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Respectful countryside access promoted in new national campaign

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A new awareness campaign designed to encourage respectful access in rural Scotland has been launched by Scottish Land & Estates.

Care for the Countryside, an initiative backed by farmers, rural businesses and landowners, was unveiled today at the Royal Highland Show.

Three topics are the initial focus for campaign: responsible dog ownership, flytipping and responsible mountain-biking. The Care for the Countryside campaign is being supported by a range of organisations including Scottish Natural Heritage, Police Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland as well as the Scottish Government.

The initiative is backed by a new logo and publicity materials promoting safe and responsible access to the countryside, all designed to educate the public about the type of problems that exist but often go widely unreported - and what people can do to help address these issues.

Care for the Countryside has been developed after key, persistent difficulties were identified by those who live and work in rural areas. The awareness campaign around responsible dog ownership focuses on dog mess and livestock worrying, a trouble for farmers despite the efforts of agencies and Police Scotland to warn the public of the dangers that can occur.

Flytipping has also been selected, with many farmers and landowners experiencing this blight on our landscape. With urban fringe areas particularly susceptible to unscrupulous acts of rubbish dumping, this is a problem Scottish Land & Estates members have faced more and more regularly and in serious cases, it can lead to a scenario where a rural business finds itself liable for a bill of thousands of pounds to clean up land that has been flytipped.

Responsible mountain biking is the third area of the Care for the Countryside initiative. Mountain biking has enjoyed a boom in popularity but whilst the vast majority of riders who access rural land do so responsibly, there are increasing examples of where problems have occurred, with unauthorised trail building presenting a particular danger.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said:“The Scottish Government is happy to support the Care for the Countryside campaign, promoting respectful access and enjoyment in rural Scotland. Our countryside regions are wonderful areas and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code sets out our rights and responsibilities when we visit. This new campaign complements the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and we hope it will further encourage everyone to play their part in caring for Scotland’s land and water.”

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Care for the Countryside is a new campaign designed to increase the public’s awareness of the persistent issues that crop up again and again. Often these incidents can occur as a result of thoughtlessness rather than malice, but we hope by promoting respectful access to our countryside that visitors and residents can help us to reduce the number of problems we see in these areas each year.

“We want to encourage more people to not only visit our rural land and water but also to value it and recognise where problems can occur if we fail to cherish it.”

Mike Cantlay, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), said: “The Scottish Outdoor Access Code has been a factor in helping ensure the people of Scotland can enjoy outdoor recreation responsibly. We know that taking advantage of the outdoors benefits our health and well-being, and here in Scotland we have outstanding nature which is also easily accessible.  I am sure the campaign will be a successful one in encouraging folk to get out there with all that Scotland’s nature has to offer. 

“The campaign focuses on fly-tipping, responsible mountain-biking and dog ownership.  If we act in a courteous manner and show consideration for others, it makes it all the more enjoyable for everyone.”

David Henderson-Howat, convener of the National Access Forum, said: “It is great that so many people enjoy outdoor access in Scotland. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code explains how to exercise access rights responsibly - and this Care for the Countryside Campaign provides a useful reminder of how we all benefit from showing courtesy and consideration to others.”

Inspector Jane Donaldson, Rural Crime Co-ordinator, Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland supports responsible countryside access and the Care for the Countryside campaign provides useful guidance for those living, working or visiting our rural areas. In particular, Police Scotland recognises the impact of livestock worrying on the animals as well as the emotional and financial impact on the farmer and any witnesses. We ask that dog owners keep their dogs under proper control at all times when accessing the countryside.”

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