Latest news stories from ScotWays.

ScotWays Small Grants Scheme 31 Aug 2020 Deadline

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The ScotWays small grants scheme aims to help organisations fund a project up to 50% of the total budget for the project.

The scheme will award grants of between £500 and £1,500. It is hoped that this might enable organisations to achieve the completion of a community-based/access-related project which might not otherwise be able to proceed.

Applicant organisations should be members of ScotWays.

The next submission date for applications is 31st August 2020, and a decision on any applications received by that date will be made by mid to end of October 2020.

For further details please visit our downloads page where you’ll find an explanatory letter and the application form.

Phase 1 of Lockdown Easing and Outdoor Access

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Today, Friday 29 May, sees Scotland moving into the Phase 1 of the Scottish Government Road Map for relaxing lockdown.  What does this mean for outdoor access?

As during the lockdown, there are no restrictions to the use of rights of way, core paths or the right of access to land.  However, there are controls on what people may do.

Phase 1 sees an increase in the reasons for which you may leave your house and the activities in which you may participate. You can do things like golf, hill walk, horse ride and cycling, activities where you do not need to come into physical contact with others. You can meet people outdoors, whether in a public place or private garden, but only from one other household at a time and in groups of no more than 8.  You must remain socially distant and must not go into people’s houses.

There is a preference for walking, cycling and wheeling (wheelchair use) for travelling to your recreation place rather than using a car and people are asked to stay roughly within five miles of their residence.  Public transport and car use are discouraged. People are asked to think carefully before visiting popular areas and be flexible about their plans if they find their intended destination is busy. Be aware that facilities such as toilets and cafes will be closed, so please plan accordingly.

You can find out the full list of changes in the Scottish Government guidance document Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying at home and away from others (physical distancing)  In all cases, you must follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code on your outdoor journeys.

The Resumption of Golf after Lockdown

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During lockdown, golf courses provided invaluable areas of open space for people to safely take their daily exercise. Their contribution to local collective well-being has been greatly appreciated. Inevitably, as lockdown eases and the playing of golf resumes, golf courses will become less available to the general public.

Whilst the resumption of playing golf will reduce the availability of this type of open space, there continue to be specific statutory access rights which still apply to golf courses. Any measures to manage public access alongside the playing of golf must respect these rights.

There is a public right to cross land (not the greens) which forms part of a golf course, provided this is done so responsibly. However, unlike other areas of land to which the public right of access applies, there is no right of recreation on a golf course. As each person only has access rights if these are exercised responsibly, it may be useful to consider the following non-exhaustive list of what responsible access looks like in a golfing context:

  • keeping off greens at all times to ensure there is no damage to playing surfaces
  • not interfering with games of golf
  • allowing players to play their shot before crossing a fairway
  • being still when close to a player about to play a shot
  • being aware there may be hazards such as “blind shots” where a golfer will not have sight of anyone ahead of them, so paying attention to golfers, signage and/or advice from marshalls
  • walkers should follow paths where they exist; cyclists and horse riders need to keep to paths at all times
  • keeping dogs on a short lead
  • as the access right is to cross land, not more generally recreational, there is no picnicking, no kite-flying etc. and certainly no building of sand-castles in bunkers

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 places a duty upon landowners to use and manage land in a way which as respects access rights is responsible. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) provides a practical guide to responsible behaviour for both land managers and the general public regarding access rights and golf courses. Wherever possible, paths should be provided around or across the course and/or advice given to people on the safest way through the course. The SOAC website also provides guidance on suitable signage to help clubs manage public access to golf courses.

In addition to statutory access rights, some golf courses may have core paths, public rights of way and even public roads crossing them. Public access along any of these may not be restricted.

Should golf courses be concerned about managing potentially increased levels of public access they can contact their local council or national park authority access officer for advice.



Locked Down? Outdoor Access in Scotland and COVID-19 Public Health Measures

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In March 2020 with the growing spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19, the Scottish Government introduced the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. In April they published a ministerial statement on access rights during COVID-19 and Scottish Natural Heritage produced the guidance Access to the outdoors during the current coronavirus outbreak: guidance for the public and land managers.

The aim of the regulations and associated guidance is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. 

Malcolm Combe, author of the ScotWays Guide to the Law of Access to Land in Scotland, reviewed the regulations and how they interact with the existing world-renowned Scottish rights of access in this paper.

The regulations did not include any means to close off rights of way, core paths or adjust the areas of land to which access rights apply. Instead, they regulated what people could actually do, their behaviour and Scottish Government guidance expanded on this.

If people don’t follow the regulations and guidance then they may be committing an offence or they may be deemed to be acting irresponsibly. Either way, they could forfeit their right of access as it only exists if you are acting lawfully and responsibly.

In their new Guidance, Scottish Natural Heritage supplemented the Scottish Outdoor Access Code by explaining what responsible behaviour looks like in the context of the pandemic, i.e. you must follow the guidance in order to be responsible.

  • stay local - please do not travel in your car to take exercise; please make use of the paths, open spaces and quiet roads in your local area;
  • maintain social distancing – stay at least 2m away from other people – including people who are working in the outdoors – and try to avoid popular paths or places at busy times. Be prepared to slow down or stop if needed to help maintain the necessary distance from others. If you meet other people on a narrow path, pass quickly but courteously and try to leave as much space as possible;
  • avoid touching surfaces like gates as much as possible – try to plan a route that does not require you to open gates. Wash your hands or gloves as soon as you get home.
  • if you have a dog, keep it on a lead or close at heel on farmland. Scottish Government guidance for owners of companion animals and livestock indicates that dogs from self-isolating households should be kept on a lead at all times, avoiding contact with other people and animals. If threatened by cattle, release your dog and take the shortest route out of the field;
  • avoid fields with young calves or lambs - go into a neighbouring field or onto adjacent land;
  • avoid fields with growing crops unless there is a clear path or field margin (remember that newly planted crops may not yet be obvious);
  • remember that Government rules specifically allow exercise rather than activities such as sunbathing or picnicking.

Land-managers are not exempted from the new regulations and Government guidance or their responsibilities under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Scottish Natural Heritage have included advice for land-managers in their new guidance.

As well as abiding by the social distancing and handwashing guidance, Scottish Natural Heritage recommends the use of signs, where necessary, to manage access, including a temporary new COVID-19 sign for busy areas and, as with all signage, to maximise its impact by:

  • wording signs to help people to comply, suggesting reasonable alternative routes if needed;
  • making signs apply for the minimum necessary time and area, and;
  • removing signs when they are no longer required. 

The guidance also suggests considering whether gates can be left open to allow people to pass without the need to touch them and notes current UK guidance suggests that the risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using paths is considered to be very low, as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.

As always, advice is available from ourselves and your local authority or national park access officer.

ScotWays are maintaining a record of where COVID-19 has been used as a reason to close off public access.  If you find examples of this on your daily exercise route please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. details including grid reference, brief details and any photographs.  You should also report these to your local access officer.

We would also love to hear of examples of where people have helped encourage safe access at this difficult time.  We are heard of land managers installing hand gel by some gates and another creating simple notice boards to educate the public about wildlife, conservation and land management. You can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to us or better still share them with us on social media Facebook and Twitter.

COVID-19 and Solicitor Searches

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We are intending to keep our service going as much as we can in light of the current pandemic.  Our office is now closed with staff working from home, which means we can’t deal with letters arriving at the office by post. 

To help us to maintain our enquiry service, all search requests should be submitted by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and all search reports will be sent back out by email too.

To ensure that we have all the information that we need to carry out your search request from home, please provide the information requested in our Catalogue of Rights of Way Search Form with each request.

Rather than paying by cheque, please make payment by bank transfer to prevent any extra interruption in our service to you.  Details to allow you to do this are shown on every invoice.

You can keep up-to-date with our status on our website.

If anyone has questions or comments, please email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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