Scottish Land Reform Bill

The Land Reform Bill, currently in the lap of the Scottish Executive, had drawn fire from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland for provisions that could reduce access for climbers. The Bill proposes a legal right to ´responsible access´, but some of the provisions intended to protect land management concerns have given rise to serious concerns. For example, Section 8 provides for ´emergency suspension of access rights´. This section gives local authorities the power to suspend access in cases of emergencies, such as extreme weather, ´where there is sufficient risk to the health and safety of persons, or of damage to property´. These orders would take effect immediately and can remain in force for 14 days or more, subject to the Scottish Minister´s approval.The bottom line of all this is that local councillors will have the power to decide that what climbers recognise as perfect winter conditions are in their opinion extreme weather conditions, allowing them to legally bar all access. Clearly the power to legally bar access to land on ´land management´ grounds is also alarming in the light of the FAM experiences where land owners have been seen to use their powers without good cause.Additionally, the Bill proposes the creation of a new offence of insulting a landowner, whilst not providing the same degree of protection against landowners.The current consultation exercise by the Scottish Executive has been extended to the 30th of June due to FMD, and is online at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/landreform/community.asp. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has information highlighting some of the shortcomings of the Bill at: http://www.mountaineering-scotland.org.uk/news/accessnews.html.