Monday 23 January 2023 marks 20 years since the passing of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The Act made radical changes to outdoor access, putting on a statutory basis the right of access to be on, above or below most land and on inland water in Scotland. ScotWays worked alongside others to draft the legislation and it is thanks to various members of the ScotWays board at the time that the Act incorporates reference to rights of way as part of the outdoor access picture.

Access rights now seem so normal that it is hard to believe it is such a short time since it came into being, and yet from the enquiries that reach ScotWays there are still plenty of land managers who don’t recognise that they have a reciprocal duty to manage the land responsibly as regards access and so block access or put-up illegal signage. Likewise, some members of the public still seem unaware that they only have access rights if they act responsibly so as not to cause unreasonable interference with the rights of others, whether landowners or other access users.

At the Scottish Parliament, Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess MSP (Green) commemorated the anniversary by lodging a motion in Parliament and by hosting a reception on 18 January, led by Ramblers Scotland and attended by ScotWays. A large number of people enthusiastic about outdoor access gathered to celebrate the hard work of campaigners across many years, together with current work to reduce barriers to the outdoors and to support people to become more active. The Parliamentary motion recognises the historic nature of our access rights, the benefits to people’s health and well-being and that blockages exist for some people to participate.  It also notes the value of outdoor recreation to be £62 billion in the Scottish Government’s natural capital accounts and “congratulates outdoor organisations, land managers, volunteers and public bodies for working together to support a range of outdoor recreation opportunities and managing issues on the ground, and believes that this shows what can be achieved when everyone works together for the common good.”

Read the motion on the Scottish Parliament website
Read A Brief History of Access Rights and The Coming of Access Rights and see a Right to Roam Timeline on our website.

Picture left to right Alistair Anderson (ScotWays), Richard Barron (ScotWays), Ariane Burgess MSP, Alison Riddell (ScotWays).