BY LISA FALCONER
A hill walkers organisation has hit out at the access policy of Ledgowan Estate in Wester Ross for its “bullying tactics” and “lack of respect” for access laws.
Ramblers Scotland have hit out at the estate following a recent report in the Free Press revealing details of its access policy.
The charity have condemned the “apparent lack of respect for Scotland’s access legislation” which Ledgowan has displayed, adding that landowners have a duty to take account of the interests of people exercising access rights on their land.
Ledgowan’s access policy states that all walkers met on the estate will be asked for contact details and if these are unforthcoming, “or staff consider there is any reason for doubt”, photographs of people and their vehicles will be taken. The policy adds that gates will remain locked due to “security concerns”.
Campaigns and policy manager at Ramblers Scotland, Helen Todd, said: “Ledgowan Estate has been
known to us for a number of years, following reports of intimidatory behaviour and obstructions, such as locked gates, on this estate. It is frustrating that the behaviour of this one landowner has tied up the local authority and local access forum for countless hours while they have to deal with the many complaints, when they should be free to positively promote access in the area. This particular landowner is refusing to recognise his obligations under the land reform legislation, unlike the vast majority of landowners in Scotland.
“It is not illegal for landowners and their employees to take photographs of walkers, but walkers are under no obligation to give their contact details to anyone except a police officer. If they feel threatened or intimidated while walking responsibly on the estate, they should call the police, as we advised in guidance jointly published last year with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
“We encourage people to continue walking on this estate, in a responsible way, as to avoid the area would be to give in to bullying tactics.”
MSP Paul Wheelhouse, the minister for environment and climate change, has meanwhile asked anyone who has experienced problems at Ledgowan to contact him with details. As we went to press no correspondence had been received.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In Scotland everyone has statutory access rights to most land. People only have these rights if they exercise them responsibly, as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code; this also explains the responsibilities of landowners.”
Mr Wheelhouse can be contacted at Paul.Wheelhouse.msp@scottish. parliament.uk