the ground during the first season, we are really pleased with how things have gone.”