Responsible Access (Countryside)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th June 2022.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister, in light of summer officially commencing next week on 21 June, what action the Scottish Government is taking to promote responsible access to Scotland’s countryside. (S6F-01223)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

It is very pleasing to see that summer may have unofficially commenced already in Scotland. Long may it continue.

NatureScot is the lead Scottish Government public body for access to the countryside. It works with the national parks and other key partners on raising awareness of the Scottish outdoor access code. Last year, NatureScot’s traditional and social media activity saw more than 15 million impressions, driving more than half a million page views on the Scottish outdoor access code website. A further campaign is already under way for this summer. It will inform campers of their responsibilities, including around people and pet behaviour, and good practice in relation to fires and waste disposal.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

More people will be enjoying Scotland’s bonnie countryside, but it so important that they do so responsibly. As the First Minister will know, the

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021, which is based on my member’s bill, is now law and increases penalties for those who allow dogs to worry or attack livestock. Will she join me in encouraging everyone to follow the Scottish outdoor access code and to keep their dogs under control when they are in the countryside? Will she also join me in commending the vital work of the Scottish partnership against rural crime?

The First Minister:

Emma Harper has made important points. Of course, everyone should follow the access code. Indeed, it is worth pointing out that access rights apply to dog walking only if the dog is under proper control.

I also commend the vital work of the Scottish partnership against rural crime. Its livestock attack and distress campaign, which has the slogan “Your Dog—Your Responsibility”, aims to educate dog owners about the new legislation and is key to awareness raising and bringing an end to the associated unnecessary suffering for all involved. Police Scotland and farming and crofting stakeholders combine their efforts to address such crimes, and the Scottish Government also campaigns with the Scottish SPCA. The small minority of people who do not treat livestock with respect and care must be held accountable, and the consequences must appropriately reflect the severity of their crimes.