Finding solutions for our post-lockdown countryside

16 April 2021, 12.30 – 2pm, Facebook Live.

In response to the unprecedented pressures on Scotland’s countryside last summer and the similar situation anticipated this year, ScotWays is hosting an online election hustings on 16 April to seek possible solutions. Candidates from the five main parties will be asked to discuss their thoughts and solutions to the immediate and long-term problems, and the associated challenges to Scotland’s world-famous access rights.

Scotland is blessed with a rich natural environment of breath-taking beauty that we must nurture for the benefit of all. But with the right of access, long championed by organisations such as ScotWays, come responsibilities too.

Last summer, with the release of long pent-up demand, we saw the unprecedented, chaotic and hugely disruptive pressure of visitors seeking to enjoy Scotland’s countryside. Sadly, that pressure was made more acute by the damaging behaviour of a minority, ranging from simple ignorance of responsible access to blatant criminality.

As the country prepares once again to emerge from lockdown and restrictions are set to be eased on where we can travel for leisure and pleasure within Scotland, there is an urgent need to be better prepared for the months ahead. Indeed, if international travel remains restricted, many more people on these islands are likely to want to holiday here in Scotland.

These immediate challenges are not temporary. We need to face the fact that parts of Scotland don’t have the infrastructure to cope with the demands we put upon them in normal times. Tourism brings huge economic benefits to Scotland, so longer-term solutions need to be found. But those solutions should not endanger our hard-won access rights.

In the search for answers, ScotWays, on behalf of the Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance (SORA), is hosting a major Holyrood Election Hustings at lunchtime on 16 April which will be broadcast live. We will pose some provocative questions to the panel of politicians and try to forge a path ahead.

Our independent chair, ensuring that all voices get a hearing, will be the award-winning journalist and author, James Naughtie, special correspondent for BBC News.

The Hustings will be broadcast live on our Facebook via Facebook Live.  You don’t need an account to watch, but you will need one if you wish to leave a comment.