Latest news stories from ScotWays.

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..

Thanks for your help!

Appeal For New Directors

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We are recruiting new Directors from our membership to play key roles in steering the strategic direction and the ongoing governance of the organisation whilst ensuring members' interests are fully considered in everything we do.

We seek nominations of, or applications from, members who have skills in practical access issues, in strategic management, in public relations and external communication and in law, government or human resource management. This sounds a long list, but if you have, or know of a member who has, any of these skills as well as a determination to uphold public access we'd love to hear from you.

We've made some exciting changes over the last couple of years ·to prepare ScotWays for the future. We need a Board with a range of skills and experience to continue to move us forward. We aim for diverse Board membership and geographical location is no barrier to playing a valuable role. 

We look forward to hearing from you. Please take. a look at our Board recruitment pack on our downloads page.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 15 April 2020. 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic and ScotWays

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Before you head out for your daily exercise make sure you know and follow the advice on taking outdoor access just now.

I’m sure the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic hasn’t escaped your attention and you may be wondering how it is affecting ScotWays operations.

We’re following the Scottish Government Guidance and, as you know, this can change daily, so here is a rundown of what is happening:


Summary: Working from Home until Further Notice.

Office: Closed.

Office volunteers: not operating just now sorry.  We'll let you know when we are open and ready for you to come back in.

Outside volunteers: not operating just now sorry. Planning to restart on 1 May 2021, restrictions allowing.

Walks programme: Suspended until 2021.

Last updated: 13 April 2021 at 09:32.


How our changes may affect you

Most of our work is by email or phone and it is proving possible to continue a near-normal level of service.  

Whilst our office is closed:

  • there will be a delay in dealing with post, and
  • we are sending out webshop on a weekly basis only.

The best way to contact us just now is by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ScotWays - Small Grants Scheme 31 May 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 May 2020, and a decision on any applications received by that date will be made by mid to end of July 2020.

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


175th Anniversary

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175th Anniversary

ScotWays is the UK's oldest outdoor recreation organisation. In 2020 we celebrate 175 years of Upholding Public Access. During the year there will be walks, talks and other activities to mark our anniversary. We’ll also be publishing stories of our history and the development of outdoor access in Scotland across those 175 years – a fascinating timeline of Scottish outdoor access and ScotWays through decades. 

more info >>>