Dirty Camping (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to tackle so-called dirty camping in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. (S5O-04569)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority is responsible for protecting the national park and reducing the impact of visitor and recreational pressures. It is working closely with Police Scotland, local authorities and other agencies to address instances of irresponsible behaviour.

More broadly, the Scottish Government is working with public sector partners including NatureScot to promote responsible use of the outdoors. As I mentioned in a previous answer during environment questions, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism will convene a round-table meeting of public sector agencies on Monday 14 September to look at a co-ordinated approach to dealing with these issues.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

Since lockdown restrictions have been eased, the number of people visiting the area has increased substantially. The vast majority do so responsibly, but a significant minority cause damage by leaving behind litter and abandoned campsites and damaging trees and the natural habitat.

The national park authority, the relevant councils and Police Scotland do not have sufficient resources to ensure that there is effective enforcement of the byelaws that the minister mentioned. Will the minister outline what further actions the Scottish Government can take to make enforcement of those byelaws more effective and avoid further damage in the area?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

As I have said, I understand that this is a very important issue. It has been raised by a number of members across the Parliament and we will discuss it in tonight’s members’ business debate.

As Dean Lockhart rightly says, it is a minority of people who undertake such behaviour, but they are determined to try to ruin things for everyone else.

The park authority together with Police Scotland have the appropriate powers to address the sort of antisocial and irresponsible behaviour that has been experienced in the national park over the summer. However, as I said in my initial response and in answering previous questions on the matter, we take these issues very seriously. That is why the cabinet secretary will hold the meeting on Monday, which I believe the national parks will take part in as well, so that we can look at the issues and at what more can be done to fully address and tackle them.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

We need to be solutions focused here. Alongside education and enforcement, we need a discussion about appropriate facilities to deal with the demand. What progress has been made with the Forestry and Land Scotland trial to allow camper vans to use empty car parks at night, away from residential areas, in spaces where they can be monitored—a trial that picks up on the model of visitor management that is adopted in the French Alps?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The project that is under way continues and seems to have operated positively so far. We will continue to monitor the situation and if we need to learn lessons from it and are able to roll out matters, we will do exactly that. The summit on Monday will be vitally important and will be about finding solutions and considering what we can do in the short, medium and longer term to really tackle the problems.