/ OPINION: When Will Politicians Get a Grip on Hill Tracks?

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UKC/UKH Articles 27 Jun 2019
A bulldozed track on the Bealach Horn below Foinaven, once one of the wild places of the far north While ordinary people need to apply for planning permission to build modest extensions to their houses, tracks are being bulldozed up mountains with no public oversight. It's time the Scottish Government did something, says Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland.

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pasbury 27 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

This is deeply disappointing.

I couldn't find the online form on the linked Ramblers Association webpage.

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In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

This has been worrying us for some time and really seems to be getting worse. We'd be happy to share the message to mountain bikers who care for the Highlands and of course support any campaign. Would be good to hear from the author, and please share any future call for responses. Thanks for all you're doing   

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DannyC 27 Jun 2019
In reply to pasbury:

Hi, 

(I work for Ramblers Scotland)

I'm afraid the letter-writing form is no longer live as the vote has taken place. (I've popped UKH an email to update the story when they get a minute.)

Sadly it's likely to be quite a while until the issue is discussed at Holyrood again. Fingers crossed hilltracks can finally be resolved at the Permitted Development Review which is set to take place next year. We'll make sure to raise the profile of the issue again ahead of that review - and to provide more opportunities for everyone to contact decision-makers, at the most relevant and impactful moment. 

This time around, more than 800 people used our form to write to MSPs. I gather that around 2,000 people got involved with the Scottish Greens' petition on the issue too. It's seriously disappointing that the Scottish Government ignored those pleas and once again passed up the opportunity to change the law.

There are such obvious arguments for change on landscape, environment and fairness grounds that the SNP and Conservative position during last week's vote was pretty baffling. For anyone wishing to really geek out on the hilltracks issue, I'd strongly recommend a read of the Scottish Environment LINK Changing Tracks report from last year: http://www.scotlink.org/wp/files/Changing-Tracks_LINK_Hilltracks_Report.pdf 

Thanks for all who've supported the hilltracks campaign in recent months and years. 

Danny Carden

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Jon Greengrass 27 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Thanks for raising awareness. I'll send them some photos of the 2 new quarries that have appeared on the local grouse moor to support the construction of a new #hilltrack and resurfacing of the ones they bulldozed last year that have barely lasted despite one of the driest periods I've ever seen.

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pasbury 27 Jun 2019
In reply to DannyC:

Have you read 'The Monkey Wrench Gang'? .....

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In reply to DannyC:

Thanks for the update Danny

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bimbling 27 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

I've seen much commentary such as this but no explanation as to why the Scottish SNH Government voted it down...I can understand why the Scottish tories did but not SNP.

Anyone shed any light. Is it just because of the review next year?

Leaves plenty of time to get those last minute tracks put in!

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George Allan 28 Jun 2019
In reply to bimbling:

My personal view as to why the SNP MSPs voted it down:

It is not mainly because of the impending review of Permitted Development Rights. The review does, however, present another opportunity, although suggesting it is more appropriately dealt with there can been seen as kicking the can down the road.

It is rumoured that a number of SNP back benchers were sympathetic to Andy Wightman's proposed amendments to the Bill but the SNP exercises very strict party discipline and their backbenchers almost never step out of line. Whether you think this is a good thing or not is a separate matter. Those who wrote to SNP MSPs received very similar responses which reflects the central control being exercised on the matter.

The SNP considers that robust legal control of tracks have could have economic disadvantages. Any such disadvantages are negligible to the point of being irrelevant but the SNP's case for independence hinges on the economic arguments, so there is resistance to any changes which could conceivably be interpreted as having econmic impacts.

What would be particularly helpful would be if people, who are concerned that the current controls on tracks are inadequate and who are SNP members or are regularly in touch with SNP MSPs, ask SNP MSPs to press the case for change with the relevant Ministers.

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AC1 28 Jun 2019
In reply to George Allan:

I think this is a good point, and on the money. Most rank and file SNP members who get to hear about this - and it does take some explaining for those not familiar with the back-story - do seem pretty appalled. It smacks of helping the wrong people for all the wrong reasons (much as the SNP did with the Trump golf course planning decision). The economic rationale is a complete miasma - hilltracks along with our farcical National Parks system are a threat to our reputation as an environmental tourism destination; these things are not lost on our more observant visitors - the old glorious 12th propaganda is so much hot air that really needs properly challenged.

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atthedropofahat 29 Jun 2019
In reply to AC1:

I think that, as with a lot of these issue types chest beating nationalism in the SNP assumes that Scotland has better policies than anywhere else in the UK by virtue of being decided in Scotland. Therefore in their eyes whatever damage is done will always be less than what's caused South of the border. It's this blind groupthink on Scottish issues which is plain to see in many areas of the Highlands. Unfortunately few people complain about it as most don't ever travel around the UK outside of Scotland other than maybe to the UKs other most insular location, London, rather sad 

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Andy Cloquet 11 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

In the meantime, estates continue with impunity to drive huge tracks anywhere they like. Surely, the minister should put a Scottish-wide moratorium on hill tracks until the review is finished; otherwise it's just another SNP ploy to avoid putting pressure on the vested interests of the party by upsetting the landowners. A typically shallow, weak and ineffective yet sounding serious Minister who, in practice, is spineless.

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Andy Cloquet 12:53 Thu
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

This cop-out by Scottish Government is symptomatic of their desire to make sure the vested interests of landowners aren't affected by their work. Why?....because if the SNP lose landowners' to other parties (especially the Tories) they lose their fragile position in Scotland. Sure the SNP is the largest party and is the current Scottish Government but it is a minority govt and can't afford to lose further power. 

Landgrab through bulldozed estate tracks with no legal demand of reinstatement is part of the bigger picture to enable some estates to use these tracks to get their fee-paying clients ever higher onto the moors for shooting on the now mono-culture, mono-species playgrounds. Nowhere else and in no other industry does anyone have carte blanche to behave like this with impunity.

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